Arm-R-Seal Advice Wanted - Review My Plans, Please! - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 09-21-2020, 11:51 AM Thread Starter
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Arm-R-Seal Advice Wanted - Review My Plans, Please!

I am building a shelf set from maple, with a baltic birch back panel. It was designed and built like a small bookshelf with a back panel. It will hang on the wall. I have a can of Arm-R-Seal satin finish, which I plan to use for the finish.

The shelf set has multiple horizontal shelves glued into dados on each side board. The side boards have 1/4 inch rabbets in the back, to fit the baltic birch back panel. The backs of the shelves are 1/4 inch short to accommodate the back panel. I plan to glue the back panel to the rear edges of the shelves and the rabbets on the sides. Right now, the shelves are glued up, but the back panel is still separate, to make finishing easier.

PLANS - PLEASE REVIEW AND COMMENT - I WOULD APPRECIATE YOUR EXPERIENCE AND ADVICE! Thanks!

Done:
* The maple shelves and sides were sanded through the grits to 150 grit before glue-up. They feel very smooth. The glue-up is done, and the squeeze-out has been cleaned up.

To Be Done:
* Sand the baltic birch back panel through the grits to 150 grit.
* Mark the areas of the back panel where the shelves and rabbets will be glued to it.
* Use blue tape to cover the marked areas, to prevent the finish from touching the wood where the glue will go.
* Use blue tape to cover the rabbets and shelf backs where the glue will go.
* Apply Arm-R-Seal finish to the shelf set and both sides of the separate back panel.
* Wipe on the Arm-R-Seal finish to the sanded wood and baltic birch with clean T-shirt rags, then wipe off, then allow it to dry for 48 hours.
* After the first and second coats, sand lightly with gray 3m abrasive pads (like 0000 steel wool).
* Wipe on the third coat of Arm-R-Seal and wipe it off. Allow it to dry for 72 hours.
* Remove the blue tape.
* Glue and clamp the back panel to the shelf set. Allow the glue to cure.
* Wait 14 days for the Arm-R-Seal to cure. They say "7-10 days for light use, 30 days for full cure."
* Hang it on the wall.

This is the first time I have tried Arm-R-Seal, and don't want to mess up all the hard work that went into building the shelves.
-> Will the blue tape work?
-> Am I doing it "right"?
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post #2 of 9 Old 09-21-2020, 02:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tool Agnostic View Post
I am building a shelf set from maple, with a baltic birch back panel. It was designed and built like a small bookshelf with a back panel. It will hang on the wall. I have a can of Arm-R-Seal satin finish, which I plan to use for the finish.

The shelf set has multiple horizontal shelves glued into dados on each side board. The side boards have 1/4 inch rabbets in the back, to fit the baltic birch back panel. The backs of the shelves are 1/4 inch short to accommodate the back panel. I plan to glue the back panel to the rear edges of the shelves and the rabbets on the sides. Right now, the shelves are glued up, but the back panel is still separate, to make finishing easier.

PLANS - PLEASE REVIEW AND COMMENT - I WOULD APPRECIATE YOUR EXPERIENCE AND ADVICE! Thanks!

Done:
* The maple shelves and sides were sanded through the grits to 150 grit before glue-up. They feel very smooth. The glue-up is done, and the squeeze-out has been cleaned up.

To Be Done:
* Sand the baltic birch back panel through the grits to 150 grit.
* Mark the areas of the back panel where the shelves and rabbets will be glued to it.
* Use blue tape to cover the marked areas, to prevent the finish from touching the wood where the glue will go.
* Use blue tape to cover the rabbets and shelf backs where the glue will go.
* Apply Arm-R-Seal finish to the shelf set and both sides of the separate back panel.
* Wipe on the Arm-R-Seal finish to the sanded wood and baltic birch with clean T-shirt rags, then wipe off, then allow it to dry for 48 hours.
* After the first and second coats, sand lightly with gray 3m abrasive pads (like 0000 steel wool).
* Wipe on the third coat of Arm-R-Seal and wipe it off. Allow it to dry for 72 hours.
* Remove the blue tape.
* Glue and clamp the back panel to the shelf set. Allow the glue to cure.
* Wait 14 days for the Arm-R-Seal to cure. They say "7-10 days for light use, 30 days for full cure."
* Hang it on the wall.

This is the first time I have tried Arm-R-Seal, and don't want to mess up all the hard work that went into building the shelves.
-> Will the blue tape work?
-> Am I doing it "right"?
I think your plan is solid. I use Arm-R-Seal for most of my finishing and I follow similar steps. The only real differences are how I sand between coats. I typically sand the first coat with 400 grit which I think will be similar to your 3m abrasive pad. After the first coat I typically move up the grit to 500 for the 2nd coat, 800 for the 3rd coat and 1000 or 1200 for the 4th coat. I don't wipe off the final coat but I apply it differently. All the coats but the final coat I apply with a terry cloth staining pad. The final coat (or two) I apply by adding Arm-R-Seal and some mineral spirits to a cotton cloth that I ball up and then wrap in some linen, squeezing out Arm-R-Seal as needed. If I'm trying to get a glass-like finish I'll do a final coat after sanding at 1200 using the cotton cloth wrapped in linen. That coat is extremely thin. if I have trouble applying it I'll use a little olive oil to keep the linen/cotton bundle moving smoothly. After that final coat I'll let it dry overnight and then clean it up with some mineral spirits which will remove any left over olive oil and then I do a final sanding using 2000 grit mesh sand paper on a foam buffing pad. I'll clean-up any sanding residue with a final wiping with a soft cotton cloth and mineral spirits.

I generally am shooting for a glossy finish so I don't think you'd need to take as many sanding steps as I do if you're going for more of a satin finish.

If you're using anything but the gloss version of Arm-R-Seal make sure to mix it well before applying and I would make sure to shake it up a bit before re-wetting whatever cloth you're using to apply the product.

Good quality blue painters tape should work fine to protect the areas you plan on gluing.

Good luck!
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post #3 of 9 Old 09-21-2020, 03:46 PM
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I've never been fond of finishing parts and then assembling them. You always get the finish in places where glue needs to work and the finish seals the wood. It tends to run under masking tape so that wouldn't save you. I also don't like using abrasive pads for between the coats sanding. If there is any dirt of anything suspended in the finish the pad will just rub over it instead of removing it like sandpaper would. I also don't like using an oil based finish on light colored wood. It has an initial yellowing to it that deepens over time. As bad as I hate the stuff I would recommend using a water based polyurethane. Takes a lot of elbow grease but will remain clear. You could use a natural stain or linseed oil to make the grain pop but allow that to dry for a week before using a waterborne finish. They are incompatible with the linseed oil contained in stains.

As far as the drying time what is recommended by the finish manufacturer is a pretty good start. It's written though for good weather conditions. If it's cool and or damp where you are let it dry longer than the directions say.
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post #4 of 9 Old 09-29-2020, 01:09 PM Thread Starter
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I am testing the Arm-R-Seal Satin on a scrap piece of maple. The maple is the same wood as the project.

-> I can't even tell if the finish is there. Is that normal?

Here is what I have done so far:

* I am testing on a flat maple stick. It is about 3/4 wide x 1/4 thick. The sides are rounded off.
* I sanded the wood with 150 grit sandpaper.
* I dipped a T-shirt rag into the finish and wiped it on ~3 inches of one end of the maple stick. I applied it to all sides and the end grain.
* After a few seconds, I wiped it off with a clean rag.
* It was dry by afternoon, on a warm So Cal day.
* I left it overnight to harden, then reapplied a second coat this morning using the same method.

-> The finish is nearly invisible. Just looking, you wouldn't notice where the raw wood ends and the finish starts on the stick. The maple shows little to no sign of ambering at all. The grain isn't "popping." This is plain maple, so I didn't expect much grain enhancement, but there seems to be none at all.

Additional information:
* Until yesterday, the can was unopened for approximately 12 months. It sat on a shelf in the garage through moderate to hot climates.
* When I opened the can, it was very clear on top, with flakes of flattening agent on the bottom.
* I used a wood stick to stir it slowly and thoroughly. The flakes broke up and dissolved into the finish. I kept stirring until I was confident that the flattening agent was evenly distributed throughout. (It needed a little stirring again this morning, but not nearly as much.)

Here are my questions:
-> Am I applying too little, or wiping too soon, or doing something else wrong?
-> Why is it nearly invisible on my samples? Is that expected?
-> Should I expect more ambering on the maple? (It is way less than the ambering I see from boiled linseed oil or Tried and True finishes.)

-> ... or is this normal, and I need to reset my expectations?
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post #5 of 9 Old 09-29-2020, 04:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tool Agnostic View Post
I am testing the Arm-R-Seal Satin on a scrap piece of maple. The maple is the same wood as the project.

-> I can't even tell if the finish is there. Is that normal?

Here is what I have done so far:

* I am testing on a flat maple stick. It is about 3/4 wide x 1/4 thick. The sides are rounded off.
* I sanded the wood with 150 grit sandpaper.
* I dipped a T-shirt rag into the finish and wiped it on ~3 inches of one end of the maple stick. I applied it to all sides and the end grain.
* After a few seconds, I wiped it off with a clean rag.
* It was dry by afternoon, on a warm So Cal day.
* I left it overnight to harden, then reapplied a second coat this morning using the same method.
...
I don't think Arm-R-Seal is meant to be wiped off like an oil/varnish mix. It's a wiping varnish, and is meant to be applied and left on the surface. I apply with either a soft cloth for small jobs or a terry cloth pad for larger jobs. After applying Arm-R-Seal I do a final wipe with the grain using my wet cloth or pad. Arm-R-Seal will eventually level itself off as it dries. If you are applying it with a t-shirt rag and then wiping it off with a clean/dry rag I think you are removing too much.

It may sound like I'm leaving too much Arm-R-Seal on the surface using this method but I typically see the wood take 3 to 4 coats before it stops soaking up the oil in all areas.

That being said even if you follow my method Arm-R-Seal will only produce a slight amber to the wood (at least the gloss version that I use). I did some samples using a single coat of tung oil, clear danish oil, shellac and Arm-R-Seal on different pieces of baltic birch and oak and I couldn't see much difference in the color between the samples. After adding a few more coats to each of those samples the tung oil, danish oil and shellac seemed to produce a darker amber than Arm-R-Seal that stayed pretty light even after multiple coats.

Last edited by Bernie_72; 09-29-2020 at 04:35 PM. Reason: spelling
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post #6 of 9 Old 09-29-2020, 06:26 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bernie_72 View Post
I don't think Arm-R-Seal is meant to be wiped off like an oil/varnish mix. It's a wiping varnish, and is meant to be applied and left on the surface. I apply with either a soft cloth for small jobs or a terry cloth pad for larger jobs. After applying Arm-R-Seal I do a final wipe with the grain using my wet cloth or pad. Arm-R-Seal will eventually level itself off as it dries. If you are applying it with a t-shirt rag and then wiping it off with a clean/dry rag I think you are removing too much.

It may sound like I'm leaving too much Arm-R-Seal on the surface using this method but I typically see the wood take 3 to 4 coats before it stops soaking up the oil in all areas.

That being said even if you follow my method Arm-R-Seal will only produce a slight amber to the wood (at least the gloss version that I use). I did some samples using a single coat of tung oil, clear danish oil, shellac and Arm-R-Seal on different pieces of baltic birch and oak and I couldn't see much difference in the color between the samples. After adding a few more coats to each of those samples the tung oil, danish oil and shellac seemed to produce a darker amber than Arm-R-Seal that stayed pretty light even after multiple coats.
That's a big help. Thanks! You're right - I am wiping off too much finish with the dry rag. Tomorrow I will try again with your suggestions.
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post #7 of 9 Old 09-30-2020, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by tool agnostic View Post
...the grain isn't "popping." this is plain maple, so i didn't expect much grain enhancement, but there seems to be none at all...
If the grain doesn't "pop" when you finish your next sample piece you can always consider putting down another product first and just use Arm-R-Seal for the final protection coats.

In the table below I wanted to darken the wood a bit so I used 2 or 3 coats of dark tung oil first before applying Arm-R-Seal. This made the finishing a very long process as it took the tung oil almost 2 weeks to fully dry on this old barn wood before I could start putting down Arm-R-Seal.

I like the finished look of this process, especially how the tung oil darkened the wood slightly and really enhanced/darkened the grain. The only thing I don't like is how long it takes.

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Last edited by Bernie_72; 09-30-2020 at 09:40 AM.
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post #8 of 9 Old 10-10-2020, 11:07 AM Thread Starter
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I am asking for advice again. As you read above, I was planning to tape, then finish, then final glue. Now I am re-thinking it. I posted an early preview photo of my project anyway, so I want to ask again.

I am making shelves. A plywood back will fit into the rabbets that were cut in the sides. The shelves are now glued, but the back is still separate. Would you:

* Glue the plywood in the rabbets and the backs of the shelves first, then finish with Arm-R-Seal?

... or ...

* Tape the rabbets and backs of the shelves, along with taping the edges of the plywood and strips across the plywood that match the shelves, then finish the separate taped pieces with Arm-R-Seal? After the finish cures, remove the tape and do the glue-up? (My original plan.)

Here is a photo of the shelves. The photo shows a dry fit, but the shelves are now glued and ready for the back.
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post #9 of 9 Old 10-11-2020, 01:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tool Agnostic View Post
I am asking for advice again. As you read above, I was planning to tape, then finish, then final glue. Now I am re-thinking it. I posted an early preview photo of my project anyway, so I want to ask again.

I am making shelves. A plywood back will fit into the rabbets that were cut in the sides. The shelves are now glued, but the back is still separate. Would you:

* Glue the plywood in the rabbets and the backs of the shelves first, then finish with Arm-R-Seal?

... or ...

* Tape the rabbets and backs of the shelves, along with taping the edges of the plywood and strips across the plywood that match the shelves, then finish the separate taped pieces with Arm-R-Seal? After the finish cures, remove the tape and do the glue-up? (My original plan.)

Here is a photo of the shelves. The photo shows a dry fit, but the shelves are now glued and ready for the back.
This is a tough question to answer. I think the decision is 50/50 as it will be a lot of work either way. If you glue the back on first you will have lots of corners/crevices to deal with while finishing. If you decide to finish first and glue the back on afterwards you will have a much easier time applying the finish but you will have a lot of work in taping and making sure you don't have any glue squeeze out affect the finish when you finally secure the back.

I can give you a couple pieces of advice that may help with your decision.

  • I think you will find that Arm-R-Seal will have very minimal bleed through using good painters tape.
  • If you're going for a satin finish you'll probably only need 3 coats with very light sanding after the 1st & 2nd coats so your sanding effort should be minimal
  • Arm-R-Seal does sort of self level after your final wiping of each coat (with a wet cloth) so you'll have to watch for small runs/build-up if you're finishing both horizontal and vertical surfaces at the same time
If you're still going for that satin finish I might lean towards attaching the back first and finishing it in one piece. If you're only dealing with 3 coats and light sanding after the 1st & 2nd coats it might be less work to assemble first and finish it all at once.

If I were shooting for a high gloss finish and needed 6 or more coats to get it perfect, with very precise sanding between each coat, I'd probably lean towards finishing them while they were apart. If I went that route I'd probably let the piece fully cure (about a month) before finally attaching the back. If the finish is cured it would give a much better chance of successfully cleaning up any glue squeeze out and it would allow you to tape off any finished areas that you are worried about.

There are positives and negatives for each method. I don't think you can go wrong either way.
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