Saturday, January 19, 2008

Limbert Umbrella Stand part 3, finish line in sight

It's time to finish this Umbrella stand. Now, I've been finishing arts and crafts style furniture for some time, and when I Started it was as simple as it gets, much like every woodworker in the beginning, stain and Poly. As I learned more about the style and wood finishing the technique progressed. I progressed to a danish oil and thought that I was saving time and effort only to find that the finished product was less than satisfactory. Then I came across several articles on creating an arts and crafts finish, these included everything from ammonia fuming to using roofing tar as part of the finish. What I landed on as my go to finish is a multipart process of a water based dye, a sealing coat of shellac, a dark gel stain, a few coats of thicker shellac, with a layer or two of wax to give the piece that antique feel.


I finish sanded to umbrella stand to 150 grit using a random orbit sander followed by hand block sanding. After blowing off the piece with compressed air I use a microfiber tack cloth to further clean the sanding dust from the grain. I have samples of quartersawn white oak that I have sanded and finished with different base colors and using these I decided that I wanted this umbrella stand to have a darker base than my chair and sofa, so I start with a medium brown dye diluted in water. Using a foam brush I flood the surface of the piece with the dye and let it soak in for ten minutes. If I see any areas that are under saturated I add some dye to these areas. After about 10 minutes I use a clean dry rag to wipe off excess dye and to dry the surface. I place the piece on supports to hold it off the table so that air can get to all sides of the stand. I found out the hard way that if you don't do this than the excess dye pools up on the tarp and wicks up from the bottom and discolors the base of the piece. I leave it to dry for a few days.

Once the piece has completely dried you need to lightly sand off any grain that has been raised by the water based dye. You could mix the dye in denatured alcohol to prevent grain raising but it has been shown that alcohol based dyes tend to fade over time. I use 220 grit sandpaper on a sanding block to eliminate any grain that has been raised making sure not to cut to deeply into the dye and not to lighten the edges too much. Once this is done I again use compressed air and a microfiber tack cloth to clean the piece.





I make a nice tight pad out of lint free t-shirt material and wipe on a sealing coat of shellac, this has been thinned to a 1lb. cut. (more on shellac cuts and the whole finishing technique in a future post) After this dries I give it a light rubbing with a 320 grit yellow sanding pad followed by wiping down with the microfiber tack cloth.








Now its time to add the real color, the base color will only be really visible on the ray flakes. I use brown mahogany gel stain, this stain will act as a coloring glaze for the main body and darker coloring into the grain. I use a foam brush to cover the surface with the gel stain, I only do one part at a time because there is a fine line between just right and too dry, if the gel stain gets too dry it will be very difficult to wipe off. When the surface of the gel starts to "flash", that is, starts to look dull, I use another clean soft lint free rag to wipe the gel off and rub it into the grain. This is what gives the finish the "hand rubbed" look, I rub with the grain to remove most of the stain, then across and in circles to rub it into the grain. I make sure that there are no blotches left, the gel stain if left to long resembles paint. After rubbing the surface until the cloth doesn't pick up any color I leave the piece to air and dry overnight.







The left side rubbed out, the right side just the base dye.









After rubbing out the gel stain.







The following day I wipe off any dust that fell on the stand overnight. Taking a 2lb cut of amber shellac I rub on two layers. One of the beauties of shellac is that you don't have to rub out the surface between coats, the denatured alcohol in the mixture melts the surface of the previous layer. Another nice thing is that if for some reason you do get a run or drip, you can take a cloth soaked in denatured alcohol and dissolve it. Once everything is dry and I'm happy with the build of the shellac and the finish, I wipe on a coat of watco dark liquid wax. I use dark wax because of the grainy nature of the white oak, if I had used light wax, once dry it would leave white residue in the grain that would detract from the beauty of the finish. Letting the wax sit for 30 minutes I then wipe the piece with a clean cloth and wipe on another coat of wax let stand, and wipe the surface clean for the final time.

After placing felt pads on the bottom to protect my hardwood floor the Limbert #254 umbrella stand is ready to replace that old umbrella stand that I never really was happy with. Now I am one piece closer to filling my house with handmade high quality furniture.




"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." William Morris

7 comments:

Steve W. Carter said...

This is a beautiful project! I enjoyed "watching" you build and finish it. Someday I hope I can build one for myself. Where did you get the Watco Wax? I've tried to find it but haven't had any luck.

Brad Ferguson said...

Steve,
I get the Watcho liquid wax at my local Woodcraft, anywoodworking store will carry it, though I haven't seen it at Lowes or HD, you could also use briwax which is more available but i think harder to apply.

Steve W. Carter said...

Brad;

Thanks for the info! Unfortunately I live in the middle of nowhere which means there isn't a woodworking store within 150 miles. I've used briwax and agree it's not easy to apply. I'll check with Woodcraft to see if they can do a mail order for me.

Steve W. Carter said...

Brad;

Today I learned a valuable lesson -- random orbit sanders when used improperly will leave marks that don't show up until you start to finish a piece. Fortunately I was only working on a small cheese board trying to perfect your finishing formula. They dye went on exactly as I had anticipated. But when I started adding the shellac the not-so-random circles from the sander started to show up. Now it's time to step back and remove them and start over.

Considering that I've already demonstrated my incompetence in using a random orbit sander, I considering using my scrapers to remove my mistakes. At least they should be easy enough to spot now.

However; I'm not sure what effect using the scraper will have. I know from previous mistakes that using extremely fine sandpaper reduces the porosity of the oak making staining less effective. Will using a scraper be a mistake? should I just go back and re-sand, this time taking care to do it properly?

T

Brad Ferguson said...

Steve,
a well sharpened and tuned scraper is great for QSWO, reffering to the swirls of death, hand block sand with 150 grit after random orbit sanding, White oak is very hard, and sanding is afterall making smaller and smaller scratches, so don't go to a higher grit, just put in some muscle time with a sanding block, or scrape if you are good at it.
Brad.

Steve W. Carter said...

Brad;
Things were going great until I applied my second coat of 2lb shellac and I ended up with a small run. I followed your instructions and used a cloth soaked in denatured alcohol to dissolve it. This removed the removed the run as it should have. Unfortunately it has resulted in the area being considerably lighter than the rest of the piece. What should I do next? Will additional coats of 2lb shellac even out the color? Or do I need to do something else?

Brad Ferguson said...

Steve,
I'm sorry to hear that, not seeing the lighter area I have to make a few assumptions. I'm going to assume that what happened is that you rubbed it too hard and removed some of the stain. Did the rag get a brown stain on it? If this is the case you could carefully apply a little of the gel stain to the area with a cloth and blend it in. I've never had a problem with denatured alcohol taking the stain off thought.
If you just removed an area of shellac then a few coats of shellac should blend it in.
Good Luck, its the things that go wrong that really teach us something.