Three great finishing tips
Finishing is a methodical process that takes place over a number of days. It takes multiple coats to do it right, you have to sand between most of them, and then apply wax at the end. Anything I can do to speed things up is a welcome addition!
As many of you know, you should use the best bruish you can afford. Treat it right and it will last for years. That means a good cleaning after every use. But you can skip a few of those cleaning sessions with the following tip, which lets you store the brush in a small amount of solvent. I usually give the brush a quick swish in the solvent and then just leave it there.
Snip the tip of one finger off a latex glove. That ends up hugging the brush handle, while the base of the glove stretches around the top of your the jar or cup. (When choosing which finger to snip off my glove, I considered how I felt about finishing in general.)
This way, no matter what finish you are using, you can just leave it in the solvent, with the rubber glove keeping it from evaporating. With shellac, you can leave the brush in the finish itself. The glove trick will buy you a few days of bursh storage if necessary.
When you sand between coats, you’ll often find hard areas of finish built up on the paper. The pros call it “corning.” Rather than chuck that strip of pricy paper after just a minute or two of use, I scrape off the kernels with a dull card scraper. A light pass does it, the gunk is gone, and the sandpaper works beautifully again.
And here’s a great tip for the tail end of the process. Most finishes need finishing. That usually means a light rubdown with superfine steel wool, and then a coat of wax. If you just jam you wax rag into the goop, like some sort of Cro-Magnon, you’ll leave thick swirls of wax on the wood when you apply it. Those can be a prehistoric bear to buff off. The trick is to apply the lightest of coat of wax to the wood, let the solvent flash off for five minutes or so, and then buff it with a clean rag to a beautiful sheen. With a very light coat of wax, the buffing goes super fast. With too much wax, you could be rubbing for hours to get rid of it.
The way to apply that lightest of coats is to put the wax inside the rag, not outside. See the photos for more. That will also keep the wax out of the pores of grainy woods like oak, where it can be hard to remove.
I still hate finishing, but these tips make it more tolerable.
Between coats, just leave the brush sitting in some solvent. Snip the tip off one finger of a rubber glove, and use it to create a nice air seal around the brush handle and finish container, keeping the solvent from evaporating for a few days.
When applying furniture wax, don't dip the rag into the wax. Put the wax inside the rag, on top of a wadded-up section.
Then wrap one layer of the rag over the top, give the whole thing a squeeze, start rubbing it on the wood, and you'll see wax start to soak through.
Now you can use a swirling motion to apply the thinnest coat of wax to the surface. Wait 5 mins. for the solvent to evaporate, and it will be ready to buff with a dry rag.
Most finishes require sanding between at least some of the coats, to get the smoothest results.
Before long, you'll often see little gunky beads of finish building up on the paper. Get enough of these, and the sandpaper stops working.
A quick swipe with an old scraper removes the gunk, letting the abrasive work again.