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 In Finishing

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Wiping varnish is the finish I recommend you use if you are finishing for the first time. Wiping varnish is a term I coined in 1990 to categorize a large number of very popular finishes that are sold individually under many different names but are actually all the same –oil-based alkyd or polyurethane varnish thinned about half with mineral spirits (paint thinner). Collecting them into a category removes the mystique manufacturers attempt to create and it makes the finish easier to understand. It also allows us to discuss uniform application procedures that apply to all brands.

Identifying wiping varnish. Because of the uninformative naming, you need a method for identifying commercial wiping varnishes. Unfortunately, you can rarely do this from the label. You will need to put a puddle of the finish on the lid or other non-porous surface and see how it cures. If the product thins and cleans up with mineral spirits and isn’t labeled “varnish” or “polyurethane,” and it cures hard and smooth after several days in a warm room, it’s wiping varnish.

Notice from the pictures above that many of the brands of wiping varnish are labeled “tung oil,” “tung oil varnish” or “tung oil finish.”


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