After one has sanded to 400-600 grit, be it a turned piece off the lathe or flat work, and then applied and lightly sanded the appropriate sealer it is time for the top coat.
No matter which finish you choose, the piece and the surrounding area must be dust free. I avoid tack cloths due to the fact that some are impregnated with an additive that does a great job of removing dust but will also leave behind a residue that could affect the adherence of the finish.
It is a good idea to spray outside which is what I have always done, weather permitting of course. It would be a shame to go through all the work of preparing the piece and then find little sprinkles of raindrops on the surface. Also never spray in the direct sun. This can cause the finish to dry too fast before it has a chance to adhere to the wood and little bubbles form. I have, sometimes, forgotten that the earth moves around the sun and what was once shade has suddenly become sunlight, which can be especially problematic living in Florida. It is a good idea to spray under a canopy or large umbrella. After wiping down the piece and surrounding areas it is also a good idea to use compressed air to remove any dust that may have been left behind.
I set my projects on a large table which is imperative when spraying more than one piece. Over-spray is the bane of my existence although it has a lot of company. Almost all of the time, I raise the piece off the surface of the table with the appropriate lengths of angled sticks, such as pieces of wood corner bead. This decreases the amount of contact with the underside. This is especially important when turning the piece to spray the opposite side. But try to use sticks that keep the item as close to the table top as possible or, once again, that dreaded over-spray will creep underneath and cause havoc (and more work).
When spraying pieces from approximately 4″ to 16″ or larger, I use a “Lazy Susan” type of platform so that I don’t have to walk around the piece to reposition to spray. This way I merely turn the piece as needed while staying in the same place. This is extremely helpful since the best finish will be obtained if the spray is applied to areas that are still tacky. If one waits until the finish starts to dry, the spray will not level itself out and the result will be the same as over-spray. This is especially true with lacquer which dries extremely fast.
If I spray a piece in the morning it has, in most cases, cured sufficiently to turn it in the afternoon. But don’t try this with urethane. One will end up with impressions of where the sticks supported the piece.
Before spraying, test your spray gun on a piece of scrap wood. This will allow you to adjust the amount of air and material. I generally set the regulator on the compressor at 55 p.s.i. This stays within the guidelines of high volume/low pressure. By experimenting first, one will also be able to adjust the spray pattern at the gun. But practice makes perfect. I cannot count the times I have used too much air, too much volume of material and/or the wrong spray pattern resulting in runs.
Speaking of runs, there are a couple of ways to deal with them. Try to wet sand them out using 1500 grit wet or dry silicone carbide paper. With this method, one must be extremely careful not to sand through to bare wood in the surrounding areas. A small, flat piece of wood used as a sanding block is helpful here. Depending oh the severity of the run this usually doesn’t work, which leads us to the second method which is to dry sand the entire area affected, removing all the finish down to bare wood. Don’t forget to sand again to at least 400 grit and apply and sand the appropriate sealer again.
Once the sprayed-on finish is complete, flawless and totally cured, the fun part begins. Materials that will be needed from this point forward are:
2. 1500 grit wet or dry silicon carbide sand paper (sometimes referred to as Ultra-fine).
3. Polishing compound. (There are more brands and types of this compound than there are tools in a tool catalog although that is one place you will find it. Also, at your local automotive parts retail dealer. It is not rubbing compound but it does have an abrasive; just much finer.)
4. 12,000 grit wet or dry polishing cloth. (Ideally, there are products on the market, in any high inventory woodworking catalogs, that are graduated in these high grits each removing the scratches left behind by the previous grit until the final goal is reached.)
5. A high quality micro-crystalline finishing and polishing wax. (Do not scrimp on this. There are, again, many waxes to choose from but get the best. It is a bit pricey but one will save themselves a lot of aggravation and time by purchasing this superior wax in a little white can.)
One more word about the polishing compound and the polishing cloth. For years I was using only the polishing compound until my friend across the street in the automotive business, asked me to try this cloth and I was amazed. Then to go one step further, I used the compound following the cloth. Now I can trim my mustache using that bowl.
There is one drawback with the polishing compound. If the surface of the piece was not properly grain-filled and sealed, that white polishing compound will fill any and all imperfections leaving one with tiny white spots all over the piece in addition to a less than perfect gloss.
So, by now the reader has probably inferred without my help how to go about achieving the “Wet Look”. Keep the ultra-fine wet so as not to clog and to get a finer scratch pattern. At the end of this process the piece should have a matte finish.
Next comes the polishing cloth and/or the polishing compound. Try the compound on a small area first. After it dries, wipe off the residue to see if any compound was left behind. If not, go for it. If you find an area or two that retained the compound, flood the area with mineral oil and rub it out. If you wax over the compound, I’m afraid you’ll have to start over.
By now you should be witness to a true transformation. But wait, you haven’t even waxed it yet!
If you are a gentleman reading this article, you know have another method to ensure your proper facial hygiene. But if you are a lady you will, without a doubt, be pleased to learn who really is the fairest in the land. – J.G. Lewis
(for some more of Jack’s handcrafted wood items, all from reclaimed native Florida logs, check out www.stores.ebay.com/the-heart-of-the-wood)