Common Names & Confusion or Where Is Daniel Webster When He’s REALLY
I’ve heard that Daniel Webster is the person most responsible for the
success of the United States. And he did it with a book - his
dictionary. And when you think about it, that makes sense. Think of
it, German, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish, Norwegian, French, Portuguese,
British, Russian, Hebrew, Italian, Mohawk, Sioux, Iriquoise - and each
with regional dialects that were almost a separate language within their
nominal languge (ever tried to have a conversation with a cockney?).
Primitve sign language and Pidgin (sp?) “english” will only take you so
far. To really do anything complex you need a common language, with
defined terms and some rules for pronunciation so verbal exchanges could
be useful and meaningful. For most of us, lawyers, physicist and
interior decorators being exceptions, the word “green” has pretty much
the same meaning for everyone.
When there’s a dispute on the meaning of a word - good old Mr. Webster’s
dictionary settles things, minimizing misunderstandings and confusion.
Not so when it comes to finishes - in this case - wood finishes.
Wtih finishes, all bets are off. And there even seems to be an
intentional confusion built into the names of finishes. What we have is
Babyl - or more commonly - babble. Paint thinner, mineral spirits,
mineral oil, naptha, alcohol, denatured alcohol, oils, boiled oils,
driers, catalysts, alkyd, urethane, polyurethane, lacquer, varnish,
water-based/water-born, oil-based/ oil born, cross linked, precatalyzed,
catalyzed, varnish, conversion varnish, spar varnish .... We’ll leave
dyes for another time.
One volice in the wilderness starts with how finishes work - dividing
them into “evaporative” and “reactive” and describes liquid finishes as
being made up of “binders” and “fillers”. With “evaporative” finishes,
the “fillers” evaporate, leaving behind just the “binders”. With
“reactive” finishes, some of the “fillers” also evaporate, but the
binders “react” either due to exposure to oxygen, or sunlight or
“catalysts” or some combination of them to form a new
material/molecule. Both leave behind a transparent or translucent
“film” - the “finish”.
Then there’s “hot” finishes and “not hot” finishes. For the former,
each new application of the “finish” dissolves the top layer of the
previous application of the finiish, forming a continous “film” on the
finished piece. For the latter, the “not hot” finish, there is no
dissolving of the surface layer of the previous application. You must
sand between layers of “not hot” finishes in order to provide a
mechanical connection between layers. “Hot” finishes are easy to repair
while “not hot” finishes aren’t. Sand through layers of a “not hot”
finish and you will get visible ”witness lines” at the interface between
each layer you sanded through - and they can’t be removed.
Some finishes are gregrarious - they’ll get along with jst about
anything, others are somewhat anti-social and don’t get along with
anything, even each other and, in some cases, with themselves, sort of
like the guy you may encounter in some parts of any urban center - you
know, the guy argueing with himself , often quite loudly.
Then there’s the “tests” to identify what you found in that unlabeled
can of finish. “If you put a drop of the mystery finish on a sheet of
clean glass, leave it for a day or two and then examine what’s left on
the glass, if it’s surface is wrinkled - then it’s an oil-born finish -
or is it the other way around - if it’s surface is smooth it’s an
oil-born, wrinkled it’s a ....” ( I have the same problem with spaghetti
- if it sticks to the wall it’s done, or maybe that means it isn’t done,
I’ve got three or four books on finishing, - Flexner’s, Dresdner’s and
some guy who loves chemical treatments of wood - and nojne of them or
combinations of any of them provide clear, concise, mutually exclusive
definitions of the common “names” of common finishes. In fact, I’ve
found circular definitions with A and B are variations of the same
thing, and C & D are variations of a different thing. But when I get
through the terms and definitions I’m told that C and Q are variations
of the same thing, as are B & Q. (In my college years I had a copy of
the CRC Handbook of Mathematics and Physics. A quarter of that book was
definitions. If you randomly picked a term, wrote down the definition
then looked up the definition of the key words used to define it, and
repeated that process for each of those words, eventually I’d find
myself back at the word I started with. Try it yourself. Start with
what’s a “dyne”? I was going to suggest a Newt or Slug but I thought
they’d be too ambiguous. Same for the word “erg”.
But, as often is the case with me, I’ve digressed.
Is there an authoritative source for the definitions of wood “film
forming” finishes? If so - WHAT IS IT?
this inquiring mind wants to know