Achieve a traditional look with multiple, thin coats and lots of elbow grease for the final polish
Synopsis: Thomas E. Wisshack writes that some of the oldest and most beautiful finishes relied on numerous, thin coats of varnish that were rubbed on with a soft cloth and then polished to a delightful shine. This method features minimal dust contamination, minimal application marks, and less buildup. Wisshack identifies candidates for a wiped-on finish, and says that virtually any kind of varnish can be applied with a cloth. He explains and demonstrates each step, starting with the sealer, followed by coats of varnish, and then leveling. He uses a ball of cotton cloth and cheesecloth to apply the varnish. Wisshack troubleshoots possible pitfalls and offers advice on how many coats to apply before detailing the best way to approach the final rub.
The use of a bristle brush for applying varnish is so commonplace that many woodworkers don’t realize there is any other way. We tend to think of…