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MMD > Archives > April 1996 > 1996.04.20 > 02Prev  Next

Re: Finishes
By Craig Brougher

Michael Waters wants to know how to put on a hand-rubbed finish in lacquer.

If you are worried that it is going to be a lot of work, Michael, then I would definitely contract it done. The higher the shine, the more details in the wood you are able to see, but likewise with all the dents and dings it has picked up over the years. It is one thing to finish new work in high gloss, and entirely something else to do it to an antique. People who refinish tables and chairs have it easy. They don't know what work is. So why not get one of them to do it for you, and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you not only got the job vastly underbid to you, but you contributed substantially to their eternal education.

I have finished pianos for 30 years, and can tell you it doesn't seem to get any easier, although the catalyzed finishes make it easier in some ways, and are much harder than the lacquer you can buy anymore. In the 40's, the resins were very good. A good lacquer was a material that was high in solids content and low in viscosity. Advertising high solids content alone doesn't tell you anything. And some lacquers are too soft or elastic to rub down to a high sheen easily. You'll work your tail off. Others are far too hard. And in the catalyst-cured varieties, there is a very critical "window" of opportunity in which you are able to rub those down without wearing yourself out. Add just one more day in the timing, and you won't be able to do it.

A car polishing bonnet and buffer works well with the McGuire series of polishes, but that is long after you have finished sanding, flattening, and correcting. The piano finish far surpasses the typical automotive finish, by the way. Were you to shine an oblique light onto a car skin in critical fashion, you would see all kinds of imperfections. It is the fact that you are looking at a gently curved vertical surface that makes almost anything look good. And also a vertical surface reflects well but itself is not that critical. It's only when you get to the horizontal surfaces in which you don't see reflection, just surface, that the truth comes out.

Craig B.

(Message sent Sat 20 Apr 1996, 13:12:06 GMT, from time zone GMT.)

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