Oil vs. Film, Choose Your Finish
Brush with care: Slowdrying full-strength polyurethane has a frustrating knack for catching dust nibs and, when applied too thickly, running and dripping. It's better brushed than sprayed because overspray sticks to everything. Polyurethane's abrasion resistance makes it difficult to rub out, and cleanup requires using mineral spirits.
Tricky to apply, but difficult to damage: Nothing short of chemical strippers or aggressive sanding will remove polyurethane, but that also helps it survive wear, moisture, and chemical damage in the first place. Plus, polyurethane's heat resistance makes it a sound choice for projects such as this casserole carrier shown above right.
Success secrets: Despite what it says on the label, polyurethane can be thinned 5 - 10 percent with mineral spirits until it brushes on smoothly and dries slowly enough for bubbles to pop and brush marks to level out. More so than with any other finish shown here, success depends on applying poly to a clean surface in a dust-free environment.
Try it on any project where you want high wear resistance. Choose it for projects that will take the most daily abuse such as kitchen tables, chairs, and kids' toys.
But avoid it for furnishings you'll rub out to a high-gloss shine, or projects where easy repairs are essential. It's also less convenient to apply than spray lacquer or even wiping varnish for display pieces such as a mantel clock or decorative box.
By Bob Wilson with Bob Flexner
© Copyright Meredith Corporation 2006
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