Oil vs. Film, Choose Your Finish
Wipes on fast, but builds slowly: Almost as easy to apply as an oil/varnish blend, wiping varnish dries quickly enough to reduce brush marks and dust nibs. You also eliminate runs and sags when applying wipe-on finishes in thin coats. Using a rag instead of a brush eliminates cleanup. The downside: You'll need to apply at least two coats of wipe-on varnish to equal one coat of full strenght varnish.
More coats equal more durability: Although each coat of wipe-on varnish goes on thin, the film it leaves complicates repairs as much as unthinned varnish. Sand and recoat light scuffs and scratches. For deep scratches -- especially on stained wood -- strip and refinish the surface. Allow finishsoaked rags to dry before discarding them.
Success secrets: Avoid the temptation to apply thick coats, which can run and drip. Premixed wiping varnishes save time, but you'll save money by making your own. Thin full-strength varnish 25-50 percent with mineral spirits until you achieve a balance of smoothness and thickness. You can use polyurethane, but an alkyd-resin varnish also will work. Despite the name, you can brush on wiping varnish, although that works best on horizontal surfaces, where it won't run or drip.
Try it on any project where you would use full-strength varnish but have the luxury of time to apply several coats. It's especially useful for reaching into nooks and crannies on carvings or routed profiles.
But avoid it for surfaces that must be easy to repair. Like full-strength varnish, it will also add an amber or yellow cast to light woods, including pine and maple.
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