The finish of the wood is an extremely important factor. Although painting would hide any slight surface defects, any blemish in wood is immediately accentuated when a clear finish, or a stain followed by clear finish, is applied. It is important, therefore, that all woodwork is clean and smooth before decorating work begins. When a clear finish is to be applied, it is essential that you give the surface a final sanding by hand, following the grain of the wood. If an orbital electric sander has been used at any stage, small circular scratches, resembling fish scales, will be seen in the final coat.
All finishes alter the color of wood to some extent, and some woods – mahogany and walnut, for example – turn much darker even when a completely clear finish is applied. An approximate idea of the color wood will take on when treated with a clear finish can be seen by dampening a small area with ordinary water. If this color is too light for your needs, then the wood can be stained before finishing. It is only possible to stain wood to a darker color; for a lighter shade it must be bleached. When staining wood, it is advisable to test the stain on an off-cut, or on an area that would normally be out of sight. It is notoriously difficult to remove stain, even immediately after it has been applied. If the wood has an open grain, and a smooth finish is required, then you will need to use a grain-filler to fill the pores . The alternative is to apply extra coats of the finish, rubbing down with an abrasive paper between coats.
Fill any cracks or holes in the wood with a wood-stopping material before applying the stain. The final finish may be of a type that gives a surface film, such as French polish, varnish, or polyurethane. The latter two are available in gloss, satin, and Matt finishes. Varnish stains are also available. These are convenient, since they will color and finish the wood in a single operation. Do bear in mind that each extra coat of varnish stain will darken the color of the wood and, unless brushed out very evenly, the color will vary with the thickness of the film. When wood is stained with a penetrating dye, the color will not vary _ no matter how many coats of clear finish you later apply. Don’t neglect to treat areas of woodwork that are normally out of sight. For example, when varnishing an external door, it is important that at least one coat is applied to the top and bottom edges, otherwise water may penetrate at these points and eventually cause the varnish to fail.
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