Flexner on Finishing: Gel Varnish


The (almost) perfect compromise.
By Bob Flexner
Pages: 74-76

From the December 2009 issue #180
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Most woodworkers do their finishing with one of two wipe-on/wipe-off finishes: oil/varnish blend or wiping varnish.

Oil/varnish blend is a thinned mixture of boiled linseed oil or tung oil with alkyd or polyurethane varnish. You can buy it commercially (often labeled “Danish oil”) or you can make your own – for example, one part oil, one part varnish and one part mineral spirits.

Wiping varnish is alkyd or polyurethane varnish thinned a quarter to a half with mineral spirits to make the finish easy to wipe on and off the wood. You can buy it commercially (rarely labeled for what it is) or you can make your own by thinning any varnish or polyurethane.

Both finishes are easy to apply and produce near-perfect results. But they differ significantly in sheen and water resistance.

Oil/varnish blend produces a pleasing satin or “rubbed” sheen, but the finish is too thin to be water-resistant. This is because all coats have to be thoroughly wiped off or the finish dries tacky.

Online Extra

* Read Bob Flexner’s article, “Applying Wiping Varnish.”


From the December 2009 issue #180
Buy this issue now