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Oil vs. Film, Choose Your Finish

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Polyurethane varnish

Polyurethane varnish

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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Comments (9)
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PeteM wrote:

The hypertext in these articles don't do what a reader would expect.

11/26/2013 08:56:40 AM 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
d.d.kelly.bodhi wrote:

So. When can we get our grubbies on your tome on shellac?

8/1/2013 04:00:32 PM 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
mjmnswartz@gmail.com 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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