I don’t follow any of the rules of putting a finish on wood but it all seems to work out OK.  Which goes to show you how important it is to do it by the book.

 And I bought the book too:  Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexner.  It’s a good book but I still break the rules because I’m lazy.  I don’t like to clean up and so I find ways to cut corners.  Like saving my old socks.

Let me back up. 

Generally speaking I like to “seal” the wood first to keep it from absorbing any stain unevenly which makes it look like crap.  I use shellac for that since it dries almost instantaneously.  That supports my impatience habit.

Then I usually have to stain it to match whatever else is nearby.  I use whatever I can find that matches the color – usually something that says “MinWax” on it.  It’s all about the same. 

Then I put something shiny on top of that so that it will look shiny.  I like shiny.  For that I use MinWax Wipe-On Poly.  I like the wipe-on aspect of it because it doesn’t take a brush.  That way I don’t have to clean a brush.  Again…lazy.

Let me make a quick aside on the subject of shellac.  The stuff in stores is reputed to be not so good since at any given point, it may be near the end of its shelf life.  Shellac that is old will never actually dry; it will remain sticky until the end of time.  So I mix my own.  The book says it will take about a month.  Well I say BS to that.  I put the flakes into the food processor and grind them to dust.  I add the alcohol and then put that (with the lid on) in a pot of warm water until the alcohol is near its boiling point.  I then let that stew for awhile, shaking the jar frequently.  After half an hour of that, it will usually dissolve by the end of the second day.  The book says you should strain it after that.  I don’t but I agree that I should.  Anyway…

The book says you have to use the finest brush money can buy when doing all this.  That’s fine but since it’s expensive, you have to clean it and that takes forever.  Plus, the last time I used a brush with polyurethane it produced a bunch of confounded bubbles on the wood that had to be sanded out.  Grrr. So I don’t even use a brush.  I use an old sock to wipe everything on.

The book makes reference to using a wipe-on technique in certain cases but it says to only use a clean, new, lint-free cloth.  They sell those at the home center too and they’re not cheap.  But my old socks, after going through the wash hundreds of times have got no lint left – they work fine.  It doesn’t seem to matter a great deal whether they’re clean or not either.  I keep them in an old trash can that is uncovered and it gets lots of sawdust in it.  I shake the sock off and use it.  I’m not sure what harm wood chips would do anyway unless you’re working on your final coat. 

So I do this:  put on a rubber glove, pull the sock over my hand, pour the finish (shellac, stain, or poly) into my hand and wipe on.  When done, I shuck the glove like a surgeon and pitch it.  Quick work, no brush marks, no cleanup.

I will admit that using something that wipes on, which is typically pretty thin, takes more coats but each coat is so fast that it seems worth it to me.  Especially since I never clean anything – I just throw it away.  The only problem is when I run out of old socks.  But I can always go buy new ones and retire the current crop.  Sometimes I’ll use an old washcloth or dishcloth.  No color has ever bled out of the cloth and onto my projects. 

So there you are.  Wood finishing heresy!

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