Finishing Techniques

sandymac1September 1, 2008

Hello. I am restoring an old office desk, the top is a veneer. I've sanded all the previous varnish (or whatever was used) off, and am now back to the raw veneer. I tried to varnish it with an interior clear varnish, but if i use a paint brush, I can't get rid of the brush marks, a foam roller leaves lines, and a mohair roller leaves fine hairs. Can I just put oil on it? What other techniques can you suggest - I'm desperate:-(

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Use masking tape to "de-fuzz" the roller.
There are really terrific finishes that can be wiped on. For a desktop, I'd use shellac, applied with a cloth pad, and a wipe-on poly for the final waterproof top wear layer. The shellac gives color and build, the poly ensures that the finish won't get water rings. Bartley's Gel Varnish is the best wipe-on varnish containing poly, IMO.
This will give a very smooth finish, providing any pores in the wood have been filled. If a more open-grained finish is desired (mission style, etc.) a different approach would be called for. You would dispense with the shellac, use a stain for color, and then directly into the wipe-on poly varnish.
Wipe-ons are closer to trouble-free because dust and lap marks are not an issue. Wiped-on shellac, especially good for high-dust conditions- it is dry immediately after the pad leaves the surface; there is nothing tacky to hold dust.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2008 at 9:42AM
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Are you using a wiping varnish? The best rag for applying varnish is old bed sheets. No lint = no problems.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 12:01PM
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I don't disagree with either of the above responses. I'd be comfortable with either of them.

If you want to brush, here's what I teach in my finishing class for brushing oil-based varnishes:
1) A good, natural bristle brush. I am fond of the badger hair brushes that have a thick stack, chisel edge, and fine bristles.
2) A thinned finish. Most varnishes are too thick right out of the can. Thin at least 10% with mineral spirits
3) Sand between coats. This levels out the brush marks and removes the dust nibs. Wipe off dust with a lint-free cloth dampened with mineral spirits. Don't use steel wool for this, but good sandpaper such as Norton or 3M's sandblaster.
4) "Tip off" by taking a nearly dry brush, light pressure and hold almost vertical and stroke from one edge to the other to level and smooth a section after you've applied varnish to an area.
5) Put on as little finish as possible consistent with complete coverage. You cannot get too thin a coat, as long as you've covered everything.
6) Work with light behind the the work and view at a low angle. You can't fix a defect that you don't see.

Here is a link that might be useful: Finishing for First Timers

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 9:17PM
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