Academy Notes and Tips

Hands On

MAR/APR 2002
Volume 45/Issue 2

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The Garden Bench
Wren and Blue Jay Bird Houses
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Owner’s Gallery
Letters from Owners
Academy Notes
Finishing Touches - Pt.4 Applying a Synthetic Finish
Service Pointers
Disc Sander
Safety Tips
Ladder Safety

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Copyright 2002.
Shopsmith, Inc.
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From the Shopsmith Woodworking Academy
Finishing Touches --
PART FOUR -- Applying a Synthetic Finish

Rubbing is the least common method of applying a synthetic finish because it's so messy...but when it's properly done, it will create the appearance of a hand-rubbed oil finish with half the work and twice the durability. It's especially useful in finishing small, hard-to-sand projects where you may not be able to smooth all the surfaces.

Begin by thoroughly coating the project with satin-finish synthetic and allow it to dry for at least a day. Then, coat it a second time and let it sit for 15-30 minutes...until the finish is tacky to the touch.

Saturate a lint-free cloth with the synthetic and begin to rub the project surface. When the rag itself gets tacky, sprinkle on more finish. Continue until the surface of the project takes on a warm glow and a smooth appearance. Let it dry for a day, then polish with a good wax.

A few synthetic finishes -- called catalytic finishes -- are meant to be poured over a project, rather than brushed or rubbed on. These finishes come in two parts -- a resin and a catalyst (or “hardener”) and must be mixed together in order for the finish to harden.

The advantage of these finishes is that they can be applied to any surface, no matter how rough, as long as that surface is dry and free of all grease or oil. You can even imbed objects in these finishes -- coins -- cards -- documents -- mementos -- but once again, these objects must be dry and clean. As the catalytic finish is poured on, it will flow into all cracks and surface imperfections, surround and cover objects to be imbedded, then level itself out and dry to a crystal-clear, high-gloss, glass-like smoothness.

Use these catalytic finishes in a well ventilated room. Often, the fumes given off as they dry are highly toxic. Mix only as much as you need precisely according to the directions on he container and pour it over the project immediately. The surface to be covered should be level and facing up. If there are several surfaces to be covered, do just one at a time. Often, a project may have to be tilted this way and that to get the finish to spread out, but it should always be returned to level to allow it to dry.

From time-to-time, bubbles will appear in the finish as you pour. Before the finish hardens, lightly blow across the surface.This will cause the bubbles to rise to the surface.

Remember that catalytic finishes harden quickly and need no second coats or exhaustive rubbing after they set up. Rubbing or sanding will, in fact, cloud them. Wax may slightly improve their appearance, but this is seldom necessary.

Caring for a Synthetic Finish
Like natural finishes, most synthetics need a good coat of wax now and then to fill tiny scratches and preserve the lustre. Stains can be removed by rubbing with pumice stone and oil.

A badly scratched or damaged finish can be repaired by simply sanding down the scratch or blemish with 5/0 garnet sandpaper and applying a new coat on top of the old. Be careful to use the same type of finish you originally applied. If you want to switch finishes, it's advisable to take the project down to the raw wood and start over.

Coming up in the May/June issue -- PART FIVE -- Refinishing