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designing and building with wood channels my creativity and challenges my mind.
This blog is a record of my life in my studio.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The easy route to a mirror polish: where cars and credenzas meet

Putting a good-looking, long-lasting finish on your furniture project can be an afterthought.  Many of you probably wish you didn't have to think about finishing at all!  This final sequence of steps is not woodworking, it's chemistry, and an exercise in patience, diligence, and attention to detail. 

Most carpenters think of applying the last coat of finish as the last step in finishing.  But furniture makers know that the final coat of finish needs to be rubbed out before the finish is - er - finished. 

Rubbing out starts with fine sandpaper, and ends with polishing.  Over the years, polishing has evolved alongside the evolution of water-borne finishes and automotive clear coats.  New automotive finishes are meant to stay flexible, so they don't crack when plastic car parts bend.  That's led to a convergence in formulations for both wood and automotive finishes.  Things have gotten to the point that you can use automotive finishes on wood projects, and automotive polishing compounds work very well as rubbing compounds for most wood finishes, including water-borne, polyurethane, varnish, and lacquer. 

This table was rubbed out using 320 grit sand paper, then 400, 600, and 800, then rubbed with 0000 steel wool.  Finally, I rubbed it with 3M fine scratch remover car polish.  The result was a beautiful surface that took mere minutes to put on and wipe off. 

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