5. A "Deft" Finish
Applied on the Lathe

    [The following is from the original draft of an article that appeared in the fall, 1998 issue of American Woodturner.]

    This is a true low-to-no gloss finish that I use on nearly all of my turnings. It can be used either "as is," or as a base for a Tung-varnish-turpentine blend. Yes, they are all compatible, and everything is available at the local Home Depot, Eagle Hardware, etc. The finish can also be applied on the bench, but we will have to rub harder and faster.

Three Secrets To A Good Finish

The 1st Secret: There is no such thing as a "quick finish."
     This one is no exception. While the Deft lacquer is quickly applied, the surface sanding and preparation will take a considerable amount of time.

The 2nd Secret: The more we sand, the more we need to sand.
     As the surface becomes smoother, the smaller the scratches and blemishes that we can see.

The 3rd Secret: The entire surface must have the same preparation and finish.
    Once a sanding and finishing sequence has been established, all of the steps must be repeated whenever we go back to a coarser grit to make a surface repair. If any steps in the sequence are skipped, that area will stand out after the final finish is applied because its texture and absorbency are different.

     The following steps for finishing are described as being done with the work being mounted on the lathe. The same steps are followed for finishing the piece off the lathe; we will just have to rub faster to achieve the same results.

Step 1
     Thoroughly sand all surfaces using any combination of power and hand sanding. Don't skip any grits. I power sand with a 3" disc on outside and a 2" disc on inside curves using 80, 120, 180, 220, 280, and 320 grits, always cleaning and checking the surface before moving to the next finer grit. Then, with the lathe off, I hand sand with 320 grit to remove any remaining sanding scratches from the coarser grits.

Step 2
     Apply and leave a heavy coat of Watco Liquid Finishing Wax to accent and slightly raise the grain. It also accents any surface flaws.

Step 3
     Hand-sand with 400-grit wet/dry, with the lathe OFF, while the wax is still wet. Wipe the surface clean. Continue rubbing until any residual wax has dried. Running the lathe helps.

Step 4
     With the lathe at 500RPM; burnish the surface with a piece of grocery bag paper.

Step 5
     With the lathe OFF; apply a full sloppy coat of Deft® semi-gloss lacquer. I use a soft mop-brush (see Craft Supplies catalog) and sometimes a paper towel. Gloss could also be used, but I prefer the semi-gloss because its solids seem to act as a fine grain filler.

Step 6
     Wait about one (1) minute, rotating the lathe occasionally by hand. Then remove all of the Deft® with soft paper towels, changing as they become wet and sticky. If the surface starts to dry, dampen a towel with some thinner and continue rubbing.

Step 7
     With the lathe running at 500 RPM; burnish the surface with a clean paper towel. Generating a little heat helps melt and flow the lacquer onto the surface. The finish will now be dry.
     Then, with the lathe OFF, lightly buff the surface with a gray ScotchBrite® pad, fine Bronze Wool, or 0000-steel wool to remove any traces of dried lacquer and circular marks from the surface. I prefer to use Bronze Wool because it cuts better, leaves a smooth scratch-free finish, doesn't stain light colored woods, and is totally oil-free. If this will be the final finish, we can apply a second coat by repeating Steps 5 through 7. Just don't wait before wiping the surface in Step 6.
     For a bit more gloss, the surface can be polished with Rottenstone, applied with Lemon Oil or thinner Mineral Oil and a felt pad. Lemon Oil polish is lemon scented mineral oil. Clean and polish with a soft cloth (old T-shirts are perfect).

Step 8
     Apply 2 coats of a good quality paste finishing wax. I use Trewax® because it is durable, polishes easily, and fairly resistant to water spotting - all at a reasonable cost.

     The piece is finished. Remove it from the lathe and finish the bottom.


© 2002 - 2009 by Russ Fairfield. All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author.