dry before padding. Proceed cautiously at first, just to be sure. To clean off grease, oil or wax, use naphtha or mineral spirits. If you're trying to renew an old finish that's cracked or rough to the touch, sand it smooth before applying the padding lacquer. You don't need to remove all the old finish, just smooth it. The process is identical to sanding between coats during finishing. I use 320- or 400-grit stearated sandpaper. This is a grayish-blue silicone carbide sandpaper that has a soap-type lubricant built in, so it doesn't clog up with the old finish as fast.
If you're working on a very old piece of furniture that has historic or monetary value, you should probably avoid sanding the surface, because you can destroy some of its value. If you're not sure what to do, contact a museum furniture conservator for advice.
The procedure for applying padding lacquer is simple. Dampen the pad with padding lacquer, and rub it over an area 4 sq. ft. or less. The trick is to rub the pad continuously over the area until the pad is totally dry and all the streaking has disappeared.
You vary the amount of padding lacquer on the pad depending on the size of your pad and the surface you're covering. Try one or two teaspoons to begin with, and adjust from there. The exact amount is not critical, and I just pour it from the bottle. There should be enough to wet the surface area you're trying to cover, but not so much that it damages the existing finish or drags the padding lacquer you've just applied when you come back over it with the pad.
To wet the pad. hold the tightly wrapped pad upside down in one hand, and pour the padding lacquer onto it. Tap it against the palm of your other hand to disperse the liquid. Begin padding bv bringing the pad down at an angle onto the surface-grazing it like an airplane landing—and continue moving the pad slowly around the surface using very little pressure. If you stop moving, the fresh padding lacquer may bite into the surface. This will leave a mark which might require sanding to remove.
I usually begin padding with a non-overlapping pattern (sec Fig. 1) to avoid the damage which may be caused by overlapping too soon. This pattern gets the first coat of finish down quickly. You shouldn't be concerned about covering the whole surface perfectly— any bare spots will be taken care of in the next step. I can usually cover 3 or 4 sq. ft. of surface in ten to 15 seconds.
Next. I switch my padding to another pattern where the strokes cross each other in large circles or figure 8s. If you cross over a previous pass too soon, the pad will grab or drag at the point of crossover. You'll feel the friction of the pad dragging, and the surface there will look rough. If this happens, return to a non-
To apply padding lacqaer, make a "pad" by wadding cheese-doth in a small ball and wrapping H in another piece of cloth with the ends twisted to make H tight
Here's the best way I've found to make up a pad: Take a piece of cheesecloth I1/: ft. sq., fold it neatly into a ball that will fit in your hand. Take another piece of tightly woven cheesecloth, an old handkerchief or a piece of well-washed cotton bed sheet 6 in. to 8 in. sq., and wrap this piece around the folded ball of cheesecloth, as shown in the photo. Pull the ends of the cover cloth together, and twist them tight, making the bottom surface of the pad smooth and taut. If a wrinkle develops while you're padding, simply twist the ends a little tighter to remove it. This control over wrinkling is the reason I prefer to use a cover cloth. Otherwise, none is needed, and many instructions leave the cover cloth out.
An old rule of thumb in French polishing is that the pad improves with use and age. Instructions often suggest storing the pad in an airtight container, so it won't dry out between jobs. But for padding lacquer, just the opposite is true. To get good results, you must allow the pad to become completely dry while you're rubbing. This could take hours if the pad is wet all the way through. So it's best to make up a new pad for each job, or even more than one if you're working on a large area.
Preparing on Old Finish
Though it's possible to use padding lacquer over dirt, wax and a deteriorated finish, it's almost always better to prepare the surface first.
The first thing to do is get the surface clean. To clean off dirt, use water or soap and water. It usually doesn't hurt to use water quite freely, as long as you give the surface plenty of lime to crossover pattern, until the surface and your pad have dried some more. Light crossover drags will usually even out and disappear. Heavier damage, such as ridges, may have to be sanded smooth with 320- or 400-grit paper after the padding lacquer has dried a few minutes. Then apply another coat of padding lacquer.
With the second pattern I get more vigorous, increasing the pressure and speed on the pad. The circles and figure 8s help me avoid coming to a complete stop at any one place. It's not important what pattern you use, as long as you cover the entire surface area evenly, and keep the pad moving.
Now comes the most critical part of applying padding lacquer. As you rub. streaks will begin to appear, and you'll think you're just smearing the surface. Your instincts will probably tell you to add more padding lacquer. Don7 do it. The smear marks, or "rag tracks," as a friend of mine calls them (sec photo), are just what you want to see.
At this point you should increase the pressure on the pad, using both hands if you like, and continue moving rapidly over the entire area you're padding. As your pad dries out, it will become tacky, and the friction caused by the heavy rubbing will burnish out the smears and leave a high gloss shine, as shown in the photo. Don't stop rubbing until all the smear)' rag tracks have disappeared. Be sure to have a light source positioned to reflect across the surface, so you can look for complete coverage and check your progress in removing the streaking.
If the area you're trying to polish is too big, your pad will become too dry before you've removed all the streaks. If that happens, you should start all over again, and reduce the area you're working on. If the area is too small, you might cross over too often and soften or damage the finish as you try to keep the pad moving. In this case, you'll need to slow down your movements, let the pad dry a bit. or use a smaller pad.
It takes about five minutes to pad a 4-sq. ft. area, which is a manageable size to work with. The time will vary, though, depending upon the brand of padding lacquer, the size of your pad. and how wet your pad is. If you're polishing a larger surface, such as a dining-room table, you'll have to break the surface up into several areas of manageable size. Then pad each area separately, overlapping them at the edges. If you have to work on a large surface for some length
of time, wear an organic vapor respirator (available from Direct Safety Co.. 7815 S. 46th St.. Phoenix, AZ 85044. 800-528-7405) becausc the fumes can make you light-headed and temporarily affect your nerves.
Getting the wadded pad into tight areas such as corners presents a problem. To solve it, remove the inner cheesecloth, and form it into a point that can fit into tight spots. The inner cheesecloth may also work better on rounded or hollow areas such as chair legs where you want the pad to conform to contoured surfaces. On very difficult areas such as carvings. I switch to a brush just like I would if applying shellac.
Some people like to do all, or at least part, of the rubbing with the grain, and some instructions even suggest applying the padding lacquer using a pendulum motion with the grain. But I like the look of fine, swirlv lines better than straight lines, because they
FIG. 1: PADDING PATTERNS
STEP 1 Start padding with serpentine pattern of non-overlapping strokes.
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