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 In Finishing

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Tuning fork comparison. Vegetable oils are made up of triglycerides (glycerol molecules with three fatty acids attached). The tuning fork comparison makes these molecules easy to picture, but the actual fatty acids are curled up tightly and, of course, can’t be seen by the naked eye. The more reactive sites on the fatty acids, the better the oil cures – that is, turns from a liquid to a soft solid.

Learn why certain oils cure better and what makes an oil suitable for finish.

Oil is one of the most important ingredients used in finishing products. Besides being a finish all by itself, oil is an important component in varnishes, polyurethanes and furniture polishes; a primary binder in stains, glazes and pore fillers; a plasticizer in lacquers; and a lubricant used together with sandpaper or abrasive powders to level finishes and rub them to an even sheen.

Despite its importance, oil is poorly understood. To help make sense of it and understand how the various types differ, a little technical knowledge is helpful.

The Nature of Oils

You’ve probably noticed that some oils stay liquid forever while others get sticky after a while and still others dry completely after a day or two.


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