Monday, December 28, 2015

My Favorite Finishes

I posted a video about this subject on You Tube in early October of 2015 (I posted it below), but I thought I'd go over some more reasons why I chose these finishes over others.

First of all, let me say this: I'm not selling anything and have no connection with any of these brands, so take it for what it is, simply a statement of what I prefer. I'm not getting paid to say anything in this article or in the video, and if that ever changes (sponsorships or ads) I will disclose that.

Ok, now lhat that is said and done, let's get to it.

First off, I have in my finishing cabinet the following items, in no particular order:
  • Danish oil (couple of different colors)
  • Spray lacquer
  • Wipe-on poly
  • Varithane triple thick poly (I will explain what that is in a little bit)
  • Shellac
  • Butcher block finish
  • Mineral Oil

Ok, let's break these down. There's a reason why I have these items in my cabinet.

Spray Lacquer:

My first choice above all others is spray lacquer. It's quick, easy, offers a lot of protection, dries fast, and each new coat bonds with the previous coat. And, provided you don't go overboard on your spraying, you rarely get any drips or runs. The can says to wait a few hours before doing the next coat, but it dries so fast that you can do it a lot sooner than that.

The major drawback, for me, is the fumes. Most, if not all, finishes will put off some type of odor, but spray lacquer seems to be exceptionally potent. That's why it's not a great choice to be spraying in, say, a basement workshop (which is what I have). The fumes will quickly waft upstairs and annoy/irritate everybody in the house (especially your wife!), and with basements usually housing things like water heaters and furnaces (you know....things with pilot lights!), it's really dangerous to fill your basement with flammable fumes that could ignite and send your house up in smoke. The safe thing to do is take whatever you're applying the finish to outside and spray it outdoors.

There are, of course, drawbacks to that, as well. Temperature and humidity come into play, as well as the general weather (you can't do it if it's raining, for example, and if it's windy, expect to get debris and bugs stuck to the finish). What I do, when the weather isn't particulary cooperating, is take my project to the garage (we have a small one-car garage built back when cars were smaller and would fit, but since ours won't, it's used for garden/yard tools and the like), and apply the finish there. It's protected from the elements, so it won't get wet and debris won't stick to it (I mean things like leaves or bugs). I usually have to do a light sanding between coats to get rid of any dust nibs.

Danish Oil:
I like Danish oil for it's ease of use and low fumes. It's quick and easy to apply, doesn't take an insane amount of time to dry, and it looks good. It's almost impossible to mess up. You just flood the surface, spread it around, wait a little bit, then wipe off the excess. The drawback here is, of course, that it doesn't offer a lot in the way of protection for your project. The finish soaks into the wood, rather than sit on the surface of the project. Which in some cases is good, but if you're looking for surface protection against, say, a glass of ice water left to melt, then you're going to be disappointed.

When I use it, it's for either a project that doesn't require a lot of protection (like a step stool or something) or I use it as a sort of sealer. By that, I mean I'll apply a light coat to seal the grain so that when I go to stain something, I don't get any blotchiness (I use other methods, too, such as sanding sealer and the like).

Varithane Triple Thick Poly:
This is a relatively new product on the market, and for a finish that you have to apply with a brush, I love it. You can apply a thicker coat than you normally would and, provided the surface is flat, it self-levels. Brush strokes go away and they claim that one good coat is equal to three regular coats, so that means less work later on. I've used it a couple of times now, and I have to say that they are correct in their claim...I've yet to see any brush strokes, and after one application there is certainly a thicker, tougher coat than there otherwise would be. Drawback? There are fumes, but not too bad, and it takes several hours to dry and cure. Other than that, no complaints at all.

I have used shellac in the past a few times (I just finished up my first, and only, can not long ago). It's like the Danish Oil (they're very similar products, if I'm not mistaken), except you brush this on instead of wipe (I'm sure there are wipe-on versions, I've just not used them). You get a good coat that's fairly easy to work with, and with the different colors out there, you can get a finish you'll love that offers fairly good protection. In addition, the fumes aren't too bad, and it's a reasonable food-safe finish.

Butcher Block/Mineral Oil:
I've combined these two because I use them for practically the same thing: anything that requires a food-safe finish (like a cutting board, for example). Easy to use and relatively easy to clean up, you just flood the surface, wait a bit, then wipe off the excess.

Wipe-on Poly:
If you don't mind applying a bunch of coats, this is a good alternative to the heavy fumes of shellac or regular poly (the kind I use is a low-fumes variety). But, like I said, it takes a while -- several coats, actually -- to build up a serious finish. But when it's done, you get a good looking finish that offers great protection to your project.

Now, keep in mind that I've only been woodworking for about two years (as of the date of this article). My opinions may change on these as time goes by. Should that happen, I'm sure I'll write another article or something to that affect.


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