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 In Finishing

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Three quick steps to a silky-smooth finish.

Brushed-on finishes such as varnish provide superior protection, but they dry so slowly, airborne dust and renegade hairs are almost sure to settle on the damp surface. Fortunately, the process I use to remove these minor imperfections is both fast and simple—the table top shown here took less than 10 minutes to complete—and it leaves the finish looking and feeling like nobody’s business. The trick is to apply a low-sheen finish, let it dry thoroughly and then use a gentle touch and the appropriate fine abrasives to rub it out.

Rubbed-out vs. hand-rubbed

While the terms are similar, a “rubbed-out” finish and a “hand-rubbed” finish are distinctly different. Abrasive rub-out methods are typically used on film-building finishes that are susceptible to debris getting stuck in the film as it dries. A hand-rubbed finish usually refers to a wipe on/rub off process that does not involve building a film above the surface of the wood.

Rubbing a film finish with fine abrasives allows you to subtly control how light is reflected, for a warmer, more inviting and refined appearance.


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