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Oil vs. Film, Choose Your Finish

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Wiping varnish

Wiping varnish

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.

Continued on page 7:  Polyurethane 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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