Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 180, August 2020 Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
 
Finishing: Synthetic vs. Natural Finishing Brushes
By Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher

When I first started out in wood finishing, the only finishes I was familiar with were latex paint, shellac and varnish. I had no spray equipment and had never experienced spray finishing. I had to do everything by hand and that meant getting used to different types of brushes of which I had no experience using except for the "mop".

I was taught to use "the mop" in college for "mopping" shellac onto old frames that I had painstakingly removed all of the plaster to make the frames, mostly pine, look antique. The mop was a natural round brush with a taper that I would dip in the shellac jar, swirl it around a bit then brush like mad to get the frame completely covered with shellac, then on to the next one.

After one coat I would go have a smoke, (yeah I know it was bad) to let the frames dry then onto another coat. Surprisingly, the shellac laid out very well and the frames looked great. Shellac just has that "look" about it that can't be duplicated.

I would find used brushes and the occasional new one at yard sales and flea markets. Most were natural bristle, but I would come across the occasional synthetic brush which didn't seem to do very well when I was brushing varnish, however, I found them well-suited for latex paints. Natural bristle brushes, on the other hand, held much more material so varnish would flow much better and there were less bubbles. One learns to hate bubbles.

It didn't take long to understand that synthetic brushes were best for water-based materials and natural bristle brushes were best for oil paints, varnishes and shellac.

And good news, I quit smoking about 30 years ago.

Click here to visit the Highland Woodworking Finishing Department


Alan can be reached directly via email c/o Alan Noel Furniture Refinishing at alannoel@comcast.net.

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