Michael Dresdner

straight talk about wood finishing

Over toning lacquer

November 11th, 2010

Q: I used a toning lacquer to color the wood. I want to put polyurethane over it. Can I do this?
A: Yes, you can.

Circa 1920

November 10th, 2010

Q: I have a circa 1920 chiffarobe I would like to refinish. I stripped it with alcohol and sanded to 220. I have never been very successful with shellac. What would you suggest for a finish what would give a reasonable look and protection?
A: What I would suggest is what it had originally, and if the finish came off with alcohol, that pretty much confirms it was shellac. Since you have, as you say, never been very successful with it, you have three obvious choices; learn to use it (it’s actually a very easy finish to use, if someone shows you the ropes), take it to someone else to finish, or apply a non-original finish. If you choose a non-original finish, it should, of course, be any finish you do have success with. In case you were concerned with period authenticity, the other finishes in common use for furniture in the 1920’s were oil varnishes and nitrocellulose lacquer.

Metalic glaze

November 9th, 2010

Q: I recently installed some cabinets from Woodmode/Brookhaven that were finished with a “pewter glaze” over cherry. Kind of cool looking with a very slight metallic sheen over a medium dark cherry. Would have any idea of a concoction that could be used to mimic that?
A: Several companies, including Olympic and Valspar, sell ready to use metallic glazes to the public in a variety of metal tones and in both oil and water bases. You can find them at paint and home stores. About two years ago they were the hot thing, and companies rushed to make them available to hoi polloi. My guess is that they are still out there.

November 8th, 2010

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Pen polish

November 8th, 2010

Q: I am new to pen turning. Can you recommend some finishes?
A: It depends largely on the pen material. Obviously, cast acrylics need no finish and can simply be buffed. Ditto for very hard or resinous woods, like rosewood, ziricote, bocote, cocobolo, lignum vitae, ebony and even boxwood. For other woods, I tend toward simple finishes; just wax, or wax over boiled linseed oil or wipe on varnish. For a very durable finish, I also like either cyanoacrylate (CA), or a combination of boiled linseed oil and CA. The CA will instantly cure the oil into a hard solid film. Using paper towel applicators on the spinning lathe, apply a thin coat of one, then the other immediately. Add as many coats as you like, sanding for smoothness when necessary. Once cured, which takes only minutes, this finish will buff nicely.

Crisp masking lines

November 2nd, 2010

Q: How do I achieve a nice crisp symmetrical line when using two different stains? For example I want to stain a light triangle inside a dark rectangle. The stain has bled under the painter’s tape in my tests.
A: There are a variety of techniques, but they depend on both the type of stain you are using and the type of wood. Without knowing both, I can’t advise you of the best course of action. Here’s just one of the many ways to approach this that works well with fairly absorbent wood and pigmented stain.
Stain the lighter color over the entire surface. Mask off what will be darker, and seal the light triangle with a sealer that will not dissolve with the solvent in your darker stain. Now reverse the process; mask off the light triangle using either lacquer tape (typically green) or pin striping tape, (typically olive). Now add the secondary dark stain to the exposed areas. The combination of the correct tape atop a sealed surface should prevent the dark stain from creeping onto the light area, and still give the look of stained wood rather than a tinted finish.


November 1st, 2010

Q: My stepson recently purchased stain from the cabinet supplier of his kitchen. The plan was to match the color to his unfinished crown molding. The color is wrong. Since the molding has contours, it can’t be easily sanded off. Is there a solution for stripping down to bare wood?
A: Most stains can be scrubbed at least part way off with lacquer thinner on nylon abrasive pads. It won’t remove all the stain, but you may get enough off that you can restain with something that adjusts for the problems while bringing you up to the color you want. That can be done either with a second stain operation on raw wood, or with a toner, which is stain mixed in coating. Either way you will need to mix a custom color stain to compensate for what you could not remove, and add whatever colors are missing from what you want to end up with. This is not necessarily a job for a neophyte as it does take some skill with color matching and compensating.

Inked salad bowls

October 29th, 2010

Q: I want to color walnut sapwood on salad bowls with India ink, then seal it with shellac and salad bowl finish. Would this be safe for food?
A: Yep. By the way, I would let the ink dry then go straight to salad bowl finish. In this case, adding shellac would weaken the finish.

Timbermate as pore filler

October 28th, 2010

Q: I plan to paint oak cabinets. Someone suggested Bondo for pore filling but I am considering Timbermate instead. Any tips on grain filling with that product?
A: For the record, polyester body fillers like Bondo will also work just fine as pore fillers under painted surfaces. As for Timbermate, simply thin it with water to whatever is the best working consistency for you. I like it about the consistency of heavy cream for pore filler work, but you may prefer it a bit thicker or thinner. Fill, let it dry completely, and sand. It’s very simple and there are no hidden surprises. Incidentally, it will work over both raw and sealed wood.

Unwanted stains

October 27th, 2010

Q: I just bent some cherry sides for an acoustic guitar. A reaction must have occurred during the bending process resulting in green blue spots on the wood surface. What do you recommend to eliminate or minimize?
A: Removing stains depends first on know what caused them. Blue green stain is most likely one of three sources: coming in contact with natural or artificial stain, such as extractives from a different wood bent in that press; a reaction with a metal surface; or blue green mold. Sadly, each has a different fix.
Contact with a natural or synthetic dye will usually come out with a wash of laundry bleach. That will not change the color of cherry substantially. Contact with a natural pigment is usually only on the surface, and will sand out fairly quickly. A reaction with a metal can usually be reversed with a wash of a ten percent solution of oxalic acid, and that won’t harm the color of cherry either. If it is blue green mold, about the only thing I know of that removes it is a wash with a fairly concentrated (30% or higher) peroxide solution, and that will substantially darken cherry.
Do some detective work first to figure out the likely source and the fix should be easier.

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