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The Refinishing Commandments

8/1/2014 4:00:00 PM
Article by Mac Simmons

I. Thou shall protect yourself at all times.
"Safety First" should be a motto for every finisher, refinisher and restorer. NO exceptions! Always wear protective clothing when stripping, sanding, or spraying, and religiously wear goggles, gloves and respirators. It is far better to feel uncomfortable in the shop because of this gear than it is to incur a severe health problem down the line.

II. Thou shall always read and carefully follow all directions.
The information on product labels is there for a reason: The recommendations have been tested and are known to work. In addition, if you follow directions and still have problems, you will be better prepared to discuss a product's performance with your supplier. Information is power: Use it!

III. Thou shall always scrub stripped furniture with a "wash solvent" to remove any remaining residue of the old finish.
Any residue of stripper or the old finish remaining on the surface will reveal itself in the final finish as random glossy areas — and this residue usually doesn't show up until the coatings are applied!

IV. Thou shall always allow wood to dry completely after stripping before thou maketh any repairs or apply new finishing materials.
Wood that has been stripped must be allowed to stabilize with respect to relative humidity and the ambient temperature of your shop. Otherwise, changes in moisture content occurring after a repair has been completed, a stain has been added or a new finish has been applied may result in failures or unsatisfactory results.

V. Thou shall always complete all repairs before refinishing.
Finishing means just that. It makes little sense to apply colors, sealers, and topcoats to pieces that have not been structurally repaired or that have surfaces that have not been properly prepared. Fix nicks and scratches, replace veneer, fabricate and install missing parts — and do it all before you start working on color or building the finish!

VI. Thou shall always select sandpaper of the proper grit for use before staining or coating wood.
Abrasives with low grit designations can leave unwanted marks on wood and should be avoided. Also, be sure to progress through grit sizes from low (never lower than 100!) to high (fine grit) as you prepare the wood surface for a new finish.

VII. Thou shall always write dates of receipt on all containers of finishing products.
Bad material won't work, so don't use it! Rotate your inventory and use the older containers first — and be sure not to use outdated material. Also, store your chemicals in clean, vented metal cabinets!

VIII. Thou shall always thoroughly mix and strain liquids, including all solvents and coatings.
Solidified particles of resin and pigments, for example, can cause severe problems in applying colors and topcoats. Mixing and straining will end up saving you time, materials and frustration.

IX. Thou shall always allow stains and colorants to dry completely before applying a sealer or topcoat.
Stains and other colorants that are not allowed to dry completely will behave the same as wet wood and can cause a variety of defects in the finish, including blushing, pinholes or softness.

X. Thou shall sand every coat of sealer and topcoat with 220-grit sandpaper — or higher.
If you're applying a glossy finish, you may want to go higher in grit rating: The finer the grit, the less the grit-abrasion patterns and the smoother the surface. Do it right, and light will reflect more brilliantly from what will be a glossier surface.

XI. Thou shall be sure to use compatible materials.
Many problems are caused when the products you use are not from each coating before applying the next coat compatible with each other. Never assume that any two given products are compatible: Check them out and be sure if you want to avoid costly mismatches.

XII. Thou shall always spray from the bottom of a piece up, and from the front to the rear.
This helps to keep overspray from settling onto the work, thus saving you time, money and the need for recoating.

XIII. Thou shall always give slower-drying solvents time to evaporate from each coating before applying the next coat.
All reducers contain solvents that evaporate at different rates. These solvents can cause problems if they are trapped a coating. By allowing the slower-drying solvents time to fully evaporate, you can avoid unsightly bubbles or pinholes that may form.

XIV. Thou shall always build a finish with gloss coatings, and then top it off with a material of lower sheen - satin, flat or dead flat.
If there's too much flattening agent in the sub-coats of the finish, it can cause problems. So if you apply satin or flat materials as sub-coats, you must allow them to dry out completely so you can see their true sheen, as they will become duller as they dry out. Using gloss materials as sub-coats and then flattening the finish with the topcoat is simpler, presents fewer problems and offers you more control over the final appearance.

XV. Thou shall always allow enough drying time before sanding between coats.
The longer you let the coating dry before hitting it with an abrasive, the less trouble you'll have. As coatings harden, they become easier to sand, rub out or compound.

XVI. Thou shall always remember that two thin coats are better than one thick coat.
Thin coats dry much faster than do heavy ones, so you'll experience far less trouble with runs, sagging and bridging if you work with multiple thin coats and allow each coat to dry before applying a new one.

XVII. Thou shall always keep containers of finishing material closed and sealed when they are not in use.
Evaporation and oxidation will steal your chemicals if the cans are left open. Also, humidity or moisture can contaminate these materials if they are exposed to ambient air for extended periods.

XVIII. Thou shall always keep thy shop and equipment clean.
It's hard to make a clean finish in a dirty shop: Dust and other airborne contaminates will ruin the best work by the best refinisher. As a result, you should routinely clean your spray guns, pots and spray booth, not to mention your brushes, saws, tools, benches, floors and stripping area. Time invested today in cleanliness will pay great dividends in everyday productivity - and in your health and your shop's image.

XIX. Thou shall always bleed and drain your air compressor and airlines as part of routine preventive maintenance.
Doing so will prevent many finishing problems — mainly moisture Contamination of your coatings that can result from the formation of condensation in the airlines.

XX. Thou shall always deliver refinished or restored pieces to the customer only after the finish is completely dry.
It's only common sense: Don't move a piece with a finish that is not yet dry! Also, be sure to let the customer know when it'll be safe to place Objects on top of their furniture and advise them on basic maintenance.


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