surface with 220-grit paper; use 320-grit paper before the third and final coat. I use stearated paper to make sanding easier, and I always sand with the grain to avoid making scratch marks. These coats don't sink into the pores of the wood as much as the first coat, so I have to be careful not to put too much on.
I wait a couple days for the finish to harden, then 1 wax the surfacc. I dip a ball of 0000 steel wool in a good-quality paste wax such as Butcher's Wax, and rub the surface evenly. Then I buff the wood with a soft cloth to remove excess wax and polish the surface.
The finish I use most often is the satin or medium-sheen finish, which 1 get with six coats of Waterlox. This finish affords more protection, making it more suitable for utilitarian furniture such as tables, bookcascs and chairs. And the medium luster is appropriate for many types of furniture.
Apply the fourth and fifth coats as before, sanding lightly with 320-grit sandpaper before each coat. After the fifth coat has dried, switch to 0000 steel wool instead of sandpaper. Rub the surfacc in the direction of the grain until it has an even, dull sheen. Then clean the surface with a tack rag to make sure there's no dust or lint on the wood.
To apply the sixth coat, use a lint-free cloth, available at most auto supply stores. Apply the varnish sparingly and evenly. Then smooth the finish by wiping the wet cloth in the direction of the grain. Wait a few days and wax the finish as before.
Ten coats or more will produce a glossy, durable finish that needs little if any maintenance. This is the finish for your best work—an elegant dining table, a jewelry box, an exotic wood that you want to really show off. The biggest drawback to building this many coats is the time spent waiting for each coat to dry.
Apply the next several coats as before, sanding before each coat with 320-grit paper. Wipe the surface clean, then apply the finish with a lint-free cloth.
Then, before each of the last two coats, rub the surface lightly with 0000
steel wool. Dust the surfacc with a tack cloth and apply a very thin coat of your finish with a lint-free cloth.
Rub the moistened rag in small circles, then finish up with long, straight strokes. Be sure to keep the cloth moving as you apply the finish, or you'll leave smudge marks. Lift your hand off at the end of each stroke and land it on the surfacc as you start another—just like an airplane landing and taking off. When you have a thin, even film, your gloss finish is done.
You can bring your gloss finish to a mirror shine by buffing the surface with a soft cloth and some polishing compound, available at auto supply stores.
When buffing Waterlox, it's very important to give the final coat enough time to dry. I always wait a minimum of two weeks after applying the last coat. The longer you wait, the harder the oil becomes and the better and easier your buffing will be.
I recommend that you experiment with this process on scrap before attempting it on a finished piece of furniture. Even with 10 or more coats, the film produced by my method is very thin, so it's easy to cut through the finish. You'll know you've cut through the previous coat of finish if you sec a dull spot. Don't rub any more; that will only make it worse.
The good news is that Waterlox is easy to repair: Clean the surface with mineral spirits, rub it down with steel wool, then apply another coat of oil.
Bottom to top: Two or three coats of wiping varnish produce a low-sheen "Danish" look; four to six coats create a satin look; 10 or more coats produce a gloss finish.
Remember to wait another two weeks before buffing the surface again.
Before you buff, wipe away any debris with a tack cloth. Then fold a cloth into a ball and put a little compound on it. Begin rubbing the surface using light, even pressure, moving in the direction of the grain. The idea is to gently smooth the finish without cutting through it.
After you've rubbed the entire surface to an even shine, fold the cloth over to expose a fresh, clean area, and repeat the rubbing. In a few minutes you'll bring the finish up to a higher, mirror-gloss sheen.
Waterlox and other varnishes have a relatively short shelf life once you open the can and allow air inside. Transfer the contents of partially used cans into smaller containers, or do as I do: buy the product in quart cans, and squeeze the can to remove excess air before screwing on the cap. ▲
FRANK KLAUSZ is a master cabinetmaker and a contributing editor to AW.
#Join host Michael Dresdner live on America Online, Sunday 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. eastern time, for answers to your finishing questions. Keyword "wood" takes you to American W(X>mvoRKtR Magazine Online. Hit the "Shop Talk" button to enter the chat room.
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