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Three great finishes that are not Polyurethane

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  • Three great finishes that are not Polyurethane

    I got this in my email this morning and it was interesting. I am primarily a "polyurethane" finish user but I do use others on occasion. I thought some of you might enjoy this article:

    https://www.woodmagazine.com/woodwor...id=41862710502
    Hank Lee

    Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!

  • #2
    Thanks! I enjoyed the link.

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm nearly a 100% lacquer and oil user. I don't think there's anything quite as deep and beautiful as multiple coats of oil blends and then lacquer. I really keep meaning to try shellac. And recently I've done a few small things with a beeswax/turpentine blend which gives minimal darkening, no real shine, and just a smooth visible grain.

      Comment


      • #4
        I like tung oil finishes - real/pure TO but it sure takes a while, but the results are worth it.

        To me, the wood and the completed wood product usually dictate which finish I use. If it is something that is used daily, like a cupboard, I will usually use poly. For tables that will be used for glasses or cups, I will try to stay with TO (If I have the time) as it is the most water resistant of finishes.
        Hank Lee

        Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!

        Comment


        • #5
          Usage needs are a great point. I pretty much never make things like cupboards and general cabinets. I have no idea what I'd do for that, and I guess it would have to be poly. I've found lacquer hard to damage, but it's never in frequent contact with glasses or even people.

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          • #6
            My usual go to finish is wiping varnish. It takes longer to build the finish, but I like it as I can get a really smooth finish without having it come out looking like the piece has been dipped in plastic. I have never been able to do a proper shellac finish. I just can’t learn how to pad. I also use Danish Oil on items that won’t see abrasive use. About 20 years ago, I made a batch of trivets to give to family members as Christmas gifts. The wood was reclaimed maple and the items were immersed in Watco Natural for three weeks to get maximum absorption in the dense wood. After draining, the trivets were cured in a warming box for several weeks until the oil smell had disappeared. We use our trivets every day and they can take a dish straight from the oven without any marking. We just don’t put them in the dishwasher. My brother-in-law has been running theirs through the dishwasher and the finish has been completely leached out and the glue joints are starting to fail also. Even though I have a compressor and spray guns, I really don’t have an area to spray finishes in, so lacquers and catalyzed finishes are not in my playbook.
            Jim Frye
            The Nut in the Cellar.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Jim Frye View Post
              My usual go to finish is wiping varnish. It takes longer to build the finish, but I like it as I can get a really smooth finish without having it come out looking like the piece has been dipped in plastic. I have never been able to do a proper shellac finish.
              I did a couple of finishes with shellac by spraying a few years ago. They did great. I was totally surprised.

              I have a question though: What kind of paint is "varnish"? Is it like polyurethane? I know it is not lacquer or shellac. What kind of thinner does it use?

              I remember as a kid, all paints were either shellac, lacquer or "varnish". Shellac and even some lacquers would allow "water marks" on furniture, IIRC. By the time I started making anything needing a finish, polyurethane was on the market, so I never used "varnish".

              I see all kinds of paint now, but I don't see any that say "varnish" on the can.

              I'm not trying to start an argument, I just can't get my mind around a finish that I have not seen in stores that lists itself as "varnish".
              Hank Lee

              Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!

              Comment


              • #8
                These days, real varnish has pretty much disappeared from wood finishing. Poly has pretty much replaced the old natural resin based varnishes. The only place I've seen natural resin varnish is by Liqutex in small bottles for art work. When I think of varnish now, I'm thinking some sort of polyurethane based finish.
                Jim Frye
                The Nut in the Cellar.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have recently made some attempts at using a wiping varnish, and a spray varnish, with mixed results. Probably just practice. I did a spray spar varnish on a cedar planter that came out absolutely spectacular, except for a couple runs. I probably needed to go with a smaller nozzle, but I used a 1.3 because it still seemed thick. The end result coating is rather solid and will probably survive the outdoors well.

                  Click image for larger version

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                  • #10
                    Coming in late here, but I agree with the comment made regarding "varnish". When I was a kid, it was just "varnish" that was used by my dad and in my single woodshop high school class (we had one semester of furniture manufacturing with the second semester being carpentry and building). As a kid, wood finishes beyond "stain" was simply "varnish" or "shellac" and I knew more about shellac than varnish, as I recall the shellac was always cheaper and therefore what my Dad kept on the shelf.

                    It's funny because I just took away the mindset that "varnish" was just the top coat finish, coming after any stain or whatever. With that thinking, "varnish" simply became whatever the finish product was, thus covering almost everything. So, if you went into a hardware store and asked for "varnish" you'd get the question, "What kind do you want, poly, lacquer, shellac, etc." Guess I never gave much thought to it other than it described the "final finish protector".

                    Honestly, I've never taken the time to think of it otherwise, as I simply have never got into woodworking the way I always wanted to. Yeah, I assembled a "captain's high chair" when our son was just a little guy, finished that with stain and shellac, brushed on. I refinished an old dresser and nightstand, with the same method. They came out nice and we were happy. Back about 20 years ago, I refinished our Lane walnut coffee and end tables with tongue oil. It was a kit, I don't remember the brand, but was popular at the time. After the stripping, steel wool, and staining, I sprayed tongue oil as a final coat, IIRC. It was my first attempt at spraying. It came out nice and I still have those pieces at the other house. I did a few small pieces with lacquer, which I really like. Spraying was easy and the finish came out really nice. I later gave those pieces to a relative.

                    Here at this house, where we have a garage, I've mostly used poly. When we bought the house, I removed all the red oak wainscoting in the kitchen, stripped and sanded it down to a fresh surface and re-installed it at the new cabinets and floor were put in. I used clear, satin-finish poly in three coats with the final two coats thinned. Came out great and is durable. (I had tried to stain the red oak darker, but wasn't at all happy with my attempts, even trying to seal it, it's like trying to seal the end of a straw. So we just kept it natural.

                    Today, at our age I think, poly and any other so-called "oil-based" finish is annoying. It gives both my wife and I severe headaches and the odor seems to last for weeks. Even though I do the work outside, weeks later the odor is still all too prevalent. Lacquer and shellac gets used on small little projects and doesn't have a prominent odor for more than a short time. (One of the big reasons that the library is painted... quicker and no odor!)

                    (Note about my HS shop class: We weren't allowed to build personal stuff, like gun racks, little tables for Mom, etc. With Mr. Weaver, our shop teacher, a project had to be a product. So our first semester we visited a local furniture manufacturer, took notes, learned some stuff and then returned to the school shop where we designed a desk and manufactured about seventy of them. The following semester, we followed that concept, visiting a pre-fab home manufacturer and from there we took an old 2-stall garage plan, modified it and fabricated a small house which we erected on a hill in the area, complete with plumbing and wiring. It became a regional station for MARS (Military Affiliated Radio Service). Such was my woodshop class of 1962; so, not much in the education of "wood finishing" except the selection of a color stain (natural, walnut, oak, or cherry) and then spraying on a couple of coats of "varnish".)



                    CWS


                    ps, Sorry for the interruption of the subject, but I found a photo of my old shop class and thought it worth posting. I'm the guy to the left center, you can only see my head. I'm holding the board so my classmate can cut it... I was good at holding boards!

                    Attached Files
                    Last edited by cwsmith; 10-17-2020, 12:41 PM.
                    Think it Through Before You Do!

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                    • #11
                      This helps. So, Varnish is in general a generic name for basically oil or non water based finish, and often the final coat.

                      Therefore, that means when someone says: "I finished it with varnish" . . . it means basically that that they painted it with a good finish!


                      My personality style is often confused by generic words used as specific and vice versa. Thanks for the explanations!

                      ​​​​​​​(This forum is SLOW again today.)
                      Last edited by leehljp; 10-17-2020, 09:14 AM.
                      Hank Lee

                      Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yes, Wikipedia definition:

                        "Varnish is a clear transparent hard protective finish or film. It is neither a paint nor stain. In its native state it has little or no color, but may be pigmented as desired, and is sold commercially in various shades.



                        CWS
                        Think it Through Before You Do!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Yachts are the snob-central of varnish. The "artists" in the field of varnish application here in San Diego will only use Epifanes on the truly high-dollar mega-yachts:

                          "Epifanes Clear Varnish, known around the world, is considered the ultimate in high gloss finish. This traditional marine varnish is based on tung oil, phenolic-modified alkyd resins and maximum U.V. absorbers. It has outstanding protection for all marine and household woods and can be applied to Interior and exterior woods above the waterline. It offers superior flow and durability. In addition, it has excellent flexibility and water resistance in all climate conditions.
                          Ask anyone who has ever used Epifanes High Gloss Clear Varnish and you will learn why it is considered to be the world's best spar varnish."

                          https://www.epifanes.com
                          Not surprisingly; it costs a lot more, and it's not really easy to work with. Apparently, only the finest badger-hair brush will work properly.

                          I personally love glossy amber varnish that's 10 coats thick. Too much time on yachts, I guess.
                          Years ago, we bought a lot of flat-pack Swedish teak bookshelves, TV stands and the like. I got the bright idea to lay a thick layer of yacht-quality varnish on the stuff. What an ordeal! I bought a cheapo insect shelter tent from the sports outlet, a compressor and spray guns and went crazy. The part that drives you nuts is settling on a varnish They all have different characteristics that you have to learn for yourself. At the time, 20+ years ago, nobody sprayed varnish. Fortunately, I have wholesale accounts at the marine hardware stores, so tried out a bunch of them. Schooner Gold has the lightest honey-like color, but in the end, I found the sweet spot for product color vs $ with Man-O-War Spar Varnish from Home Depot. I finally determined that 15% was the ideal thinning amount for spraying that product.
                          Incidentally, I found that there are no varnishes that don't have a little modern chemistry in them; most are at least part, if not all, polyurethanes. I tried Tung Oil, and found it has little amber color. It's great for garage projects, though. It cures hard and quickly. Doesn't smell very nice.
                          Like Carlos, I found it difficult to control drips, sags, and curtains, not to mention alligator skin if applied before the preceding coat is sufficiently cured. To avoid having to "scuff" the old coat for adhesion, I pushed the spray schedule so that in-between sanding could be bypassed by going for chemical adhesion on a "soft" coat. Risky, so better to scuff a hard coat with brown Scotch-Brite pads.
                          After a lot of sanding out of dirt and other globs in the varnish between coats and being generally fastidious, I discovered that the surfaces don't have to be perfect between coats, quite accidentally. The leaf in our solid Teak dining table was the last thing we varnished, and the thick lustrous varnish with open grained oiled Teak on either side was beautiful and a good place to stop the agony. We had a New Year's event at our house, and a well-meaning "helper" cleaned the leaf with the scotch-brite green side of the kitchen sponge. It became horribly scratched. Totally bummed, I considered the options, and it came to me that car finishes are sanded and polished, so why not varnish? I ended up using a drill motor fitted with a 4" lamb's wool pad and Novus plastic polishes to buff out the scratches. Since then, I never worry about crud or brush marks in the finish of a project until the last step: polishing.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by d_meister View Post
                            Yachts are the snob-central of varnish. The "artists" in the field of varnish application here in San Diego will only use Epifanes on the truly high-dollar mega-yachts:

                            [I]"Epifanes Clear Varnish, known around the world, is considered the ultimate in high gloss finish. This traditional marine varnish is based on tung oil, phenolic-modified alkyd resins and maximum U.V. absorbers.

                            . . . We had a New Year's event at our house, and a well-meaning "helper" cleaned the leaf with the scotch-brite green side of the kitchen sponge. It became horribly scratched. Totally bummed, I considered the options, and it came to me that car finishes are sanded and polished, so why not varnish? I ended up using a drill motor fitted with a 4" lamb's wool pad and Novus plastic polishes to buff out the scratches. Since then, I never worry about crud or brush marks in the finish of a project until the last step: polishing.
                            One of the Down Under members here back in the early 2000's taught me the water proof-ness of tung oil. I had discovered it by accident about 10 - 12 years early, but being in Japan at the time, I didn't have anyone to discuss that kind of technicality. And I didn't know enough Japanese to discuss it with them either at that time. So I wondered for a long while - Did I accidentally get a water proof finish and great shine, or was it repeatable? (Short story on that - I discovered a small bottle of Tung Oil in a neighborhood store in Tokyo with the words "Tung Oil" on the outside. After that, I never found it again . . . as all tung oil bottles/cans were written in Japanese under a different name, in which it took me nearly 20 years to figure out - They called it "China Tree Oil" but it was in the kanji characters. One day a lightbulb went off in my brain China + Tree + Oil, . . . Is that Tung Oil? It was! )

                            You have a great skill set to know and polish out scratches. In the low and mid level pen turning world, the vast majority do not understand that concept. I rarely touch the subject anymore because most don't believe it is true, or see the need for that kind of detail! On occasion I will mention that the difference between a $75.00 pen and a $500.00 is precisely that kind of detail.
                            Hank Lee

                            Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              So ----- until recently - I avoided top coats like the plague.

                              I started out using Minwax ----- and switched over to Watco Danish Oil ----- which mixes color (oil) and varnish.

                              A couple of months ago - I held my breath and bought a can of brush-on polyurethane for a project.
                              I found that with a new, clean brush ------- it's fantastic!

                              Knowing what works ------ I'm hard pressed to try something new. I absolutely loved the finish that Minwax Poly left.



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