Bob Flexner

To test whether a finish is shellac or lacquer, dab alcohol or lacquer thinner onto the finish to see if the solvent makes the finish sticky or removes it

Stripping with Only Solvent

With shellac and lacquer finishes, which are the finishes used on almost all old furniture and woodwork, you can use their solvent for stripping instead of a paint-and-varnish remover. Depending on the object being stripped, I often find this method easier in the sense of spending less total time. It’s also less messy. Use...

The area just left of center shows what a sand through looks like. The grain and figure disappear and look more like a smudge

Sanding Through Veneer

You may be aware that I’m not a big advocate of random orbit sanders. I prefer to sand by hand most of the time. I think it’s faster, and it’s for sure safer, especially on veneer. If you’re gluing down the veneer yourself (maybe using a vacuum press), the veneer you’re using is usually...

The old Goof Off with xylene (left) and the new Goof Off with acetone

Goof Off has Changed

When you roll latex paint onto walls and ceilings, some of the paint comes off the roller as spatter and lands on, and sticks to, furniture and other objects. All of us “old timers” know that if you want to remove this spatter without harming the finish, you get some Goof Off and rub...

Bleached Walnut

Bleaching the Color Out of Wood

Sometimes you want to make wood lighter than it is in its raw state. This is common when trying to match the wood to something that already exists. The way to do it is to first bleach out the color of the wood, then apply a stain, if necessary, to achieve the match. You...

Brands of oil:varnish blend

Oil/Varnish Blend Mythology

Every now and then someone comes into my shop, and in the course of conversation volunteers to me that his (it’s always a him) family had a secret formula for a finish that had been passed down for generations. Of course he wasn’t going to share it with me because then it wouldn’t be...

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Six Myths About Wood Finishing

The time and cost of materials you invest in any woodworking project can make the final finishing stage a nerve-racking one. You want to get it right, and there are a lot of wild ideas out there concerning finishing. Below you’ll find a few common wood finishing myths and the actual facts excerpted from Bob...

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Teak Oil: What is it?

In the February, 2015 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine I wrote an article on teak oil. If you’re interested in a more extensive explanation than here, I encourage you to go back to that issue and read the article. I titled the article “Teak Oil: The Oil That Doesn’t Exist,” because there’s no such...

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Adhesive paint: Another Smart Coating

This has nothing to do with wood finishing, but I find it interesting anyway. You’re probably aware that Google is working on self-driving cars. Well, the company has filed a patent for an adhesive paint to be used on these and other cars that will help reduce injuries to pedestrians hit by these cars....

This curly maple tall-case clock was made and finished by a friend of mine

Making Curly Maple Pop

To maximize the beauty of curly maple (also bird’s-eye maple), you want the curls to “pop” – that is, be significantly darker than the rest of the wood. To do this you need to get more color into the curls. To some extent this happens naturally with any stain when you wipe off the...