Last weekend I taught a wood finishing weekend. These weekends are quite tricky to organise as to a good finish usually requires at least three coats and with the drying time on oil finishes especially this can be tricky to achieve. We looked at applying two different oil finishes, an acrylic lacquer, a wax finish and traditional French polishing. We also covered various methods of colouring wood and surface preparation.
The two basic elements of good finishing are diligent surface preparation and applying the finish in a number of very thin coats rather than a few thick ones. During the course we prepared a number of surfaces so they were perfectly smooth with no blemishes. This preparation starts with a very well sharpened and set plane, possibly a cabinet scraper if the wood is “difficult” and various abrasive media and methods.
Applying a number of thin coats is achieved in different ways depending on the finish. With an oiled finish such as Danish oil or a hard wax oil it involves applying the finish fairly liberally, but then, after a short period, being quite meticulous in rubbing off any residue thus leaving a fine increment of finish.
French polishing is basically a way of applying many, possibly hundreds of very fine layers of shellac to a surface, in this way the deep finish characteristic of French polish is achieved. The method involves rubbing the shellac polish onto the surface in small circular motions progressively across the surface using a rubber charged with the shellac. On a table top for instance, by the time you have reach the end of the table the finish at the start will be dry enough to start rubbing again at the beginning. In this way many thin coats can be applied in a relatively short time.
Relating to my previous blog on mindfulness. Last weekend I realised that French polishing is quite a mindful activity if done correctly. The repetition and the need to concentrate on the amount of finish being applied and the pressure on the surface mean you can become quite engrossed in the process. I can recommend French polishing as a relaxation therapy!
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