I know I’m not alone in my fear of finish.
No, I don’t mean fear of completing, but of messing up a perfectly good piece of work by massacring the whole thing with choice and application of stain and finish.
So many of my projects would be in and out of my shop so much more quickly if I just had to deal with design, build and sanding. Which is unfortunate since I love how a piece really takes on a new life once finish is applied. Take my current nemesis for example:
I’ve been working on the same Murphy Bed for the last… ok, this is going to hurt… year, maybe? Even if I wasn’t limited to a few minutes here and there in the shop, easily 75 percent of my time has been wussing around with the finish. I had the whole thing (well, the whole phase 1 portion of the entire project – bookcases are phase 2) stained and then decided I didn’t like it. So I spent the next three or so months carefully sanding the entire thing back down to raw wood – a very stupid and time-wasting decision on my part. Not only is it a dumb idea to ever do so much sanding on veneered plywood, but with the color/style I settled on, I could have left the [very light] stain I had on there to begin with (but don’t tell that to my wife).
So now the stain has been applied. And what’s even better, I like it. And that brings us to the finish. Oh my, the finish. There are so many different types and applications of finish. Spray, wipe or brush? Waterborne, lacquer, shellack? Geesh.
I have come to really like Marc’s (TheWoodWhisperer.com) “go-to” finish of mixing my own 50/50 wipe-on finish. I can make as much or as little as I need for that project by mixing a 50:50 ratio of polyurethane and mineral spirits. And it works great! For small to medium sized pieces. This bed is no such animal. The front panels alone are 30″x81″ – and there are two of them! Other pieces are not as wide, but just as long and are a pain to get a clean, consistent finish applied by hand or brush.
So that leaves me with spray. Spray? Me? But I don’t have some big fancy shop or setup for spray. That’s only for professionals with expensive equipment and shop space. Right? Well, maybe. Maybe not. What the heck, I’ll give it a try.
So how can I do this without spending a lot of money? Well, let look at what is needed and compare that to what I already have in the shop.
Air source (compressor or turbine)
Water-based finish (not a necessity, but I don’t want to clean up after an oil-based finish)
Air source (compressor)
Water-based finish (not sure why I have a gallon water-based poly-acrylic hanging around, but I do!)
Well look at that. It may not all be pro-quality – ok, none of it is – but it will do for a garage workshop guy like me!
So a quick trip to my local Harbor Freight took care of the sprayer issue. $20 later and I have a sprayer that won’t make me lose sleep if I ruin or otherwise abuse. I also picked up a better quality mask since I will be dealing with airborne mist I won’t want in my lungs.
But wait. I can’t spray outside. Not with the unpredictable Texas wind and dust. If I spray inside the garage, I’ll get over-spray on, well, everything from the camping gear to my tools. No way I’m getting that stuff all over my tools!
Sweet! I finally have enough reason to get around to [another] project I’ve been wanting to do! Curtains!
Huh? Curtains? Yup! I don’t have a vacuum system in my shop to collect sawdust as I use my table saw, router, etc.. Which means I always know to leave time for cleanup after every session in the shop. Lest I get the stink-eye from my beautiful wife as she deals with layers of sawdust when she goes to put something away in the garage or get something out of the freezer.
Imagine curtains, made from heavy-duty plastic painters’ drop cloth (3mil plastic drop cloth + 3/8″ grommets + 1″ book rings) and metal wire, hanging floor to ceiling, framing an inner “room” like a weird scene from Dexter. With my curtains hanging, I can spray or make sawdust without worry of anything outside that wire perimeter and I’m still able to slide them to the sides and out of the way when necessary.
I’ve finished making the curtains and by the time the weekend comes, I’ll have finished hanging the wire and be ready to finish this ridiculous bed!
And then on to the NEXT project!