This woodworking tip of the week is all about how to get your finish to dry properly. There are several things you can do to help a finish cure well. The temperature, air movement, and humidity are all things that affect the drying time of a finish. Also, how the finish is applied makes a difference. This will show you how to get your finish applied well, and how to keep the process moving.
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Finishes dry faster in places with lower humidity and higher temperatures. Conversely, they dry slower in places that are colder with a higher humidity. Most finishes are applied in the shop, or in a dedicated finishing area. Controlling the temperature and humidity while finishing can help each coat dry better.
When using a hand applied finish, the formulas typically are slower drying. This is why you can rub the finish on by hand without it becoming sticky. If possible, finish the piece in one area, and move it to another dedicated area to dry. For my guitars, I finish them in the shop, then move them into a different room.
This room is held at a higher temperature, usually around 85 degrees, and with a very low humidity. I live in Arizona, so I do not have to run a dehumidifier. If I lived elsewhere, I would need to. This room also has a ceiling fan to keep the air moving around. The increased temperature, low humidity, and constant air movement help each coat dry well. An open window with good ventilation helps the solvent smells escape.
Another portion of the woodworking tip of the week deals with the thickness at which the coats are applied. Very thick coats take longer to dry than thinner coats. Sometimes, they can take days if applied very thick. In other cases, the top can skin over and the under layer may never dry. If this happens, there will be a soft spot. This will have to be removed, and the piece finished again correctly.
The best way to apply hand finishes is to use extremely thin coats. It will take more coats to finish the piece, but the look will be cleaner and the surface will be smoother. A thin coat is very hard to ruin, because there are no areas with runs or deep pools that take forever to dry. Also, the next coat will be able to be applied faster. This trade off means that the overall time it takes will be about the same.
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When I say thin, I mean very thin. Applying the finish with a cloth helps ensure thin coats. Brushes encourage more finish than is necessary to be applied to the surface. They also do not allow it to be spread as thinly. A piece of clean cotton cloth used to wipe on the finish allows you to spread it so thinly that is looks like the surface is wet, but there is almost no film at all.
This edition of the woodworking tip of the week is all about getting the best possible conditions in place for a professional finish. Allow the piece to dry in a warm room with low humidity, and with proper air flow.
My free PDF called the 10 Step Guide to Wood Finishing explains more about hand applied finishes. It is easy to follow, and makes an expert finisher out of anyone. Hand finishes have an advantage over spray finishes in that they are easier to work with as a beginner, and they do not require any fancy equipment.
For more on wood finishing, take a look at my other articles below:
- Finishing with Tru-Oil
- Finishing with Tru Oil Video Demonstration
- Tried and True Finishes
- Finishing with Danish Oil
- Finishing with Danish Oil Part Two (Arm-R-Seal)
Do you have any questions on hand applied finishes? Please leave a comment and I will answer them. Happy Building.
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