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START TO FINISH:
THE ENDURANCE TEST
This is an excerpt from an article in the May/June, 2000 issue of Woodworker's Journal.
the "right" finish for your most recent woodworking triumph may seem like
a daunting task, given the confusing array of choices. To make the correct
choice, start out by answering three primary questions before you begin:
Durability is also affected by how thickly a finish is applied. A very thin finish regardless of the type will not protect as well as a thicker application of the same finish.
With figured woods, such as curly or bird's eye maple, you can actually use the finish to intensify the figure, or "pop the grain," even without staining. One of the best "grain poppers" around is boiled linseed oil, but shellac, lacquer, and most oil-based varnishes will also do the trick.
By adding one or two coats of shellac to a piece of figured wood, you can achieve a stunning effect called "chatoyance," from the French meaning "like a cat's eye." If you've ever seen the semi-precious stone Tiger-Eye, you'll notice that as you change your viewing angle, the light and dark bands of color change places; this is chatoyance.
Waxes and gel finishes are specifically designed for wipe-on application. Though nearly every varnish or polyurethane can be wiped on instead of brushed on, some are designed for easy wiping and thin application. This will usually be stated on the can.
Certain lacquers and conversion varnishes are designed for spraying and will dry too fast if applied with a brush or rag.
To help you choose the right finish using Dresdner's "Appearance, Durability and Application" approach, we've made a comparison guide of all our carefully selected finishing products. See our Finishing Comparison Guide for a complete chart of products.
Michael Dresdner is a nationally known finishing expert and author. This article originally appeared in Woodworker's Journal May/June 2000 issue. For a free trial issue, visit www.woodworkersjournal.com.