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Secrets to keep your finish fresh

Preserving stains and varnishes just makes sense. You'll save money, be able to match new projects to existing ones, and make hard-to-detect repairs to dings and nicks.

In a time crunch, you need a finish that cures to a sandable hardness fast enough for you to apply that critical second coat.

For a centuries-old finish, shellac offers plenty of modern benefits.

Plywood's dimensional stability makes it great for many projects, but it usually doesn't stain to the same hue as the solid-wood banding along its edges. Here are three fixes.

Aniline dyes offer another approach for your finishing. Whether in wood tones or bright hues, these transparent dyes impart rich color without obscuring the grain.

If you've never tried gel stains, you're missing out on what could be an important part of your finishing repertoire. In certain situations (that we'll tell you about) these thickened stains perform better than thin-bodied (liquid) stains. But they do have limitations. And, as we discovered, subtle differences exist between the three major brands we tested.

Like the ease of using wipe-on finishes? Let us show you how to make your own.

When it's time to apply a knockout finish, there are a lot of contenders. Some can take a punch; some bounce back fast. Here's how to choose the one that's a fair match for your project.

When to use which clear finish

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