Informational Series: Customizing a Finish Part 2
Applying Lacquers and Stains
In the previous newsletter we described a method which (with a little practice) can produce impressive custom finishes. Once you’ve reached your desired tone and prepped the surface area of the wood as we mentioned in part one of this series, it’s time to apply the finish. There are many different ways to apply lacquers and stains, but each requires a slightly different process and attention to detail. Today we’re going to explore the application of dye stains, wiping stains, and lacquers individually and together. Remember, when considering which finish is appropriate that a stain seeps into the wood as opposed to a lacquer that builds up on top of it. This difference is the most visually obvious characteristic, but it isn’t necessarily the only way to achieve a custom finish.
Wiping Wood Stains
Wiping stains are semi-transparent wood stains that can be either wiped on or sprayed. They dry relatively quickly (Mohawk’s advertises that it dries in 30 minutes) and are the most forgiving of commercial grade stains. They can be used as the only source of color and then sealed, applied after dye stains to enhance uniformity and then sealed, or merely wiped on and not sealed (Note: not the recommended course of action, we strongly recommend sealing finishes for quality results and longevity. Some finishers use a sealant at the beginning and the end, but that’s a more advanced finishing technique than we’re discussing today). What should you seal with? The neat thing about wiping stains is that you can apply nearly anything on top of it and so long as it’s applied correctly (not too thick, properly prepped wood etc) it’ll be just fine! So whether you need the durability of polyurethane, the classic look of Buffcote™ Lacquer, or just need a really user friendly stain, wiping wood stains are for you.
Penetrating Dye Stains
Similarly to wiping stains, dye stains can be applied many different ways. The difference between wiping stains and dye stains lies primarily within the weight of the pigment and the required drying times. Although this may seem like a subtle difference, the two stains are much different and each have unique characteristics. As we discussed in our previous newsletter, the heavy pigment in acetone based dye stains such as Mohawk’s Ultra Penetrating stain make it great for tinting lacquers. When wiping a dye stain always keep in mind that it is heavily pigmented. If you are going for a bold finish, then wiping a dye stain directly to the piece may be the best method. In most cases we recommend using a reducer, because it will appear over saturated and lack depth with too much pigment. Spraying a reduced dye stain allows for more control of depth and toning, but for a truly beautiful finish we recommend building depth by using the dye stain to tone a pre catalyzed lacquer. You can refer to our previous newsletter for information on using the color wheel to create custom colors using dye stains.
As you probably know, nitrocellulose lacquer is perhaps the most user friendly finish to apply. It can be wiped, brushed, sprayed, and even resprayed (sometimes) because the molecules just love to bond to one another. At Wood Finisher’s Source we strongly recommend using a spray gun to apply a lacquer finish, but these steps can apply to your available method as well. When building a lacquer finish (toned or not), ensure your surface is prepped by lightly sanding with a high grit sandpaper. In between coats repeat this process, as the sanded texture of one coat of lacquer will create a grip for the next coat to cling to. It takes some practice knowing how to build a finish just right. Too thick of a finish will peel and too thin of a finish won’t hold up. If you’re spraying, ensure your gun is allowing for thin, even coats and not shooting out globs of lacquer. For best results, use a lacquer sealer as your final coat. Remember when drying it is important to keep dust and other debris away from the finish. If possible, let each coat dry overnight, but in many instances several hours in the right climate is enough time. Things like humidity and cold weather can prolong drying time, so try to keep your climate as neutral as possible.
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