Professional Looking Finish

I'm in the process of remodeling my bathroom and I got sticker shock when I got a price quote of $2500 from Home Depot for a new Kraftmaid 60" vanity & 3 linen storage cabinets. I told my wife that I can make the vanity and cabinets myself. My problem is that I don't know how to achieve that professional finished look that you see on manufactured cabinets. In the past all of my projects have been made out of pine, and I have only used minwax stain and polyurethane to finish projects. The finished product is far from professional looking. I have a couple of questions;
(Note: I definitely want to use Pine for the face frames)
1. Is it possible for me to achieve a professional looking finish without spending too much money (I do have a Porter Cable HVLP sprayer and a small air compressor at puts out about 8 SCFM?
2. What products (stains & finishes) are used to get that professional looking finish?
3. Are there any good websites that provide information on staining & finishing?
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Snip

That is going to be part of your problem. Pine often does not take stain well and yu should steer away form Miniwaw stains.

Absolutely but you should choose a better wood. Oak for instance.

General Finishes, Bartleys Gell stains and Varnishes, Zar Stains.

http://www.bartleycollection.com/finish.htm
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On the occasions I have wandered through that portion of one of the home stores I've not seen any finish that look particularly hard to apply. Most appear, to me at least, appear to be more of a not very good Danish oil type finish (no real build, matte not depth) rather then a surface finish.
If you have a HVLP system you have the all the tools you need to provide a perfect surface finish and if the bathroom is vented and you don't have someone who insists on making a steam room out of it I'd go with a lacquer.
However, if you want to keep it simple and uncomplicated I'd just go with Danish oil and wax.
NOTE, neither of these is a good idea for any horizontal surface that might end up having standing water on it for any period of time.
--
Mike G.
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On 25 Feb 2004 07:34:32 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (x071907) wrote:

yep.

yep.
ditch the minwax.

why? if it's to match existing stuff or because the theme of the room demands it, you can make it work, but there may be a bit of extra work to get it to finish well. if it's to save money, look into some of the less expensive hardwoods- alder, birch, poplar. the cost will be similar and the saved effort and improved appearance will be well worth it. <hint: look in the phone book for a hardwood dealer in your area. home depot is the worst place to buy such things.>

yes. consider that industrial finishing is a very profit oriented business. of course, they have millions of dollars of equipment and deal with large volumes, but you can do very nice work in your garage without buying much more stuff than you have now.

www.compliantspraysystems.com
start with flexner's book: understanding wood finishing.
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Do you plan to finish them in a natural wood look or a painted finish? If painted, forget the jummywood (pine) and use poplar, birch or alder. If a natural finish is desired and you feel you have to use pine, use a sanding sealer before using any other finish products. Dave

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| | In the past all of my projects have been made out of pine
Pine is cheap to buy and easy to work, but it's one of the more difficult woods to finish attractively. Someone else suggested oak, and I agree. If the final appearance is important, use something besides pine.
| I do have a Porter Cable HVLP sprayer and a small air compressor | at puts out about 8 SCFM
It's possible to get a good finish without spraying. A wipe-on poly or varnish will get you a smooth, attractive, tough finish.
| What products (stains & finishes) are used to get that | professional looking finish?
A lot of it depends on what you're comfortable with or what you've had good results with in the past. Some people like Minwax products; others don't. I like oil-based products, for example. Others don't. Some people like oil and wax; some like polyurethane.
Don't change the color of the wood unless you really need to match something that's already there. It saves you a step and generally makes your work look better. If you have bad luck with pigment stains, which are generally just very diluted paint, try a dye. I have a set of dyes that I mix with various solvents to change the colors of wood. They're easier to work with, in my experience, than stains.
I do a lot of wiping for top coats. It works well for me, especially since I don't have a sprayer. It takes time, though. So if you want to go that route, prepare SWMBO for the likely schedule ahead of time. I'm currently restoring a harpsichord, and I don't have a problem taking six weeks to finish it elegantly and properly. There's no rush on the project, and quality is king.
There are many prepared wiping coats. But you can make your own by thinning your favorite topcoat with an appropriate solvent. I make my own wiping poly by thinning 30-50% with turpentine. I make wiping varnishes the same way. Wipe on with a clean cotton rag -- old T-shirts work best. This is the best way to do many thin coats with no marks from the applicator.
The main difference between varnish and polyurethane is brittleness. Varnish produces a harder, but more brittle finish. This responds well to rubbing and abrasion to adjust the sheen (see below), but doesn't stand up well to impact. As as your wood "moves" over time (i.e., expands, contracts, warps, bends), the varnish will likely crack. In contrast, polyurethane produces a softer, flexible finish. Over time it will move with the wood, but it's harder to "rub" and isn't very resistent to scratching. It will acquire dull patches if it's constantly rubbed up against.
Adjust the sheen of your final coat with fine steel wool. Many here don't like steel wool because it leaves little metal particles behind, and they recommend using Scotchbrite pads instead, or very fine grit (600 and finer) sandpaper. Either way, make sure you've built up enough film to support the sort of abrasion you need to do. Use a sanding block to keep the pressure even.
For the final step, many people like wax. Johnson makes a wonderful paste wax and Watco makes a liquid Satin Wax that's also good. You can skip the wax step if you like.
In general avoid generic "wood finishes" unless you have time to experiment on scrap. You just don't know how those are going to behave. If you don't want to muck with abrading the final coat to get the sheen you want, it's okay. Many of us avoid "satin" and "matte" topcoat finishes because the sheen is achieved by very small particles forming an emulsion on the final film. If you put enough of that on, it will noticeably obscure the grain. But if that's too subtle a difference for you, use whatever you need.
I recently finished a pine door in my house as an experiment. I sanded to 220 (never go higher if you're going to use a poly or varnish) and then wiped on a sealer coat of 2 lb. shellac. Then I wiped on three coats of a matte oil-based polyurethane thinned 50% with mineral spirits. Then I went over the whole thing with 0000 steel wool. The results were impressive. I deliberately broke a lot of my own recommendations just to see whether they actually meant anything. The grain wasn't obscured, there were no ugly steel filings, and the sheen was just right.
What's the moral? Practice and attention to detail. A professional finish is less about specific products and specific tools and more about taking your time and paying attention to the behavior of whatever techniques and tools you like to use. If you want to use the sprayer, experiment with different products at different viscosities.
--Jay
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"professional" is often some sort of lacquer. That said if for some reason you don't want to use your sprayer, Deft Brushing lacquer worked great on my last project, and the first thought in my head when I saw it when it dried was "wow this looks like a professional finish".
--


"x071907" < snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com> wrote in message
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"x071907" wrote ...

*Flame Suit On* C'mon guys, before about 1900 there were no such things as spray guns. You don't necessarily need a $500+ dollar HVLP system to achieve good results. Professional finishers have been finishing furniture and cabinets for ages without high tech gear. Aside from the trolls here on the wRECk I think its becoming keep up with the Jones's time here.
There is nothing wrong with Minwax products. Ask Bob Flexner or Michael Dresdner. I don't care for their stains (I prefer aniline dyes or nothing at all) but a blanket 'stay away from Minwax' is ridiculous. I just finished a project where I used Minwax wipe-on gloss polyurethane and achieved a very professional finish. The trick is not to just follow the manufacturer's instruction and leave it like that. You have to take care in the preparation of the wood for finishing by sanding through the grits to your desired smoothness so as to remove the scratches from the paper you used. Then, you have to take care in the application of that finish, sanding between coats to flatten and remove dust nibs. Once completed try rubbing it out with 0000 steel wool and adding a few coats of wax. Home center standard finishes can become just as beautiful as high priced alternatives. The difference is in the details.
Now pine is a very difficult wood to get right, if you are trying to color it. I will go so far as to say that if you are trying to approximate the look of a hardwood face frame from the home center and still use pine, you're not going to be happy. If you are matching other pine stuff in the bedroom then just use your head.
You have a variety of choices - oil finishes, urethanes, shellac etc. (one of my personal favorites is Minwax antique oil applied with wet/dry paper) that you can choose from without resorting to paying a lot of money for spray guns and HVLP systems. Having one of those DOES NOT guarantee a professional looking finish.
For more information try the Minwax website, or Homestead Finishing, Shellac.net or Liberon, or a Google search. I don't have any particular links off hand to give you but I look up some kind of finishing question at least once a week. The information isn't hard to find, you just have to look.
Sheesh, do we have to add to the troll problem by forgetting the roots and traditions of woodworking?
I'm ducking out now - flame me as you wish but I think y'all are getting hoity toity on me. I may check in to see how you're raking me over the coals but don;t bet on it. I have one project in the finish stage and a sign that's only half carved. I'm off to the shop.
*Poo suit off*
--
Cheers,
Howard
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Plain old amber shellac looks GREAT on Pine.
Barry
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On Wed, 25 Feb 2004 15:49:28 -0800, "Howard Ruttan"

Hallelujeh, a voice of reason.
Don't let the finishing snobs get ya'.
- - LRod
Master Woodbutcher and seasoned termite
Shamelessly whoring my website since 1999
http://www.woodbutcher.net
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On Wed, 25 Feb 2004 21:55:39 +0000, LRod

I've gotten very nice finishes with Minwax products, as well. Finishes that made those who had to live with the results very happy.
However! <G> I've gotten nicer finishes, with more control, better color selection, more consistent results, all in about 75% less time with Behlen's (or Mohawk) products.
The tooling is the same, the products cost more.
Check those books again, you'll see plenty of Behlens and Mohawk cans in the photos as well.
Barry
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I've had good success with Minwax stain and unscented baby oil as a finish. I was told once from an old carpenter friend of mine that although the products used are important, the preparation and the smoothing of the wood before applying the product was more important. Don't know if that's true or not, but I took it to heart.
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Snip

in
I guess the above paragraph just reinforces the reason to stay away from Miniwax stains. Better products do not require all that fuss. ;~)
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Other products have some sort of mystical dust repellant?
Don't the other high-end finishes instructions say the same?
Dave

nothing
the
care
to
try
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Not All of them..

Well Sorta..
May I again mention Bartleys products
This product is unlike any other that I have used. I have been using this product since 1989.
1. Dries to the touch with in a few minutes. 2. Because it dries to the touch in a few minutes, dust that may settle on the surface can be easily blown or wiped away. When using this particular product I do not worry about any dust that may be floating around. Obviousely, wipe or blow off the dust from the surface that you will apply the finish to. Straight out of the planer I normally use a ROS with 150 "if needed" and then with 180 on a PC SpeedBloc. 3. Wipe in on, Wipe it off for a glass like surface when using the Gel Varnish. Second coats of stain or varnish can be added in as little as 4 to 6 hours depending on temp and humidity. 4. ABSOLUTELY no sanding between coats, even next day coats. 5. Repair accidental smudges of stain by simply applying more and let it set and then wipe off, " even the next day". The second coat softens the previous layer. 6. Repair rough spots in the varnish finish by simply adding more varnish to the area and let it set a bit and then wipe it away. Even the next day. Again additional coats soften and meld with previous layers 7. Oil based, Clean up with paint thinner or hand cleaner.
8. While a bit expensive at between $15.00-$20.00 per quart, I staind my whole kitchen with 1 quart of gel stain and less than 2 quarts to apply 3 coats of the gel varnish to the same kitchen.
This product can be bought at WoodCraft, Rockler, or any better woodworking store. http://www.bartleycollection.com/finish.htm
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On Thu, 26 Feb 2004 00:25:24 GMT, "Leon"

This is a huge plus for Behlen's as well.
Barry
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results.
Sorry for the extreme editing Howard but I don't think I took anything out of context enough to matter. .
I own two HVLP turbine systems and a few conventional guns with compressor. I spray my larger pieces. I enjoy spraying but I can't agree with Howard's post more. Especially the last part.
Great finishes are not guaranteed by any type of spray gun or any other means of transferring a finish to wood and anyone thinking that it is is in dreamland.
Fact, The draw back favoring HVLP systems over conventional guns is that a conventional gun's transfer rate is only about 35%, for a HVLP system the transfer rate is somewhere above 85% with far less atomized finish floating around the shop. But, then again, the transfer rate for a brush is not far enough under 100% to mention with no atomized finish floating around the shop.
The one thing they all have in common is that they all require some work and practice to achieve a "professional" finish but they will give it to you. That's how professionals get to be professionals.
Just one note if someone is considering a spray system. You can get a serviceable HVLP turbine system that will spray most common finishes and stains from either Harbor Freight or Rockler's for under $100.00
--
Mike G.
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Wow... and I thought I was going to get skinned alive in this thread. ;0)
--
Cheers,
Howard
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