I love the look of REAL wood so when I built a house a couple of years ago I told my builder I wanted the wood trim and moldings in natural wood tones. He proceeded to inform me ("silly girl") that natural wood finishes required (1) "stain grade" wood which is more expensive than "paint grade" wood, and (2) hours and hours of working your butt off.
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Short on money and determined to get my wood crown moldings,I headed to the lumber store with little more than the above information. The sales lady showed me to the Minwax aisle, the only wood finishing products they carried. I picked up a can and started reading. After a little research on my own, I discovered that I could avoid that oily, stinky "stain" I had encountered 30 years before when my dad made me stain some wood. Yes, with Polyshades, there was only one product I would need and it didn't involve the oily stain.
Polyshades is a fantastic product for finishing wood. I've used many of the shades, and even used the clear poly over the polyshades to get a really deep, glossy finish without intensifying the color.
For those of you who have never finsihed any wood, yes, it is alot of painstaking work. You have to start with really good wood, as good as you can afford. But it doesn't have to oak, mahagony, fir, etc. It can be plain old white pine, as long as it's stain quality wood. The Polyshades will give you the look of whatever kind of wood you want. I used alot of "Classic Oak" on my white pine and it turned out beautifully. Anyway, the first step is to sand the wood smooth. The smoother the better. Using a tack cloth, wipe the wood down to remove all sand dust and any other dust or particles. Then, with a high quality brush made for urethanes or varnishes, brush on a light coat of the polyshade. It's very important that you apply only a light coat because one of the worst things that can happen in this process is to get a "run" where the polyshades has been applied to thickly. Even if you have your wood laying flat and the stain won't run, too thick will keep it from drying completely.
You'll read words like "keep a wet edge". That means you must keep going in the same direction over the raw wood quick enough so that you leave a spot long enough for the polyshade to dry. Then when you come back to it, instead of staining on dry wood, you're staining over the drying polyshade and you get 2 coats at once. This causes a gooey mess that isn't the same shade as it's surroundings. Don't fear any of these things in any event, because you have to let it all dry completely (4 hours or more) and then sand over again. It will all become clear to you as you go. If you've never done any painting, just get a plain piece of raw wood and practice. It won't take more than a couple of coats to figure out what you're doing.
At the paint department I also ran across a sandpaper labled "Between coats", a 400 grit paper that you use to sand between coats of polyshades that makes the wood feel as smooth as any piece of good wood furniture.
After your second coat, it's up to you to decide if your shade is deep enough. If not, continue the process adding coats of polyshades until the color is right. When it is the color you want, you can continue adding coats of clear polyurethane until you get the piece as beautiful and durable as you want it.
For my crown mouldings, I stopped after 3 coats. For the door and window trim, which would get alot more wear, I continued with 3-4 more coats of clear polyurethane. Now, I can wipe up even my husband's greasy fingerprints from the wood trim. It's tough as nails! And after 2 years, all my wood still looks fantastic, maybe better than new.
This project was alot easier than some I've tried from those DIY shows on TV. Yes, it's time consuming, waiting for coats to dry, sanding, etc. It's like many other things in life. You have to ask yourself "how bad do I want it?" But for anyone who loves the look of real wood in a house, the effort is well worth the rewards. Anyone who's ever hired a painter just to pain sheetrock walls knows how expensive it is. I don't want to even try to estimate what it would have cost to have someone come in and finish all my wood. No wonder my builder called me a "silly girl" when I suggested it.
But this is one project anyone who really wants to can do. It doesn't require any unusual strength or talent. Just the desire to have beautiful wood and the patience to make it happen.
The product itself isn't very expensive. A quart costs about $10.00, and believe me, it goes a long way. And even though the process is very time consuming, it's also very relaxing. You can almost be assured that you'll be left alone. (No one will want to help!) And I used the time to plan other activities or even to meditate.
Best of all, when people come into my living room, almost everyone comments on the beautiful woodwork. And when they ask who I hired to do it, well, that's my cue to say "I did it myself". They're very impressed, and I'm very proud of my handiwork.
All in all, a very pleasing and rewarding experience! Thanks Minwax!
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