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Oil vs. Film, Choose Your Finish

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Water-based finish

Water-based finish

Quick drying, quick cleanup: Water-based finish sprays or brushes on easily, but it dries quickly enough that you have to work fast to avoid brush marks. Water-based finishes release fewer odors than oil-based varnish or lacquer, but still contain solvents. Apply them in well ventilated locations while wearing a respirator. Soap and water take care of cleanup before the finish dries.

Moderately durable, but a problem to patch: Water-based finishes won't redissolve like lacquer or cure thin like an oil/varnish mix, making them harder to repair than lacquer or drying oils. Waterbased finishes compare to lacquer for durability, but deteriorate from chemicals such as glass cleaners with ammonia, and from constant contact with bare skin.

Success secrets: To minimize grainraising problems with water-based finishes, first moisten the grain to raise it and gently sand away nibs before applying a sealer coat. Water-based finishes dry slowly enough to form runs, so apply light coats and sand lightly between coats with 220-grit abrasive. Avoid rebrushing freshly applied finish, which can leave streaks and bubbles. Also, apply water-based finish when the temperature is 60 -- 90° F and the humidity is 50 percent or less.

Try it on projects where you'd use oilbased varnish but don't require its abrasion and moisture resistance. The clarity of water-based finishes makes them ideal for light woods such as maple, where you want to preserve the wood's natural color.

But avoid it for projects where you need exceptional water and chemical resistance.

Continued on page 6:  Wiping varnish


Comments (9)
temblor4 wrote:

I find it impossible to get a smooth finish with modern polyurethane finishes. It used to lay down smoothly and evenly with no bubbles. No more. No matter how I try, what brush I use, how much I dilute it, I can't get the finish it used to give before modern federal regs. Minwax freely admits this and says there is no real solution. Their polyurethane wiping formula does work well, and lays down nicely. It's also quicker to apply than brushed regular poly.

1/29/2015 12:10:33 PM Report Abuse
3-j wrote:

Wetting and sanding off the "nibs" is not logical. The water-based product will simply create "nibs" again. Just save yourself needless effort and skip the non-nonsensical wetting/sanding step and apply the finish. When you sand after that process, you will see no "nibs."

11/7/2013 09:39:45 AM Report Abuse
dhellew21 wrote:

You also missed Tung oil (non-toxic) and Teak Oil. Mix these two together for Tung penetration, Teak durability, and you have a durable, easily repairable finish. Great for kitchen and bath cabinets including counter top trim behind and in front with porcelain tile tops. Holds up to the abuse of rental houses where a light coat make it like new. The blend is durable enough for outdoor use, best light re-coated annually like most finishes. Thanks to the Feds it is only imported, made in Canada.

11/11/2011 09:59:22 AM Report Abuse wrote:

For best adhesion you should lightly sand polyurethane between coats. Sanding also removes the dust nibs that may be on the previous coat.

4/15/2010 12:57:21 PM Report Abuse
geezerpa wrote:

What about PENOFIN oil, I find it exceptional. I believe its a california company. Does not raise the grain, so no sanding.

4/15/2010 12:38:02 PM Report Abuse
joecal wrote:

Anybody have any advice/thoughts on a product I receintly heard about - Australian Tree Oil?

4/15/2010 10:25:58 AM Report Abuse
jsmythe3325231 wrote:

Hi Great article and well written. Could you do an addendum for Shellac. Thanks

3/12/2010 01:12:19 PM Report Abuse
Mr. Frodo wrote:

I liked this article but I don't see how shellac could be left out of an article on finishing comparisons

3/11/2010 11:35:00 AM Report Abuse

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