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Andy P Devon

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Hi All,
Totally new to woodworking.
Can anyone recommend a good site to go to about finishing?
What's all the stuff about sanding down after you finish? (scratching your new finish?)
What's all this about using steel wool?
I want to learn to use stuff like BLO, teak oil and shellac rather than just slapping on dulux like all the box stores seem to think.
Any hints etc appreciated.
Andy
 

MikeG.

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Don't go anywhere else for your advice, Andy. There's loads of expertise on here.

Finishing is a daunting subject, but it shouldn't be. Much of the confusion is because of Youtube and American input in particular........they have different names for the same stuff as as us, and they tend to like thick glossy finishes which are regarded as a bit plasticcy over here.

As for sanding or not........it depends. I always try to finish with a blade, but sometimes that can mean a scraper after using a belt sander or ROS, for instance. Some people will not use a blade at all, and just sand through the grits down to about 180 or 220 and then apply a finish. Each to their own. I'd leave steel wool right out of the equation if I were you, at least for now. It's a nightmare with high tannin timbers such as oak, because steel and tannins react to form black stains, and you don't want that buried under a few layers of varnish but on full view!
 

ED65

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Regardless of the expertise available on a forum such as this (and there is loads of it) you're faced with the usual problem of differences of opinion and contradictory advice, which when you don't yet have a frame of reference presents you with the age-old problem of not knowing what you should listen to (not who you should listen to, that's a trap). It's made even more complicated in that you may actually benefit from paying attention to more than one person even though their advice conflicts; the simple fact is they can both be right as counter-intuitive as that seems.

So, I would strongly recommend you hit the books first. See what your local libraries have before you buy anything, if you're lucky you may not need to buy a single book for now.

With a book on finishing written by one author (as opposed to "edited by") you get a single person's educated/experienced views on the topic without any extraneous noise. It helps avoid the information overload thing early on. Unfortunately IMO the best books on finishing are written by American authors for the American market so with those some translation and substitutions will be necessary; but that's not too difficult, especially with the help of your friends here.

After a while I would suggest reading some older finishing books (Hayward's would be a good 'un, not too large or heavy going) but for now I would avoid them as there's too much in them that doesn't apply today. See this recent thread for a bit more on this and some American authors to look out for.

Andy P Devon":1q9lyk9y said:
What's all the stuff about sanding down after you finish? (scratching your new finish?)
This can be a very night sanding/scuffing to de-nib, that is, just to knock off little specs of dust that have settled in the finish during drying (bit more related to this at bottom).

At the other end of the spectrum sanding can be much more extensive, to 'flat' a finish for an ultra-smooth result. This can go all the way to very fine sanding with wet 'n' dry papers and then polishing by various means to re-establish a gloss, but on a much flatter surface, so you get a vastly superior look. This tends to avoid the 'plasticy' look in a high-gloss finish.

Andy P Devon":1q9lyk9y said:
What's all this about using steel wool?
Could you be more specific?

Andy P Devon":1q9lyk9y said:
I want to learn to use stuff like BLO, teak oil and shellac .
BLO, do you want to learn how to use it the old way for a full oil finish?

Teak oil would generally be only used for exterior woodwork so you can park this for now if you need to. You can use it indoors, the product is not too dissimilar to most commercial Danish oil products, but there's no need to use either if you don't want to since you can A mix your own versions of these sorts of finishes quite easily (and at substantially lower cost) B substitute something else and get a similar result. This doesn't have to be an either/or proposition, nothing stopping you from doing both A and B for different projects in different timbers, or as your whim dictates.

Shellac has multiple uses in finishing, well worth having some around. Best made fresh and used up in a short while in case you haven't read that yet. Also cheap this way and less wasteful since the dried flakes seem to last nearly indefinitely.

Andy P Devon":1q9lyk9y said:
...rather than just slapping on dulux like all the box stores seem to think.
Here's where I wanted to come back to dust nibs.

By Dulux I presume you're referring to a varnish, likely a polyurethane. Nowt wrong with these if they do what you want, and with care you can get a really nice finish with these by a couple of different routes.

The first and the one I would recommend everyone try when they're starting out using varnish is to convert your thickish varnish in the tin to wiping varnish, which as the name suggests you can wipe on (although you don't have to). You just thin the varnish somewhat with additional white spirit in a clean jar and go from there; this is incidentally one of the tricks you'll learn from any decent modern finishing book.

Regardless of whether you use a brush, roller or wad of cloth to apply wiping varnish one of the standard techniques is to then wipe away all or most of the excess. This greatly reduces the problem of dust nibs, one of the chief advantages of this method – there's so little varnish on the surface and it dries so much faster dust has far less chance to stick. When it does (there's always a spec or two) it doesn't bond as strongly making it far easier to remove; just a swipe with the rough side of brown paper can be enough.

It's not all upside though, because each coat ends up so thin it takes longer to build up a decent layer of varnish on the surface (this would be for looks as well as for maximum protection). But a lot of people think the trade-off is well worth it.

Three coats of wiping varnish could be perfectly sufficient for decorative objects, light-use items and table legs. Two coats never seems like it gives quite the uniform appearance you're after. You'd want to use quite a few more (7-10 maybe) for a tabletop that'll see unprotected glasses and mugs.

Hope that helps a bit.
 

That would work

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There is, from me only one bit of advice for finishing:
Finish the timber. What I mean is spend more time sanding/scraping/burnishing the wood before you put any coating on it. The wood should actually have a slight sheen on it with no applied finish.
Once you get to this point, any surface coating is really easy.
 

ED65

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That would work":2anu2hzx said:
The wood should actually have a slight sheen on it with no applied finish.
Once you get to this point, any surface coating is really easy.
I agree completely but with some caveats.

You may specifically not want to sand too finely if you're staining. The wood should actually be quite matt in some cases as you'll have sanded to only about 120 or 150 and been careful not to burnish the surface removing sanding dust.

If you're doing a trad oil finish, or using penetrating finish, this is especially important. The wood should be as close to flawless as you can manage before the oil comes anywhere near it as the finish will only highlight flaws, and (if sanding) you can benefit from sanding to a higher grit than would be considered normal. Some oil finishers sand to above 320 and may sand during the finishing process to 400, occasionally higher.
 

ED65

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Abrasive grading deserves a quick mention as this is one of those things where you have to translate a bit. The US grading system, CAMI, is similar enough to the P ratings at the the coarser end that you can basically substitute P60 for 60, P180 for 180 and all grits in between.

The two systems start to diverge enough you need to take notice around the 240 mark. The gulf gets wider as you go to finer papers, with 600 grit being equivalent to P1200 which is why some people get really confused that they're not matching results with something they've seen on YouTube if they're using P600 and the person in the vid was using 600!

So for oil finishing above, 320 approximates to P400 and 400 is roughly the same as P600.
 

That would work

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Yep, and then use the (paper) back of the abrasive and then burnish with your hand :)
The other thing I was going to say was to whenever possible leave the application of the finish till the next day, that way you look at the timber again and improve it and avoid the tendency to rush into it.
 
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