Flawless Surface Prep
Anxious to put varnish on that freshly sanded project? Well, just hold on for a second! Before applying the finish, rub the project (with the grain!) with No. 0000 steel wool. You’ll lift sanding dust from the grain and burnish and shine the surface fibers.
Follow up with a Swiffer Sweeper cloth ($4 a box at a grocery store) to wipe away any specks of dust or steel wool. You’ve now ensured a pristine surface for perfect results with oil-based (not water-based) finishes. Many thanks to Gabriel Shearing for this professional finisher’s tip. See why adding steel wool to a loose screw isn’t such a screwy idea.
Poly Finish with No Runs, Drips or Bubbles
If the project you’re finishing features spindles, legs, nooks or crannies, switch from a regular to a wipe-on polyurethane. This finish goes on like a hand-rubbed oil finish and won’t pool, bubble or drip to leave mini messes to sand off when it’s dry. A number of wipe-on poly finishes are available, but we like Rockler’s Polyurethane Satin Gel Finish (rockler.com, $10.59 a pint, $19.29 a quart). It wipes on smoothly, dries super fast and, when applied with a cloth, leaves zero lap marks. Our thanks to Sean Gerlach for this smooth tip. See why using a wood conditioner isn’t a bad idea when finishing wood.
Here’s some precise advice from Paul Schuessler: Keep a tweezers handy when you’re applying any type of finish. If a mosquito, housefly, strand of hair, a wood shaving or a speck of sawdust plops onto a wet finish, don’t use your fingers or a rag to remove it! That’ll always leave a mark. Pluck it out with the tweezers. Get rid of mosquitos by taking care of hedges.