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Wax on, wax off

After its time in front of the camera for issue 180, the Mission bookcase was moved to our display area—props and all. Unfortunately, those props included two maroon candles with nothing between the wax and the wood. Sure enough, the wax from the candle fused with the lacquer finish.


Kevin Boyle, our senior design editor, suggested lacquer thinner, but I didn’t want a reputation as the guy who ruined a perfectly good bookcase by scrubbing off the finish. In the past, I’ve used mineral spirits to remove any wax you couldn’t pop off with a plastic scraper. That’s because mineral spirits will soften wax but its doesn’t damage lacquer. This time, though, a spirits-soaked rag didn’t budge the wax. So I took Kevin’s advice and tried wiping lacquer thinner only on the areas discolored by the wax. After a couple minutes, the wax (and a little of the lacquer finish) wiped off enough to call it good. That left a few pale areas in the Varathane Early American stain, but nothing that couldn’t be touched up. A quick shot of aerosol lacquer to even up the sheen and our bookcase was as good as new. If you ever wonder why you’d want to finish with anything but polyurethane, imagine what would have been involved in removing that wax-damaged finish.

After: no more wax

After: no more wax

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Project in (reverse) progress

Ever have one of those projects where you just want to throw up your hands and walk away? That’s where I am with the TV stand. A series of small flaws and mistakes has reached the point where I need to take three or four steps backward before I can move forward.

When I dry-assembled the case I discovered I’d been careless gluing up one side assembly, and the top assembly wouldn’t sit tight to it. Plus the frame was just a touch out of square. Further, the other frame and panel assembly had a bow inward. And, frankly, I wasn’t happy with the finish on the frames. So I decided they had to be rebuilt. I took them to the tablesaw, cut them apart to salvage the panels, grabbed my wallet and headed out to get more lumber.

The finishing issues I’ve discussed in earlier posts here and here. Fixes this time didn’t require such drastic measures, but I’m redoing a lot of work. I sanded down one face of a divider where finish wasn’t sticking, re-dyed it, and opened a fresh can of finish. The first couple coats seem to be flowing out more evenly than previously, leading me to think that perhaps I had some finish that was outdated or something. As for the top panel, I decided to strip the poly from it and start again. For these cherry parts, I’m switching to a gel finish, one I’ve had success with in the past.

The really frustrating part about this whole project: It shouldn’t take this long! There’s really nothing complicated about this design. It’s just a glorified box! But I can’t let myself get in a hurry, I just need to do what’s necessary to make it right, because I’ll be looking at it a lot over the coming years.


TV stand finishing issues

First, I’ll apologize for not having photos with this post. I’ve just been too preoccupied when I get into the basement to put on finish to think about grabbing the camera. So I’ll substitute a portion of my SketchUp model to show you what I’m talking about.

I’ve got the top panel and pediment for the stand completed (that’s this part):

TV Stand top & pediment

TV Stand top & pediment

and began applying finish. I was in a quandary about how to prevent finish from running downhill off of the arch. It may sound counter-intuitive, but I decided to try a thinned-down varnish. It would flow out quickly, so any runs would be immediately apparent and could be wiped away. The trade-off is that with a thinner finish, it takes more coats to get the build I want. This seems to be working well on the pediment. However, I’m having issues with the undiluted finish I’m using on the surface where the TV will sit. Bubbles, nibs, uneven coverage. This surface needs to look perfect, and I’m far from that. I’ve got two coats on, I’ll see where the third takes me. Perhaps thinning is the answer for this as well.


Bubble, bubble, causing trouble

Progress on the TV stand creeps forward. To get the best possible finish, I’m finishing parts as I go. This way, parts lay flat while brushing on the poly top coat and the finish lays out more smoothly without runs.  But I came across a problem with one of the end panels. See the bubbles?

Bubble poly finish

Bubble poly finish

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