Author Archives: Bob Flexner

Bob Flexner

About Bob Flexner

Bob Flexner is a contributing editor to Popular Woodworking and the author of woodworking finishing books, including “Flexner on Finishing,” “Understanding Wood Finishing” and “Wood Finishing 101,” available at ShopWoodworking.com. Also available are his DVDs on "Repairing Furniture" and “Refinishing Furniture.” Bob is probably best known for defining the products used in wood finishing and organizing them into categories that make them easily understandable.

Try cleaning first, with water, soap and water or mineral spirits.

Rejuvenating Old Finishes

Editors note: Bob Flexner’s blog will move to the Flexner on Finishing Blog at the end of April. You can find it here. Just because a finish is old and deteriorated, you don’t necessarily have to strip it and apply a new finish. You may be able to rejuvenate the finish so it looks...

Early 19th-century pie-crust table

Lacquer for Antiques & Reproductions

It’s widely believed and promoted that the proper finish for 18th and 19th-century antique furniture and reproductions is shellac. The reason is that shellac was the finish that was most likely used in that time period. I have no problem with this, but I want to make the case that nitrocellulose lacquer is also appropriate....

scratch disappears under UV light

Smart Coatings

It seems like everything is becoming smart these days: smart phones, smart watches, smart cars, smart drugs. There are even smart coatings (paints and finishes). I’ve blogged about one already, a coating that uses nanotechnology to create an air barrier that causes liquids such as pee to bounce off walls and cover the perpetrator’s...

Now, all one company

Troubling Consolidations

As in so many other industries, the companies who supply us with paints and finishes are consolidating at a rapid rate. When I started in this field 40 years ago, there were all sorts of local and regional suppliers. Every store carried its own unique brands. Minwax was a very small player. It was...

Analine dyes, Lockwood and Moser, which is relabled Lockwood

Synthetic Aniline Dyes: Where Did They Come From?

Before 1856 all dyeing, and for that matter, most coloring, whether on cloth or wood, was done using natural materials. Being natural materials, they varied, so it was difficult to predict the color you would get. Most of these dye colorants also faded easily. The breakthrough to a better dye was discovered accidentally by...

Nitrocellulose, water-white and CAB-acrylic lacquers

Lacquers Vary in Coloring

Lacquer is a very versatile finish, especially because of its widely understood easy application in different weather conditions. You can speed up or slow down the drying by adding the right thinners. Not so widely understood is the range of colors – the amount of yellowing (or “oranging”) of the various types of lacquer....

Murphy Oil Soap

Murphy’s Oil Soap: A Most Unusual Story

During my career refinishing furniture, Murphy’s Oil Soap has morphed from a regionally available natural soap made with potassium hydroxide (similar to lye) and vegetable oil (instead of animal fat) to a nationally available and very popular furniture-care product. I watched this transformation happen and find the story fascinating. I find it fascinating because...

VOC compliant paint thinner

Beware VOC-Compliant Solvents

Southern California has the strictest VOC laws in the country. These laws have forced manufacturers to change the ingredients they use in paints and finishes, and even eliminate some – for example, oil paint and varnish. They have also done the same with solvents. For example, you can’t buy naphtha anymore, a solvent I...

Filled mahogany grain on the right

A Few Thoughts

I just finished reading an article on filling pores, and it reminded me of several things I’ve been meaning to say. First, filling pores is primarily a refinishing operation because so much of the old factory-made and finished furniture is mahogany with filled pores. To reproduce the original look, a refinisher has to fill...