Hey, guys. I'm a newbie here, and figured maybe some of you
regulars could share some advice.
I've recently started making picture frames as a hobby. Everything
is going well so far, but I could use some advice on the finishing
aspect of the hobby. I just did some frames for my mother, and I
applied 2 coats of Minwax stain (Cherry), followed by 4 coats of
gloss varnish (also Minwax). After that, some brush strokes were
still visible, so I wet sanded with 400, then 600 grit. However,
after that, the finish was quite splotchy (basically dull with some
glossy patches here and there). I saved it by applying one more
coat of clear gloss, which evened out the finish, but there were
still some brush strokes visible.
The guy at Home Depot said the reason was that I hadn't applied
Wood Conditioner first (it was pine). Since then, I've been using
wood conditioner, but I haven't tried a really glossy finish yet
since then (this was just last week).
So I guess my question is, what's the secret formula? What do you
guys do when you want a really nice finish? How many coats of
stain vs. how many coats of clear gloss? Do you use wood conditioner?
When do you sand, and what grits give you the best finish when it's
Any tips you guys could suggest here in the group would be greatly
appreciated. Thanks a million,
You could have used steel wool after the sanding to bring back the
shine. I like the synthetic kind, especially the super fine white
grade. You can also use pumice stone and rottenstone along with the
steel wool (synthetic or real) to get to the shine you want. Just
experiment and find what works for you. The final rubbing out is best
done at least a month after the final finish coat is applied. Finish it
off with a coat of wax made for furniture finishing, not car wax. You
will always have brush marks and dust nibs after brushing any kind of
The potential problem is silicone contamination, if it's in the car wax.
In small amounts even, it causes fish eye in some finishes. That might not
be a problem on your countertops, as long as the tools don't get used
Wouldn't you want to use something 'food grade'?
These counters are for a store and have been poly'd. I wanted to even out
the finish a little and add a touch of protection and gloss with the wax.
None of these surfaces will see food contact. The food prep section is
mineral oiled. On the other hand if there is a product that does the same
job and can be considered food grade, then I'd use that. I'm assuming this
Mother's wax won't have any lingering odor. If so, then I won't want to use
Most labels for car wax will warn you not to use it on wood. I'm not
sure why, but it probably has to do with the solvents used or other
ingredients intended to remove oxidation from paint or maybe it is
something else. If it contains silicone, it could make refinishing your
woodwork difficult and could even contaminate any tools that come in
contact with the silicone. You could probably use it on cured
polyurethane without problems, as long as you are aware of the problems
silicone can cause. I bought a can of Lundman's wax at an Ace hardware
stores that contains nothing but carnauba wax and turpentine.
A good friend of mine has a picture framing business. He's been doing
this, at least part time, for 30 years. Every frame he makes is from
prefinished stock. You can see ahead of the joinery how things will
come out. He buys his prefinished, because of the economics, but you
don't have to.
The part that I don't understand is hobbyists taking all that time,
energy and expense to make pine look like something other than pine. If
you want it to look like cherry, or mahogany, or something else, then
start with that material, put on a simple finish, and go from there.
Enough prime cherry to frame the biggest art piece in my home wouldn't
cost $20. Stained pine always looks like stained pine to me.
When I want a seriously glassy finish, I use shellac, padded on, usually
over an oil undercoat, and often rubbed out, using a nice paste wax.
The archives at Google have numerous good references on the methods.
None of them originated with me.
Hi Kevin, like you, I too enjoy making frames, don't think I have ever made
one of pine though. Try using other wood that you can enhance with say an
oil finish rather than change it with stain. Over the years I have given
away the odd frame to the right person and you will find that they will
invariably reciprocate with donations of interesting wood; you will soon
become known in the neighbourhood. I also at times carry a chainsaw in the
car, ready to liberate any interesting stuff I may come across.
Bottom line is, it takes a bit of work to make a top frame so why not use
the best material you can lay your hands on. The result will speak for
Gotta agree with previous posters re: hardwood to start with. Start
with the color wood you want in the end. I like shellac for a glossy
finish, its easy to rub out. You just didn't go far enough with your
final sanding. Smooth gloss is achieved AFTER your last coat. Use
several coats, then let the shellac cure for at least a week. Sand with
the highest grade that will remove your brushstrokes and dust. Work up
the grits to 1000 or 1500 then rub out with rubbing compound, polishing
compound (available at auto stores), and a good paste furniture wax.
You CAN get a perfect, glossy finish but it takes time.
Thanks for the tips, guys. I've been using pine so far
simply because of the cost, and how easy it is to work with,
being a softwood.
I've bought a plank of birds-eye maple, and 2 walnut boards,
with the intention of ripping the walnut down to 1x2, and
using the birds-eye maple to do an inlay. It sounds like
the finish you guys are recommending would be some kind of
oil, followed by a few (how many?) coats of shellac, with
the final coat wet-sanded down through 1500 grit, finishing
off with some super-fine steel wool (#000? Is that right?),
then rubbed out with some sort of furniture wax (can you
recommend a brand?)
Did I get that mostly right? :)
The thing is, working in pine is not all that much easier, if at all,
than working in cherry or walnut. Birdseye maple, on the other hand,
can be a challenge. Use really sharp tools, and watch your technique.
You will be rewarded.
The technique of padding shellac almost makes the concept of 'coats'
irrelevant. Each layer 'melts' into the previous, with little of the
fussing between coats that endears us so to poly/varnish. A google
search on padding shellac often yields some great, simple advice from
solme wReckers of the olde days, on which I cannot improve. Look for
something from Paul Radinovic, or Paddy O'Deen...
Butcher's, Briwax, Liberon are on my shelf. Johnson's is well
respected, and should be easily available. Don't use anything with
silicones in the mix. Beeswax & Carnuba & some sort of solvent.
The guy at HD was a dolt. The here and there glossy patches were where
you hadn't sanded.
And if you sanded until there were no more glossy patches, applied
another top coat and sanded again there would *still* be glossy patches.
Unless you wait until the top coat is *totally* dry (takes a good month
for varnish) before the first sanding. Reason is that the top coat is
always thicker some places than others; sand it after a day or two and
the thick places aren't totally dry and will continue to shrink over
Best way is to build up a thick finish, set it aside for a month or so
and then sand til there is no more gloss. If you cut totally through
the top coats, you didn't have it built up enough or sanded too much
(unevenly). Once you have a completely dry, perfectly smooth finish,
you can apply either a thin, smooth layer (wiped, preferably) or rub it
out to get the gloss. Lots of work to get a great finish...
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