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post #1 of 19 Old 01-11-2017, 03:52 PM Thread Starter
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need help broadening my horizons so to speak

Lately I've been just using water soluble wood dye and then coating in an oil based polyurethane. While this has been working fine I'd like to try more things so i can become a better woodworker and because polyurethane can get pricey when I have to buy it a quart at a time.

Most everything I've made so far has been things that will receive some use and abuse so I like the protection poly gives and all my foreseeable projects will likely continue that trend. However in researching ways to finish projects I've come across 2 things in particular I'd like to try my hand with. Dewaxed shellac and a make your own mix of 1. either tung oil or boiled linseed oil, 2. Mineral spirits, and 3. Polyurethane.

I know if I use shellac I shouldn't use BLO or tung oil because they need to soak into the wood to do their job.

I do plan on continuing to use water based wood dye (transfast) because I love the stuff. I know dewaxed shellac can lock the dye in and then I can use almost any finish I want on top of the shellac. So for my projects that will get some use and abuse like tables, cabinets, and other such things should I skip the shellac and just use the make your own mix or should I use the shellac and then just use the poly? I'd like to find something I can make my own to save me money over just buying a lot of poly because especially the water based poly can get expensive, perhaps not so much the oil based stuff.

I'm really just looking to learn more ways to save money because at the end of the day that's why I make my own stuff is because in general it's cheaper to make my own rather than spend big bucks to buy something of the same durability and quality.
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post #2 of 19 Old 01-11-2017, 04:58 PM
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Dye stains tend to be not as colorfast and oil stains. If you wish the stain to endure you might consider using oil stains instead. I normally use dye stains like a toner making adjustments to the color.

Personally I don't care for waterborne finishes because they are overly thin and the water raises the grain causing a lot of additional work to get enough of an emulsion to do the job. I also don't like oil based finishes because they take too long to dry giving the finish more opportunities to pick up dust and bugs. My finish of choice for most applications is lacquer. It dries quick and works so much easier than most finishes. It's just not that water resistant so care has to be used when and where to use it. With lacquer though I believe a gallon is the smallest size available. It has a pretty descent shelf life though. Most lacquer will keep for years. Also with oil based finishes and lacquers you need to be careful not to use it on light colored woods such as a natural finish on maple or ash. Both finishes have an initial yellowing and will continue to yellow as they age.

Working with tung oil alone takes a lot of patience. It's a very slow drying finish. In cool weather it might take several days to a week for a coat to dry enough for another coat. The best way to tell if it's dry is to briskly rub the finish with a clean cloth and see if the tung oil smell rubs off onto the rag. I wouldn't mix the tung oil with other finishes. By mixing it, it would be a lesser finish than using either tung oil or polyurethane alone. Linseed oil and mineral spirits would just water it down.
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post #3 of 19 Old 01-11-2017, 05:37 PM
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What Steve said...

For me, pure Tung Oil just takes too long. It also seems that the dry time is unpredictable. By the time I get to the finishing stage of a project, I want to put the thing in service. I don't want to have to wait to see if my first coat of finish is going to be dry enough to recoat tonight when I get home from work, or if I'm going to have to wait another week. The exception to that is polymerized tung oil which seems to cure more predictably. ( http://www.sutherlandwelles.com/original.html ). It makes a nice finish, but once opened, the unused portion in the can seems to spoil quickly and it's on the pricey side. My favorite is Waterlox which is technically a varnish. My application recipe is to flood the surface and keep it wet until no more is absorbed, then wipe off the excess. Sometime, on really porous wood, I'll do that step twice. Then, I brush on thin coats until I like the gloss I see (more coats=more gloss). Some complain that Waterlox takes a long time to dry, but I haven't experienced that. It is very amber, so if you don't want your light wood to look yellow, it's not going to be a good choice. With any oil based finish, you HAVE to dispose of your rags properly because they really, really can spontaneously combust. As Steve said, lacquer is great and can produce a look that superbly accent the grain, particularly with certain dye treatments. Check this out - http://www.prsguitars.com/images/blo...ade(Final).jpg But, lacquer is highly flammable, highly toxic and must be sprayed, increasing the toxicity and flammability, so you need a proper mask and adequate ventilation. I was really hoping to find a waterborne lacquer that I could learn to love and I have an ample collection, but many of the reasons Steve cited above, I haven't found it yet.
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post #4 of 19 Old 01-11-2017, 08:46 PM
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If what you're doing now is working for you, there's no real reason to broaden your horizons, being a good woodworker isn't about knowing how to do everything; It's about doing what you do well. Learning how to use a different finish certainly isn't a bad idea, don't get me wrong, but you don't have to force yourself to with the mindset of "this will make me a better woodworker".

If your main reason for wanting to switch finishes was cost, well, you probably aren't going to get much cheaper than polyurethane. The oil based stuff is about the cheapest stuff you can get, and even the water based stuff is right in line with shellac and lacquer. The pure oil finishes like BLO or tung might be cheaper for a bottle, but you end up using so much more that the costs is a wash, particularly if you factor in time

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post #5 of 19 Old 01-11-2017, 09:44 PM Thread Starter
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Dye stains tend to be not as colorfast and oil stains. If you wish the stain to endure you might consider using oil stains instead. I normally use dye stains like a toner making adjustments to the color.
I've used both. I'm not really worried about the colorfastness since the projects I've been using the dye on lately won't really have much, if any, outside light hitting them ever. The projects I do worry about that kind of thing I have been using oil-based stain (read, minwax stain lol).

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What Steve said...

For me, pure Tung Oil just takes too long. It also seems that the dry time is unpredictable. By the time I get to the finishing stage of a project, I want to put the thing in service. I don't want to have to wait to see if my first coat of finish is going to be dry enough to recoat tonight when I get home from work, or if I'm going to have to wait another week. The exception to that is polymerized tung oil which seems to cure more predictably. ( http://www.sutherlandwelles.com/original.html ). It makes a nice finish, but once opened, the unused portion in the can seems to spoil quickly and it's on the pricey side. My favorite is Waterlox which is technically a varnish. My application recipe is to flood the surface and keep it wet until no more is absorbed, then wipe off the excess. Sometime, on really porous wood, I'll do that step twice. Then, I brush on thin coats until I like the gloss I see (more coats=more gloss). Some complain that Waterlox takes a long time to dry, but I haven't experienced that. It is very amber, so if you don't want your light wood to look yellow, it's not going to be a good choice. With any oil based finish, you HAVE to dispose of your rags properly because they really, really can spontaneously combust. As Steve said, lacquer is great and can produce a look that superbly accent the grain, particularly with certain dye treatments. Check this out - http://www.prsguitars.com/images/blo...ade(Final).jpg But, lacquer is highly flammable, highly toxic and must be sprayed, increasing the toxicity and flammability, so you need a proper mask and adequate ventilation. I was really hoping to find a waterborne lacquer that I could learn to love and I have an ample collection, but many of the reasons Steve cited above, I haven't found it yet.
I don't have access to a spray system so I'm limited to just what I can brush or wipe on. That guitar looks beautiful. I knew about the flammability about most anything oil-based and I promise I'm safe with the rags/brushes. I'm definitely interested in Waterlox, definitely on my to try list. Also the polymerized tung oil sounds interesting. How does waterlox and polymerized tung oil compare to polyurethane in terms of durability? I like that with polyurethane you just apply it and unless you scratch it you can pretty much forget about it forever.

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If what you're doing now is working for you, there's no real reason to broaden your horizons, being a good woodworker isn't about knowing how to do everything; It's about doing what you do well. Learning how to use a different finish certainly isn't a bad idea, don't get me wrong, but you don't have to force yourself to with the mindset of "this will make me a better woodworker".

If your main reason for wanting to switch finishes was cost, well, you probably aren't going to get much cheaper than polyurethane. The oil based stuff is about the cheapest stuff you can get, and even the water based stuff is right in line with shellac and lacquer. The pure oil finishes like BLO or tung might be cheaper for a bottle, but you end up using so much more that the costs is a wash, particularly if you factor in time
I know being good doesn't mean I know how to do everything, but I have so much fun doing these things I want to learn more about this stuff and seeing what I like using and what I don't. Another thing I don't much care for finishes like tung oil or BLO is you have to reapply them every so often, plus the amount of time needed to finish a project with them and everything else to do with them just seems like a p.i.t.a. Granted I don't have any experience with the pure oil finishes yet, it's just from what I've learned from reading about the various kinds of finishes their hassle to apply just doesn't seem worth it versus other methods of finishing projects.
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post #6 of 19 Old 01-11-2017, 11:23 PM
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As a matter of fact Minwax oil stains are not that colorfast either. Part of the stains color comes from dyes as well. It doesn't have to be in outdoor light, enough light comes in to bleach the stain. It's mainly an issue if you build something and a year later build something to go with it and find a color difference.
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post #7 of 19 Old 01-12-2017, 02:37 AM
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I know being good doesn't mean I know how to do everything, but I have so much fun doing these things I want to learn more about this stuff and seeing what I like using and what I don't. Another thing I don't much care for finishes like tung oil or BLO is you have to reapply them every so often, plus the amount of time needed to finish a project with them and everything else to do with them just seems like a p.i.t.a. Granted I don't have any experience with the pure oil finishes yet, it's just from what I've learned from reading about the various kinds of finishes their hassle to apply just doesn't seem worth it versus other methods of finishing projects.
Yeah, pure oil finishes are a bloody nightmare. You can get really nice looks from them, but it takes for bloody ever to apply, what with the applying then waiting a week to dry before applying another coat. The only time I use oils is on something like tool handles where I want to be able to touch up the finish every so often and don't want a film. Anything else I just don't care enough.

I forgot to add in my original post, so I ended up coming off as a killjoy, but if you want to experiment with a new finish, give shellac a try. It's not as durable as poly, but it is easy-ish to apply and looks amazing when done right. Plus, as far as finish toxicity goes it's pretty much at the bottom of the list. If you don't have spray equipment, check out the French polishing technique; it's really labor intensive but in this case the results are more than worth it.

I really hope my first post didn't come off as discouraging you from learning, that wasn't my intention. I've just seen a lot of people have the mindset of "if only I knew how to do x/ had x tool", and then get stuck in a loop of acquiring but never using. That mindset holds you back, because while you're worried about not having whatever it is you don't get anything done

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post #8 of 19 Old 01-12-2017, 08:58 AM Thread Starter
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As a matter of fact Minwax oil stains are not that colorfast either. Part of the stains color comes from dyes as well. It doesn't have to be in outdoor light, enough light comes in to bleach the stain. It's mainly an issue if you build something and a year later build something to go with it and find a color difference.
Oh really? I never knew that about the minwax stains. I kinda figured maybe a small part of the color came from dyes as well because I know that's kind of typical of stains. Correct me if I'm wrong though which I imagine I'm not entirely correct, but adding a finish like shellac or polyurethane over a dye or stain does at least slow down the bleaching process correct? Granted I'm not too worried about it at the moment because I don't have any future projects planned where two items will be built to complement each other. The only thing that comes close is I'm building a coffee table to go into my parents' living room and some night stands for their bedroom and my mother wants them both to be the color java from transfast.

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Yeah, pure oil finishes are a bloody nightmare. You can get really nice looks from them, but it takes for bloody ever to apply, what with the applying then waiting a week to dry before applying another coat. The only time I use oils is on something like tool handles where I want to be able to touch up the finish every so often and don't want a film. Anything else I just don't care enough.

Yea that seems to be the consensus I keep reading about them. I kind of want to at least try them just for the sake of saying I tried them, but I'm not thinking it will replace anything I'm already doing.

I forgot to add in my original post, so I ended up coming off as a killjoy, but if you want to experiment with a new finish, give shellac a try. It's not as durable as poly, but it is easy-ish to apply and looks amazing when done right. Plus, as far as finish toxicity goes it's pretty much at the bottom of the list. If you don't have spray equipment, check out the French polishing technique; it's really labor intensive but in this case the results are more than worth it.

Oh if you did come off as a killjoy I certainly didn't catch it. I took as just a friendly heads up or warning which is why I come here to learn. with shellac though is it a finish you'd have to reapply every few years even if the table or whatever is just sitting there? I figure if it gets scratched you'd have to fix that, but outside of that does the shellac ever really go away? This table and night stands in particular won't see much action after my parents put everything they want on top of it, especially the table which is more of a display table than a coffee table. It's replacing a table they already have that just holds up pictures and various other things that sits against the wall in their living room. So if shellac never really goes away and I can just finish it and forget it that'd be great.

I really hope my first post didn't come off as discouraging you from learning, that wasn't my intention. I've just seen a lot of people have the mindset of "if only I knew how to do x/ had x tool", and then get stuck in a loop of acquiring but never using. That mindset holds you back, because while you're worried about not having whatever it is you don't get anything done

Nope your first post wasn't discouraging at all so no worries. I just want to learn for the sake of learning because I think I'm still in the "honeymoon" phase of woodworking where everything seems interesting. I have been trying to expand my tool collection and I do think sometimes that a certain tool would make a certain job I've done easier than what I currently have, but I do the best I can with what I got and move on with life.
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post #9 of 19 Old 01-12-2017, 10:14 AM
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With most oil stains they use a binder such as linseed oil or tung oil or both and mix in a pigment such as the paint store uses in their machines to mix paint. Really an oil stain is like you took an oil based enamel and added a lot of thinner. To change a stain color you can add different pigments to the stain to make it the color you want. Then when I started using Minwax stain I quickly found out the pigment wouldn't mix with the stain, it would go straight to the bottom of the can, like mixing oil and water. I finally got frustrated enough to call Minwax and got hold of a technician which told me I could only intermix the stain with other Minwax stains or add a dye since they used dyes to make the stain.

Then years ago we had a very knowledgeable finisher here that pointed out the way Minwax stain faded and I got to looking at some older projects I had done compared to new items and I made the connection between the technician saying the stain was made with dyes which I already knew were prone to fade. I think the provincial color is the worst. Sixteen years ago I had a display of cabinets in a fleemarket and the color today is about half what a newly stain part would be. If I were to make a new door for that cabinet section, I would have to water down the stain and tinker with it to make it work. If it were a true oil stain the color difference would be insignificant. For this reason I have suspended using Minwax stain for fear a customer will want to add cabinets in the same room or break a cabinet door and need a replacement. On new construction I prefer to use pre-packaged stains so I can keep records of the colors.
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post #10 of 19 Old 01-12-2017, 04:19 PM
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Nah, shellac is a film finish, like polyurethane. The only way it goes anywhere is if you try to take it off, there's no need for re-coats either, like you'd need to do with an oil finish. I wouldn't recommend if for something like a dining table, it doesn't stand up all too well to heat and moisture, but it's excellent for something like a bedside table. It's actually what I used on a pair of nightstands I made a little over a year and a half ago, still look almost as good as the day I made them. There's a few light scratches here and there, but that's one of the best things about shellac; it's easy to touch up. Each layer actually melts into the next, so touching up a scratch is as easy as putting some fresh stuff on the scratch. Compare that to polyurethane, where you'd have to pretty much strip, sand and refinish to deal with one scratch

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post #11 of 19 Old 01-12-2017, 08:43 PM
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I used to use a mixture of 1/3 McFaden's Danish oil, 1/3 gloss oil based polyurethane and about 1/3 naphtha to make it workable of the temperature I was working in. Application process was to soak the surface and keep it wet while sanding it in with 400 grit wet or dry. Then wipe the excess. Day two repeat day one. Day 3 start using the French polishing method rubbing until the surface is nearly dry. Be careful, always exit the pad off the surface moving horizontally off an edge. Repeat day 3 several more times, the gloss level and durability will keep rising. The durability is great the look is great, the labor is even greater.
The new dye stains are quite different from the old ones. Some are metal based and very color fast. Some are really a supper finely ground pigment that rather acts like a dye. I now run a commercials shop and we mostly finish with Sherwin Wms water borne finish. You can get it as a two component, mix before using. It needs to be sprayed, best with HVLP. Nice thing is it is clear, no yellowing of the wood. But the wood will change over time no matter what you put on top of it. Some times you will see a finish says it has UV blockers. They are there to protect the finish not the wood.
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post #12 of 19 Old 01-13-2017, 10:42 AM Thread Starter
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Nah, shellac is a film finish, like polyurethane. The only way it goes anywhere is if you try to take it off, there's no need for re-coats either, like you'd need to do with an oil finish. I wouldn't recommend if for something like a dining table, it doesn't stand up all too well to heat and moisture, but it's excellent for something like a bedside table. It's actually what I used on a pair of nightstands I made a little over a year and a half ago, still look almost as good as the day I made them. There's a few light scratches here and there, but that's one of the best things about shellac; it's easy to touch up. Each layer actually melts into the next, so touching up a scratch is as easy as putting some fresh stuff on the scratch. Compare that to polyurethane, where you'd have to pretty much strip, sand and refinish to deal with one scratch
Yea I think i'm definitely going to get me some. Probably get some in flake form so I don't have to worry so much about shelf life.

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I used to use a mixture of 1/3 McFaden's Danish oil, 1/3 gloss oil based polyurethane and about 1/3 naphtha to make it workable of the temperature I was working in. Application process was to soak the surface and keep it wet while sanding it in with 400 grit wet or dry. Then wipe the excess. Day two repeat day one. Day 3 start using the French polishing method rubbing until the surface is nearly dry. Be careful, always exit the pad off the surface moving horizontally off an edge. Repeat day 3 several more times, the gloss level and durability will keep rising. The durability is great the look is great, the labor is even greater.
The new dye stains are quite different from the old ones. Some are metal based and very color fast. Some are really a supper finely ground pigment that rather acts like a dye. I now run a commercials shop and we mostly finish with Sherwin Wms water borne finish. You can get it as a two component, mix before using. It needs to be sprayed, best with HVLP. Nice thing is it is clear, no yellowing of the wood. But the wood will change over time no matter what you put on top of it. Some times you will see a finish says it has UV blockers. They are there to protect the finish not the wood.
That's very similar to the mixture I mentioned at the beginning of this topic. 1 part oil 1 part poly and 1 part thinner. Seems like another alternative to pure polyurethane. How well would a mixture like that work over a water based wood dye?
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post #13 of 19 Old 01-13-2017, 12:18 PM
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Over the WB dye it would probably work just fine as long as the dye was fully dry. You probably would need to forgo the 400 grit sand-in operation for fear of sanding too deep into the dye. Not a big deal as the purpose of the sanding passes is to fill the pours to give a glass like surface on relatively tight grained woods. You do need to not wait more than about a day between applications as the surface may become too "cured" to bond well. Future coats can be added by using a good cleaning and very fine sanding.
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Over the WB dye it would probably work just fine as long as the dye was fully dry. You probably would need to forgo the 400 grit sand-in operation for fear of sanding too deep into the dye. Not a big deal as the purpose of the sanding passes is to fill the pours to give a glass like surface on relatively tight grained woods. You do need to not wait more than about a day between applications as the surface may become too "cured" to bond well. Future coats can be added by using a good cleaning and very fine sanding.
Honestly as deep as the wood dye penetrates the wood I've been using, the stuff labeled whitewood or common board and "select pine" at home depot and lowes, the one time I did have to sand to get rid of it all on a past project I had to sand the **** out of it to make it all go away so 400 grit shouldn't prove to be too much, but I see where you're coming from. A mixture like this I'll have to try one day cause it sounds like it could save me some money over straight polyurethane or shellac.
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post #15 of 19 Old 01-13-2017, 05:32 PM Thread Starter
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Which shade or color of shellac should I get to kind of mimic the darkening and shining characteristics that I'm used to with either a satin oil based polyurethane or gloss poly? I know with polyurethane over wood dye it makes the wood dye look like it does when you first applied it, just shinier basically.
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post #16 of 19 Old 01-13-2017, 07:49 PM
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Which shade or color of shellac should I get to kind of mimic the darkening and shining characteristics that I'm used to with either a satin oil based polyurethane or gloss poly? I know with polyurethane over wood dye it makes the wood dye look like it does when you first applied it, just shinier basically.
Depends on the shellac you get. I just use the regular bullseye stuff you can buy at home depot, it does have a bit of an Amber tint to it. Not quite as dark as an oil based polyurethane, but still a little darker. Unless you were applying it over a really, really light color I doubt the change would be that noticable.

It's also pretty easy for find what's called "super blonde" shellac, color-wise it's the lightest you'll find and is pretty much clear. There's a slight tint to it, but unless it was on a perfect white background, probably not noticable

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post #17 of 19 Old 01-14-2017, 04:08 PM Thread Starter
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Depends on the shellac you get. I just use the regular bullseye stuff you can buy at home depot, it does have a bit of an Amber tint to it. Not quite as dark as an oil based polyurethane, but still a little darker. Unless you were applying it over a really, really light color I doubt the change would be that noticable.

It's also pretty easy for find what's called "super blonde" shellac, color-wise it's the lightest you'll find and is pretty much clear. There's a slight tint to it, but unless it was on a perfect white background, probably not noticable
I was going to get some shellac in flake form that way I don't have to worry so much about its shelf life and I can make it as I need it. I'm kind of confused on which color to get. I don't think I want the super blonde or platina stuff because I don't think it will add the warmth I get from putting polyurethane over the wood dye. When you put polyurethane over wood dye it almost makes the dye look like it does when you first apply, it looks like it's wet again and darker than it is after it dries, I don't think a super blonde or platina will do that and instead make the dye look kind of bland like it does after it dries.... Having a hard time explaining what I'm trying to describe, but hopefully I made sense.
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post #18 of 19 Old 01-14-2017, 04:28 PM
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I was going to get some shellac in flake form that way I don't have to worry so much about its shelf life and I can make it as I need it. I'm kind of confused on which color to get. I don't think I want the super blonde or platina stuff because I don't think it will add the warmth I get from putting polyurethane over the wood dye. When you put polyurethane over wood dye it almost makes the dye look like it does when you first apply, it looks like it's wet again and darker than it is after it dries, I don't think a super blonde or platina will do that and instead make the dye look kind of bland like it does after it dries.... Having a hard time explaining what I'm trying to describe, but hopefully I made sense.
Plenty of sense really. Blonde flakes should get you the color you want, if you're comparing to polyurethane. I'd recommend picking up a can of the zinser stuff at home depot before you start playing around with the flakes, less of a learning curve that way since you aren't worrying about messing about with the ratios and you can focus on the application. The shelf life issue is kindve overblown, even the premixed stuff lasts a year or more.

If you do get the zinser stuff, be sure to grab the blonde, not the amber, with the zinser brand you want the yellow can. The amber stuff is way to dark, and applying by hand is a nightmare trying to keep the color consistent

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post #19 of 19 Old 01-15-2017, 09:59 AM Thread Starter
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Plenty of sense really. Blonde flakes should get you the color you want, if you're comparing to polyurethane. I'd recommend picking up a can of the zinser stuff at home depot before you start playing around with the flakes, less of a learning curve that way since you aren't worrying about messing about with the ratios and you can focus on the application. The shelf life issue is kindve overblown, even the premixed stuff lasts a year or more.

If you do get the zinser stuff, be sure to grab the blonde, not the amber, with the zinser brand you want the yellow can. The amber stuff is way to dark, and applying by hand is a nightmare trying to keep the color consistent
haha I'll keep that in mind about the amber stuff. Thanks for the help. I like experimenting so I'll have to try the can stuff and work up to the various shades of flakes.
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