The mere thought of “staining” strikes fear in most woodworkers’ hearts, and for good reason. At one time (perhaps more than once) we’ve all watched a project suffer the blotching, streaking, or muddiness that comes from a can. After a few disasters, many decide to stick with clear finishes. “Going natural” might eliminate the risk of ruin, but it also means giving up the color control or unique look you were originally after.
Success with Shellac
Shellac’s many attributes have kept it near the top of the finishing charts for centuries, but the only way to understand why is to mix up a batch of flakes or crack open a can. In less time than it takes to read this story, you’ll see how this bug-borne resin adds color and highlights grain quite unlike its modern competition. With just a little practice, you will also discover how you can use this fast-drying film to produce a flawless finish in any workshop situation.
Thanks to writers and editors (like me), woodworkers worry about “food-safe” finishes more than poolside moms fret about kids snarfing down chicken salad sandwiches then diving into the deep end. To address this matter, let me start off by making one point loud and clear:
All drying oils and varnishes sold for finishing wood are non-toxic and food safe when fully cured.
Go Antiquing with Milk Paint and Shellac
Traditionally, painted finishes were used for softwoods and plainer hardwoods, but as you can see there’s nothing plain about it. As demonstrated in the “Step-back Cupboard” on page 22, a painted finish can be as important to the success of your project as your choice of wood or hardware. Adding color also gives extra freedom and flexibility to create a piece that can complement any room in your home.
Two-Step Mission Finish
Make the most of gorgeous grain without the fumes or fuss
Working with Waterbornes
Waterborne or “water-based” finishes have been around for almost 20 years, but many woodworkers have not yet cracked open a can. Part of the problem was the bad rap earned by a few first-generation formulas. These finishes were difficult to apply, offered little protection, and had a color quality that sucked the life out of even the best-looking boards. Lucky for us, times have changed. Thanks to major formula improvements, more woodworkers are beginning to appreciate why these cans were put on the shelves in the first place.
Armed with the information in this article, you can build a perfect finish in a weekend. To test your newfound finishing skills, make a Shaker serving tray.