Refinishing Commandments
by Mac Simmons

I. Thou shalt protect yourself at all times.

"Safety First" should be a motto for every 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 shalt 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 shalt 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 shalt 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 humidy and the ambient temperature of your shop. Otherwise, changes in moisture content occuring 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 shalt 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 shalt 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 shalt always write dates of reciept
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 shalt 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 shalt 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 shalt 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 more glossy surface.

XI. Thou shalt be sure to use compatible materials.

Many problems are caused when the products you use are not 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 shalt 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 shalt 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 shalt always build a finish with gloss coatings, 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 subcoats, 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 shalt 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 shalt 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 shalt 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 shalt 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 dividents in everyday productivity - and in your health and your shop's image.

XIX. Thou shalt 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 air lines.

XX. Thou shalt 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.

Thanks, Mac Simmons
Home Page: Wood Finish Supply