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Finish Wood Smoothly and With Polish

May 25, 1996|From Associated Press

Here are tips to help you get a great-looking job when you finish wood. They'll make the job easier and safer.


* If you want a high-gloss smooth finish in an open-grain wood such as oak, walnut or mahogany, fill the wood pores with a paste filler.

* If you want to stain the wood lightly, mix stain with the filler before applying it. For a darker stain, apply the stain until the wood is a shade or two lighter than desired; then apply a stain-filler mixture.

* To apply filler, use a brush or the long edge of a plastic card to spread the filler diagonally across the grain in each direction, then back and forth with the grain. Let the filler dry until dull and flat but not rock hard. Then wipe off the excess with burlap going across--not with--the grain. Let the filler dry overnight, then sand it.

* To apply wood filler to nail holes and small nicks, use a plastic tab from a bread wrapper or an old plastic guitar pick.

* To fill nail holes in knotty pine, mix raw sienna-colored acrylic or dry powder paint with wood putty. Make various shades to match the knotty wood. To fill nail holes in regular unknotted wood, just mix sawdust from the wood with white glue.

* Always clean the wood surface before applying finish.

Hands secrete oils that can mark unfinished wood. Rub sawdust between your hands before handling the stock.

Remove pencil marks, dirt smudges, grease and oil spots--and wood dust--by wiping (not soaking) the work with denatured alcohol. It's an effective cleaner and won't raise the grain. Wear rubber gloves.

Staining and Varnishing

* When you open a can of wood stain, drop two medium-size steel nuts into it. Then each time you use the stain, shake the can thoroughly to stir the contents. You'll be able to hear when the pigments are no longer sitting at the bottom of the can.

Caution: Never do this with a glass jar. Also, don't try this trick with varnish. Shaking varnish can create air bubbles that can ruin a finish.

* Before starting the job, test stain and varnish color on wood scrap.

* Apply stain first. Follow with sealer and then varnish. Sand the work after sealing and between coats of varnish. Finish every surface, even bottoms and backs, to prevent warping from moisture entering the wood. Use a cloth dampened with alcohol to wipe away wood dust between applications.

* To keep the end grain on new wood from staining darker than the rest of the work, stain it last and brush turpentine, paint thinner or mineral spirits onto it just before applying the stain.

Cautions and Precautions

* To finish a wood bowl that will hold food or a toy that may be chewed on by a young child, use mineral oil or salad oil (walnut oil).

* Store flammable liquids, such as tung oil, varnish and thinners, in sealed containers away from heat and out of children's reach. Even better, buy just enough to do the job at hand.

* Keep a fire extinguisher in your work area. Never smoke near flammable liquids.

* Solvent-based liquids can irritate your skin. Wear chemical-resistant rubber gloves.

* Some finishes can ignite if exposed to air and then confined. Before disposing of rags, brushes, and other finishing materials, dry them on a line outside, away from children and pets.

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