Techniques

Below you’ll find smart woodworking techniques including quick tips, advice for beginners and more advanced methods to improve your skills and allow you to get the most out of your workshop and tools. Whether you’re looking for traditional woodworking techniques using hand tools or power tools, finishing or sharpening advice, or just want to hone your woodworking basics, the advice below is from seasoned and trusted woodworkers and furniture makers working at the top of their field.

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...

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...

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 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...

You Can Add All the Thinner You Want

You often see cans of solvent finishes, including lacquer, and alkyd and polyurethane varnish, with instructions not to thin them. Manufacturers include these instructions in order to comply with VOC laws in some areas of the country, such as California. Adding thinner could take the finish out of compliance with the...

Remove Residue NMP From The Wood

The paint-and-varnish removers commonly available in stores are gradually shifting from those available in metal cans to those available in plastic containers. The ones in plastic aren’t as strong or fast acting as those in cans, which are methylene chloride and various lacquer-thinner solvents. Just the packaging, plastic vs. metal, tells...

Furniture Polishes

I spent most of the decade of the ’90s trying to make sense of furniture polishes. Claims from manufacturers were (and still are) all over the map. Even worse were all the contradictory opinions of my professional-refinishing colleagues, museum conservators, furniture-store clerks and my customers. I figured out pretty quickly that...

Brush End-to-End

When brushing a large surface such as a tabletop, you want each brush stroke to go from one end to the other with the grain. If the brush can’t hold enough finish to go the entire distance, brush several partial strokes, then connect them with a long end-to-end stroke. Lay the...