Learning about Finishes

ralitaco

Jim
Senior User
So I have never applied any finishes other than paint and have been trying to learn about stains and such for my shelving. I read several blog posts, including the one here: "Wood Finishes Explained" along with watching lots of videos. I read about using 1# cut shellac as a base coat on pine to prevent blotchiness. I researched gel stains, oil stains, etc.

Having done all that, I decided to start experimenting - below are my results on some scrap pieces of 2x4's that I sanded down with 80, then 120 grit. The wood was not very smooth to start with, even after sanding they were a bit rough. These pieces were some poor quality to start with and I think that may have played into the less than stellar results.


Zinsser Seal Coat (100% wax-free shellac)
The left side of the board is just bare wood; while the right side has 2 coats
I did hit the 2nd coat with some 0000 steel wool - most of that section was incredibly smooth.
I liked the "color" of this clear coat, but don't think it fits what I am planning.

01637f29fa466f08136240031edce67935df155de4.jpg
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Minwax's Espresso Oil Stain over 1# Cut Shellac
I applied 1 coat of this stain over the wax free shellac because of what I read about blotchy wood
The bad results may be due to my poor application technique.
014f3c48e5dfa79a3ca00d43d68025af921d4392dc.jpg

Here is the same section with a second coat of stain
This was ok, but still looked blotchy, even though I had put down the shellac.
016ffe70c7cfeb405fa01937fb8ef7dfc74b3202dc.jpg


Minwax's Espresso Oil Stain over Bare Wood
Here is the same stain after 1 coat on bare wood.
As expected much better color than the piece with the seal coat
012652602b0db3e4e5bd87f07783700403e0b412fd.jpg

After a second coat of the Espresso stain
I did not like this one, looked very dark and very blotchy.
I believe with this dark of a stain, I should have stopped with 1 coat.
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Minwax's Walnut Oil based Gel Stain over 1# Cut Shellac
This was after the first coat.
I think the piece got some decent color.
01583be93f28edfae9a597e79de9c30517ed257b34.jpg

Here is the piece after the second gel coat
This has a decent color to me, a bit richer than after the first coat.
It seems to have a bit of a semi-gloss finish.
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Minwax's Walnut Oil based Gel Stain over Bare Wood
Here is the Gel Stain on the bare pine after 1 coat
This picked up a good bit of color and had a matte finish
0148dc8596d55aa6545fd6aa9cb03eaf390aedff2b.jpg

Here is the same piece after the second coat.
The light areas picked up a lot more color with this coat.
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My least favorite finish is the 2 coats of Minwax Espresso Oil Stain over Bare Wood. It was very dark and looked smeared. I think if I used a lighter stain and stopped at 1 coat, it would have been better.

My favorite look is the 2 coats of Minwax Walnut Oil based Gel Stain over Bare Wood. It looked very even and "natural" and seems to have a matte finish. I am going to apply this on one of my vertical pieces to see how it looks on a larger piece. My next favorite look was the 2# cut of shellac on the bare wood. I think that finish would be great in another application and on a better species of wood.

I must admit, I was a bit surprised at how much waste there was with the gel; although, I guess I could have applied it wrong.
 

chris_goris

Chris
Senior User
If I were starting over again, learning to finish, I would skip stains completely and go right to using dyes, but I had never heard of them then. I wish someone would have introduced me to dyes when I had first started. Ever see some of the AMAZING colors and grain figure that seems to jump out of the wood on custom guitars? well, its the dye and the layering techniques employed. The dewaxed shellac is a good start to using dyes as a sealer first coat to ensure uniformity though!. The down side to dyes is it can be pricey to buy up front but they do last a very long time. But the tradeoffs are huge. Much better depth of colors, easier to apply (and remove) and they dry within minutes typically, depending on the vehicle used to apply them , water or alcohol. There are lots of great youtube videos on dyes, I would suggest you go have a look and judge for yourself. Good luck and welcome to the finishing nightmare!.
 

Ed D

Ed
Senior User
Jim,
About 5 years ago I bought Bob Flexner's "Understanding Wood Finishing", and it has made all the difference for me in my finishing schedule for different types of wood. I keep the book in my shop, and use it often. It has never steered me wrong. Check Amazon, Ebay, used book sites for a decent price.

Ed
 

Willemjm

Willem
Corporate Member
I only use finishes which allow maximum durability, excellent clarity and drying times fast enough to complete the entire job in two hours, including workable curing times.

Apologies if this comes over the wrong way, but anyone who still plays with shellac simply has not been introduced to the latest industrial finishes, almost none which are available at the hardware store.
For me it is about the time, the durability, the compatibility and the amount of work which has to go into it. Shellac rates way down on my list, below products available thirty years ago.

I use oil based stains, dyes, pigmented coloring and tints. It all depends on what the customer wants and there is a place for each and every one. The new trend in houses being built is all solid colors, but transparent colors showing the grain are coming back. Then there is farm style, with blotching, wood defects, knots, for which an oil based stain is very popular.
 

Pop Golden

Pop
Corporate Member
I'm glad you got it for $5. I had Bob Flexner's 1st book and then bought the revised edition. Then I found the REAL book on finishing. "Finishing" by Jeff Jewitt is my go-to finishing bible. By the way Jeff's company makes Trans Tint dye. He is the best authority on use of dye. My basic finishing style is based on advice I received from a friend with a degree in furniture production. He and his father produce high end custom furniture. His formula is 6 or 7+- coats of Zinsser Seal Coat followed by poly on horizonal surfaces. I use plain old Johnson paste wax on most everything. Projects, machine tops, drawer slides etc. I do however keep carnauba and pure bee's wax for when I need it.

Pop
 

ralitaco

Jim
Senior User
If I were starting over again, learning to finish, I would skip stains completely and go right to using dyes, but I had never heard of them then. I wish someone would have introduced me to dyes when I had first started.
Thanks Chris. I had heard of dyes in passing when watching videos of finishing. I have not done any research yet, other than watch a video or two. The dyes don't look much different from the stain and by that I mean is they seem to go on the same. Unlike the gel, which is a much different consistency.

I have to look, but I am guessing there are lots of colors and hues in dyes, not just shades of brown.

The dewaxed shellac is a good start to using dyes as a sealer first coat to ensure uniformity though!. The down side to dyes is it can be pricey to buy up front but they do last a very long time.
So you are suggesting using the seal coat on the bare wood, but from my very unscientific experiments, the seal coat sometimes drastically changed the depth of color of the stains, so wouldn't the same thing happen with dye?

But the tradeoffs are huge. Much better depth of colors, easier to apply (and remove) and they dry within minutes typically, depending on the vehicle used to apply them , water or alcohol. There are lots of great youtube videos on dyes, I would suggest you go have a look and judge for yourself. Good luck and welcome to the finishing nightmare!.
I like the easier to apply and remove, but REALLY like the faster drying time. My "shop" is a pop up tent in the yard so leaving wood out for hours and hours is not the best plan - bugs, dust, rain, etc.

Thanks again for your time and thoughts.
 

ralitaco

Jim
Senior User
...Bob Flexner's "Understanding Wood Finishing", and it has made all the difference for me in my finishing schedule for different types of wood. I keep the book in my shop, and use it often. It has never steered me wrong. Check Amazon, Ebay, used book sites for a decent price...
Thank you Ed for the book suggestion. I need to look into getting a copy...


Just ordered a used copy for about $5.
So creasman, where did you find yours for $5?


...I found the REAL book on finishing. "Finishing" by Jeff Jewitt is my go-to finishing bible. By the way Jeff's company makes Trans Tint dye.
Pop, thank you too for your suggestion. This will also go on my shopping list. I saw a video where they spoke about the Trans Tint. The host was saying he used it for "toning"...guess I have more to ask the Google.


My basic finishing style is based on advice I received from a friend with a degree in furniture production. He and his father produce high end custom furniture. His formula is 6 or 7+- coats of Zinsser Seal Coat followed by poly on horizonal surfaces.
So this finishing style has no color or are you saying you add the Trans Tint to the seal coat?
The purpose of the Poly is to make the surface hard, correct? To protect it from dings and dents?
What do you do on the vertical surfaces?
Do you just use the seal coat?

I use plain old Johnson paste wax on most everything. Projects, machine tops, drawer slides etc. I do however keep carnauba and pure bee's wax for when I need it
Please excuse my ignorance, but why do you use paste wax? What is the purpose/benefit?
 

ralitaco

Jim
Senior User
I only use finishes which allow maximum durability, excellent clarity and drying times fast enough to complete the entire job in two hours, including workable curing times.
Willem, Thanks for taking the time to reply. No offense taken here because I don't know enough to know if I should be offended - LOL.

As I said in an earlier reply, I like the idea of the fast drying time. Working under a tent, on a dirt floor with no climate control is a challenge, especially with big temperature swings and the ever-present chance of rain.

...anyone who still plays with shellac simply has not been introduced to the latest industrial finishes, almost none which are available at the hardware store.
You just described me. I don't know if I have been introduced to the latest or earliest finishes. I am only able to get what they have at Lowe's, Home Depot and Ace Hardware. I think there is a Klingspor in Raleigh which is about 2 hours away, and I am willing to go there if I KNOW what I want/need is there. Trouble is, I don't know what I want/need.

Please share what products you are referring to.
Where can they be purchased by the average Joe DIY'er or are they only available to commercial customers?


I use oil based stains, dyes, pigmented coloring and tints. It all depends on what the customer wants and there is a place for each and every one.
So it sounds like you are seconding Chris' suggestion of using dyes.
As for it depending on what the customer wants...I am the customer and I don't know what I want...Heck I don't really know what the options are.
I guess the biggest factor for me is the drying time due to my working conditions.


Thanks again to all that have replied. I really appreciate the input and look forward to a post Covid time when we can meet and maybe have a hands on finishing class.
 

creasman

Jim
User
So creasman, where did you find yours for $5?
I did a search online. Several turned up, but I purchased from New & Used Books | Buy Cheap Books Online at ThriftBooks. Pretty sure they had 2-3 copies. Mine was about $5.50 + $1 for shipping. It's a used copy. Try this search: understanding wood finishing - Google Shopping.

There is a PDF of the same title and author here: http://woodtools.nov.ru/books/Understanding_Wood_Finishes.pdf. However, I'm not sure if it's the same as the book since it contains no photos, tables, etc. It's just text. Anyway, for price I prefer a book in hand over a PDF.
 

chris_goris

Chris
Senior User
Thanks Chris. I had heard of dyes in passing when watching videos of finishing. I have not done any research yet, other than watch a video or two. The dyes don't look much different from the stain and by that I mean is they seem to go on the same. Unlike the gel, which is a much different consistency.

I have to look, but I am guessing there are lots of colors and hues in dyes, not just shades of brown.


So you are suggesting using the seal coat on the bare wood, but from my very unscientific experiments, the seal coat sometimes drastically changed the depth of color of the stains, so wouldn't the same thing happen with dye?


I like the easier to apply and remove, but REALLY like the faster drying time. My "shop" is a pop up tent in the yard so leaving wood out for hours and hours is not the best plan - bugs, dust, rain, etc.

Thanks again for your time and thoughts.
buy some dye and give it a shot... you can layer on color using shellac as a sealer.
 

ralitaco

Jim
Senior User
Thanks Jim and Chris.

Where do you guys get your finishes: dyes, stains, etc.?
All I know about are the big box stores and Ace
 

wsrhue

wyattspeightrhue
User
Thanks Jim and Chris.

Where do you guys get your finishes: dyes, stains, etc.?
All I know about are the big box stores and Ace
I'll either order directly from the manufacturer or amazon. There are some things I still get from big box stores.
 

Willemjm

Willem
Corporate Member
For industrial finishes, you have establish an account with the vendor. Sherwin Williams, industrial finishes in Charlotte NC. Lenmar, you have to call the company and they will enable a dealer to supply. Horizon Forrest products sell Chemvar, which is kind of OK, but they can also get ML Campbell which is very highly rated.
 

ralitaco

Jim
Senior User
Thanks everyone for your input and thoughts. Since I don't have tons of options for purchasing locally and since I am a bit impatient, I decided to go with the shellac (that I cut down to 1#) and then the gel stain. I had already purchased both of the products and had started testing with them.

So what have I learned:
1. Me: I am not a good finisher nor a good sander. Although, I was using construction grade 2x's so maybe if/when I move up to some nicer wood, I will get some better results with the sanding.

2. Shellac Mixing: A medicine cup works really good for measuring out and mixing up small batches. I was cutting the Zinsser Seal Coat down to a 1# cut to use as a base. Since I did not know how much I was going to need, I was mixing 2 little cup-fuls at a time and adding in 2 cup-fuls of Denatured Alcohol (DNA). Also a small measuring cup will probably be needed as the shellac gets lower in the can.
Having a container that can be sealed/capped (soda bottle rinsed with DNA) is helpful to save the cut shellac...I only hope it does not deteriorate the bottle, but that is why it is outside in the work tent.

3. Shellac Application: I did not have much luck making one of those applicator pads, but I will try again with some different material. I made one, but it did not feel good in my hand. Also, it seemed to put on a much thinner coat than the foam brush.
I did use a foam brush to apply the shellac and it seemed to work ok. Although it did start to break down after a bit. By break down, I mean the foam got really soft and the brush head seemed to stretch. I am guessing the DNA affected the foam. In the future, I think I will try a nice bristle brush.
One other thing is that the odor from the shellac was not overbearing.

4. DNA: it does NOT pour out very nicely. And that trick that Peter Gedrys shows in one of his videos where you crack the cap about 1/8 of a turn looked good on the video, but did not work so well for me when the cap popped off. Guess I went more than 1/8 of a turn.
Also, marking your medicine cup with a Sharpie only lasts until the DNA runs down the side of the cup.
The odor is bearable, but just barely - IMHO

5. Oil Based Gel Stain: That is some thick stuff. Even after mixing for a bit with a stir stick, there were still clumps. (suggestions to avoid that are welcome). Again, I used a foam brush to apply the stain. I was a little more mindful of how much "extra" I left on the wood, and this time, I did not feel as though I was wasting as much.
I may still be leaving too much stain on there that needs to be wiped off because I went through a TON of rags. Not sure how to know how much to leave on. Fortunately, I have a burn barrel that I could throw them in just in case they decided to self combust.
Applying stain on a board with rounded corners is a challenge - I had so many runs and drips. Although I did get better the more I stained. A better brush may also help here. I did not catch some of those runs and it was too late to wipe them off. I realized late in my experiment that if I put a lot of pressure on the rag, I could get most of the thick run off.
Here you can see the runs I missed.
0195ecd7c81eff6ad3da3a80812f815816da25c634.jpg . 01ff85dd080238b9f4b75ef285a248071482143fcb.jpg

Not sure how anyone else does it, but I don't think I will be staining all 4 sides at once. I did that on some 6" pieces and realized it was a royal pain to try to wipe them off when I had nowhere to grab them.
One other thing I noticed/struggled with is that the can says to leave the stain on for 3 minutes than wipe off. Well it took me 3 minutes to put the stain on 2 sides of an 88" 2x4 (yes I timed myself with a stopwatch). So I wasn't sure how soon to start wiping off the stain because it will take less time to remove than apply. Wasn't a big deal in this situation, I just waited another 2 minutes and started wiping, but how do you do this on a large table top or something.
As for the odor, it was bearable. I was outside in my work tent with 2 sides up, but after several hours of staining, I did start to get a bit of a sore throat. My order for a respirator is on its way.

6. Blotchy wood: I definitely saw a difference on the outcome with and without the seal coat. At least for now and on pine 2x's, I think I will go with the seal coat first.
Here I stained Bare Wood on one side of the 2x and put seal coat on the other. The knots are there for reference to help see the shape of the grain of the wood.
016eed2890ff966945efcd2948877f595d0980bdc8.jpg 014373579bbd9e294b12d6e2baa097c2db96729a87.jpg . 019998206744aef25cfad7c16965d8eacd4f07ddbe.jpg 01f31d8fd76d36c73e250f1b0195d75d57a6277c83.jpg

Below, you can easily see the 2 boards that had no seal coat.
01df790665247d738484ce1cadd9c6e4700a36409e.jpg

I am sure I learned a lot more but that is all I remember for now. I think I may try the dyes next time and experiment with some colors outside of the brown family. I am thinking blue and red, but then again, if they have a walnut dye, that would be good for a like to like comparison)

018632b67c360e4f9a212fd196a5ecdf6430d187ea.jpg
 

Hmerkle

Hank
Corporate Member
I'm glad you got it for $5. I had Bob Flexner's 1st book and then bought the revised edition. Then I found the REAL book on finishing. "Finishing" by Jeff Jewitt is my go-to finishing bible. By the way Jeff's company makes Trans Tint dye. He is the best authority on use of dye. My basic finishing style is based on advice I received from a friend with a degree in furniture production. He and his father produce high end custom furniture. His formula is 6 or 7+- coats of Zinsser Seal Coat followed by poly on horizonal surfaces. I use plain old Johnson paste wax on most everything. Projects, machine tops, drawer slides etc. I do however keep carnauba and pure bee's wax for when I need it.

Pop
I have Bob Flexner's "Understanding Wood Finishing" and I am interested in Jeff Jewitt's books but when I go on-line I see four of them:
1. Taunton's Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing
2. Spray Finishing Made Simple: A Book and Step-by-Step Companion DVD (which looks interesting)
3. Great Wood Finishes
and finally...
4. Refinishing Furniture Made Simple: Includes Companion Step-By-Step Video (this one looks interesting too)


So, which one are you referring to? Does anyone have the other ones that would recommend them or NOT recommend them?
 

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