Highland Woodworking Wood News Online: When Things Get a Little Fuzzy by Alan Noel
Highland Woodworking Wood News Online When Things Get a Little Fuzzy by Alan Noel

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When Things Get a Little Fuzzy

by Alan Noel

Pottery Barn Dresser with Satin Finish It seems that for quite a few years satin finishes have been all the rage when it comes to new furniture and cabinetry. Around the early 80s satin finishes came into vogue because many furniture manufacturers started to export their operations overseas to save on manufacturing costs. Along with cheaper labor came cheaper products made with inferior materials that needed to be finished in such a way as to appeal to our market here in the the States. "Wood and wood products" and "solid wood and wood veneers" are the catch phrases we have become accustomed to when shopping for new furniture or cabinetry that is finished with a satin or "antique" finish.

The additives used to create a satin finish are usually finely ground sand or glass which are designed to "float" to the top of the finish and simulate the satin look. These very additives also weaken the overall durability of the finish along with the various pigmented glazes used in the finishing process. Often, these finishes are very thick and tend to have a hazy or cloudy look which is intended to simulate natural aging and wear that appears on period antiques and objects of art, while at the same time hiding the fact that the materials used are in fact inferior and the appearance would suffer greatly if finished with a clear gloss finish. However, there are ways to simulate age and wear without sacrificing, to a certain degree, clarity and overall film strength when applying a satin finish.

  1. After preparing the suface to be finished, apply the desired stain and let dry.
  2. Start by applying a coat of gloss finish and continue with additional gloss coats to achieve the build you are after.
  3. Making sure to allow each succesive coat to dry thoroughly, sand between each coat to remove dust and trash trapped in the finish.
  4. Be sure to clean the finish with a tack cloth after sanding.
  5. Use a satin topcoat for the very last coat of finish. This way, the finish will have far more clarity but will still have a satin look for that aged and worn appearance.
  6. Another and even more attractive way to achieve a satin look is to rub a gloss finish with #0000 steel wool and wax, dulling the gloss finish gradually while applying a coat of wax at the same time.
  7. Practicing on scrap is always a good way to hone a new technique before applying it to a project.

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