This clear, concise, and visually stunning book is the only reference guide you'll need to create the perfect wood finish every time. Whether you are restoring an antique jewelry box, shellacking a brand-new table, or sanding down your living room walls, The Complete Guide to Wood Finishes is the essential tool for professional and beginning craftspersons alike. In this complete resource you will find easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions for everything from preparation -- stripping and bleaching -- to simple stains and varnishes; from french polishing and oiling to ornate decorative styles; as well as marbling and stenciling. State-of-the-art information on modern spray techniques, health and safety hints, tips on the dos and don'ts of specific woods, as well as advice for correcting common mistakes are also included. A fully illustrated directory of woods plus sections on how to fix defects such as blisters and bruises, and the care and maintenance of materials ensure professional-looking, customized wood finishes on walls, ceilings, and furniture every time.
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Derrick Crump, trained as a furniture maker, has spent all his working life dealing with wood. An experienced restorer and craftsman, he now lectures on wood finishing at a London college.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Tools and equipment
Few specialized tools are needed for finishing. A woodworker with a basic toolkit will only require a selection of brushes and cloths. Novices need a work surface and some scrapers, but little more
Basic tools and equipment
Although one attraction of finishing is the limited selection of tools required, experienced finishers will have built up a sizable toolkit. Novice finishers will not necessarily need a wide range of tools, but certain items, which may not at first seem obvious, are essential aids to successful finishing.
The scalpel is perhaps one of the most underrated of tools. Often, only the point is used for cutting, but the sharp edge can also be useful for gently scraping unwanted finishes or marks from a surface. Masking tape is useful when you need to protect a particular area while finishing another, Cover the sensitive area with tape and cut very gently around the shape. A metal ruler will help for straight edges. When cutting through masking tape it is better to make multiple cuts, rather than try to cut through with one stroke of the scalpel.
Masking tape can also be used for holding small chips in place while they are being glued. Carry a small C-clamp for those circumstances when tape will not provide enough force.
Other useful tools that are worth buying are a natural sponge, a small drill and a small soldering iron. Natural sponges are better for applying finishes, especially decorative effects. than artificial ones. The drill is useful when hammering in molding and finishing nails that may split the wood. A soldering iron is useful for warming shellac filler before pushing the filler into a dent or crack.
Brushes for finishing
Brushes are an important part of any finisher's equipment, and most suppliers offer a variety of designs for specialist applications. They are made of different bristles and hairs, both synthetic and natural, and there are many names given to these brushes. Generally the higher the price, the better the quality of bristle and brush. In the long run, it is worth purchasing quality brushes. The finest hair commands the highest price, with badger, horse, sable, camel and hog providing the raw materials.
Natural-hair brushes give a fine finish and have a spring in them, which allows the material being coated to cling to the hair. Brush manufacturers use a mixture of bristles to suit requirements. Sable artists' and round brushes are the most expensive, but bring the best results.
Scrapers are used for taking off the finest of shavings, to produce the smoothness of surface not always possible with a plane -- or even, some would say, with abrasive. Skilled woodworkers use them as an alternative to a progression of increasingly fine sandpapers, which tend to clog the surface with dust (see pages 20-21). Scrapers are particularly useful for smoothing areas of wild interlocking grain, which a plane might tear; and on veneer, which is vulnerable because of its thinness. They are easier to control than a plane, and can be shaped to work moldings or corners.
Although there are a variety of scrapers, they are in essence little more than a thin sheet of steel and they cut with a burr -- rather than the edge, as a plane blade does. Creating that burr is achieved with a file and burnisher, but care is needed to maintain a scraper in good working order, as it will only cut well if the edge is kept straight and square.
Using a scraper
To use a scraper, hold it in both hands, with your thumbs at the back, and push it across the surface. Alternatively, some people prefer to use a pulling action, with their fingers behind the scraper creating the pressure
The angle at which the scraper is held is determined by the angle of the burr. Experiment until thin shavings are produced. By pushing with your thumbs or fingers the scraper can be bent to aid the cut, with a tighter curve producing a narrower cutting area. However, take care not to remove too much material, as it is easy to produce furrows in the surface.
Sanders provide the potential for fast stock removal and a fine finish. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and there is a range of hand-held and static machines. The former are powered by electricity, battery or compressed air. Of the static machines, belt or pad sanders are the most common. The belts are available in a range of lengths and widths. Lathes can often be fitted with abrasive disks, but by the time a piece has reached the finishing stage it should only need smoothing with a sander.
Portable belt sanders are powerful tools that can easily destroy veneer. They leave obvious marks when used across the grain. Orbital sanders can sand with and across the grain simultaneously: though when sanding with them you should be follow the grain whenever possible.
An important feature of any sander is some form of suction device to remove the dust into a bag. Wearing a mask when using a sander is recommended in any circumstance, especially when no extraction facility is present.
Sandpaper comes in a number of grits and types. Even the backing varies great ranging from paper to cloth to velcro. Each is designed to suit a different type of work. It is therefore worth investigating the various options, as the cheapest and most commonly supplied sand paper previously found in local hardware stores (brown flint paper) has almost entirely disappeared. At any rate, flint paper clogged easily and wore out quickly.
Sandpaper is graded by grit size on the back of each sheet -- the lower the number, the coarser the grit. You will rarely need sandpaper coarser than 80 grit, while at the other end of the scale 240 grit is very fine and is sufficient for preparing surfaces for finishing. You may want to use a finer grit between coats, but note that when machine-sanding the speed of the sandpaper over the surface makes each grit more powerful than when sanding by hand.
Woodworkers and finishers often talk about "working through the grits," referring to the technique of using a series of grits, progressing from coarse to fine, when preparing a piece. Three steps are normally enough -- starting with 100 grit, then changing to 180 grit and finishing with 240 grit. These descriptions of grits are not always standard, so look out for alternative methods of grading when selecting sandpaper.
Garnet remains the most common general-purpose sandpaper. By nature it is self-sharpening, with new cutting edges appearing as it breaks down. Although it retains an even cut, it is sometimes worth rubbing garnet paper on a scrap piece of oak or metal before using it on a surface for finishing, as the grit is sharp and can carve out deep scratches. Garnet paper is best used by hand, as the bond is not strong enough to survive machine sanding. It can be employed for work on either raw or polished wood.
Aluminum oxide is the manmade alternative to garnet as a general-purpose sandpaper. It is supplied on a variety of backings and can be used for machine sanding as readily as by hand.
Use aluminum oxide with a medium paper backing for hard sanding and with orbital sanders. Its open coat allows rapid stock removal with little clogging. Surface scratches when sanding are generally caused by dust particles collecting among the grit, so a sandpaper that reduces clogging is best for a fine finish.
Cloth-backed aluminum oxide has a longer life and is more flexible than many paper-backed grades. Use the cloth-backed versions when sanding with a disk sander or angle grinder. They should also be used when sanding with abrasive flaps, soft drums or pneumatic drums, all of which are excellent for contour sanding.
Never is it more important to reduce scratching than when sanding between coats of finish. The traditional method is to use soap and water or mineral spirits. As a modern alternative manufacturers have developed a silicon-carbide paper with a powder substance filling the gaps between the abrasive grains, thus reducing the likelihood of clogging and scratching. It works well for hand and machine sanding.
An alternative to sandpaper, steel wool has the advantage of being non-clogging. It is available in a range of grades, each suited to a different purpose.
The finishing shop
The layout, lighting and heating of the workshop play a vital role in achieving a quality finish. Your workshop must be dry and warm, and have plenty of natural light. There are also a number of jigs, fittings, and ideas for benches and storage that make finishing that much easier.
In all probability, your finishing workshop is also used for operations such as sawing and sanding. In this case, you will have to ensure that dust is kept under control. A good exhaust fan or industrial vacuum cleaner helps, but make sure the workshop is free from drafts and that nooks and crannies, which serve as dust traps, are kept to a minimum.
Heating and ventilation
Manufacturers of most finishing materials advise that the minimum temperature at which their products will dry is about 60°F. If drying does not take place at the proper rate, defects such as chilling and blushing appear in the surface.
Make sure materials are stored in the workshop for at least an hour before work commences. If it is very cold and you are not able to heat the workshop, use a powerful electric light or a hair dryer to bring the surface temperature nearer to the optimum (the wood will hold the heat for a surprisingly long time).
Finishing materials are designed to flow and are sensitive to heat. If they do not flow, brush marks are likely to create an uneven coat. Make sure there are no cold drafts, but keep the workshop ventilated to reduce condensation.
When finishing, you will be continually judging color and degree of gloss. To be able to do this successfully, it is essential to have a good light source. The best source is, of course, natural light, which defines subtle differences of color and shade most clearly. This is particularly important when color matching.
If possible, arrange the workshop with northern light, which is constant and natural. Direct sunlight is not advisable, as judging color can be tricky in fierce sunlight. Otherwise, the best alternative to the real thing is to fit fluorescent tubes or light bulbs that give a "natural light."
An important feature of any finishing shop is a drying rack. This can either be fixed or portable, but make sure there is plenty of room for air to circulate between the pieces while they are drying. Dowels jointed into uprights works well for racking, with at least 4 inches between each level. The configuration depends on the type of work you expect to be finishing. For example, chairs need a different set-up than panels -- but the principle always remains the same.
The workbench can simply be a board on sawhorses. This helps bring small items and panels up to a convenient height, but can be dismantled when there are large or freestanding pieces in the workshop. Cut up some thin strips of wood on which flat panels can rest while being finished.
Copyright © 1992 by Quarto Publishing Inc.
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