Viewer Question

A Common Question

Dave H. had a question that I have often been asked by woodworkers and so I thought that I would share it and the answer with everyone.

Dave wanted to know where I do my finishing and if I do it in the shop, do I cover everything with plastic?

My Answer

Currrently, I do my finish work in the open shop. You can see the area where I have the rustic desk, that is where I stained it and that is where I will finish it.

Finish Area
I have a 12'x16' room in the shop that will be used as a finish room in the future, but that requires the construction of another building to clear out the room. I have some work supplies in the storage room and my wife has catering supplies and a fridge for extra food storage, so it will take more than just a regular little shed.

On To The Finish

I use a pre-catalyzed lacquer or catalyzed varnish for most all of my projects because they dry very rapidly. This means a couple of things for me. First, I do not need to cover the tools in the shop because the material that atomizes, dries in the air. It lands as dry fall instead of a mist that dries itself onto the tools. The overspray dust cleans up during the normal house cleaning with a shopvac and dust broom.

Second, the rapid dry time means that I do not require a hermetically sealed room to have a clear finish. The open time on these finishes is very short so that leads to less opportunity for contaminates like bugs or dust to pollute the finish.

Another great benefit of the solvent finishes is that they will dry even in the cool winter shop temperatures.

The Draw-Back

One of the issues with the solvent based finishes is the potential fire hazard or risk of explosion due to the vapors. This is something that I take into serious consideration.

I keep the shop heated at 52° when not in use and I turn it up to 60° or 62° when I am going to apply finish. After the shop reaches temperature I turn the power to the furnace off, I spray a coat of finish, and then I dump the air out of the shop by opening doors and windows on opposite sides of the room.

Dumping the air out takes only a couple of minutes even with just a slight breeze, which always seems to be present where I live. After the air is dumped out of the shop, I close it back up and turn the furnace on. The air temperature drops, but it recovers quickly because the surface temperature of everything in the shop is maintained. That is the thing to realize, I am just doing a quick air exchange, not entirely losing the heat from everything in the shop so it recovers in just a few minutes.

One thing I should mention about heating the shop is that I have a wood floor. That means I not only have increased comfort in comparison to concrete, but the shop is easier to keep warm. This has an overall effect on heating the shop and the surface temperatures of everything in it which affects dry times.

That is all I have for now.

Your friend in the shop - Todd A. Clippinger

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