Finishing Technique

Protecting with Paint

Maybe I'm just getting lazy, but I wanted the Garden Bench to look nice for a long time without regular maintenance. That's why I decidedto use paint.It was the difference between refinishing every year or two and repainting every ten.

With most projects, I want the wood to look as natural as possible. But a natural, transparent finish just doesn't protect against sunlight

SUNLIGHT. Ultraviolet rays deteriorate woodby breaking down its lig-nin — nature's "glue" that holds the wood fibers together. A transparent finish lets these rays pass through. Then, as the wood beneath the finish deteriorates, the finish cracks and lets moisture in.

Pretty soon, the project is back in the shop, and you're lounging on aluminum lawn chairs again.

The pigments in paint block ultraviolet rays. And its film is a good barrier against moisture. So paint gives the best protection and lasts much longer.


While at the paint store, I remembered hearing that paint will last even longer ifyou first coat the wood with a water repellent/preservative (such as DAPs Woodlife or General Finishes' Outdoor Oil, for sources see page 31).

overkill. When I asked about this, the salesman said it wasn't necessary. It did sound like overkill.

Just to be sure, I called Bill Feist at the USDA's Forest Products Laboratory. (He's their resident expert on outdoor finishes.)

"Starting off with a water repellent/preservative does offer a distinct advantage," Bill stated. "It's like a safety net. When the

paint finally cracks, the repellent slows down the penetration ofwater into the wood and helps the paint last longer. Just make sure the repellent cahe painted when dry."

PREPARATION. I did most of the finishing before the seat slats and the latticework were added. Thfaade much easier getto at all the nooks and crannies.

To get the Garden Bench ready for its coat ofwater repellent/preservative, begin by sanding everything up to 120 grit. Then dust it off and set it on a drop cloth in a room with plenty of ventilation.

APPLICATION. I used almost a quart of repellent/preservative on the Bench. I soaked the wood around the joints (where paint usually fails first) and kept brushing the repellent into any end grain until it wouldn't absorb any more. (For end grain on the legs, see left photo below.)

Once the Bench is coaled thoroughly, wipe off the excess. Then, let it sit a couple days to make sure the repellent/preservative is completely dry. (After it dries, seal any knotsbe-fore painting, see page 19.)

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