Good to see you! I’ve had a busy but enjoyable week, including a couple of days in High Wycombe working at the Axminster Tools Store there. Monday was staff training (so they’re all experts there now!) and on Tuesday I was demoing to their Woodturning Club. That was a lot of fun, especially the informal afternoon session. If you’ve signed up as a result of that day, welcome.

One of the things I ran through during the demo was about how some products (sealers, waxes etc) come in different versions, and outlining the benefits of each one. So I thought I’d run through it in a Newsletter, in a slight break from the normal format.

Sanding Sealers: Shellac, Acrylic, Cellulose.
Cellulose is still the most popular because it’s quick drying, easy to use, and pretty much universal. Any of our products that benefit from the use of a sealer (which is all of them except the oils) can be applied over the Cellulose Sanding Sealer. There are few drawbacks to this sealer, but the quick drying time can be a problem when working on a larger item, so that might be the time to consider using one of the others which give more time to work with them.
Shellac Sanding Sealer is a more traditional sealer, based on shellac and meths; it’s slower drying at about twenty minutes so it’s better for large areas – doors, skirting, architectural work. It’s still popular on turned items as well. Shellac Sanding Sealer is more limited in what can be applied over it, only waxes, French Polish and Friction Polish – no lacquers, so the finish won’t be quite as hardwearing.
Acrylic Sanding Sealer is water based, so it doesn’t have the smell or flammability associated with the other two. None of our sealers affect the colour of the wood very much, but if you want the clearest sealer possible this is the one for you. The brushing version is dry in about 20 minutes and can be overcoated with wax or Friction Polish or  the non-aerosol Acrylic Lacquer over.  It’s probably the most awkward of the three to apply and takes a little getting used to, but it’s worth the effort and the results can be exceptional.
The aerosol version is dry in about ten minutes, is easier to apply and, as well as wax and Friction Polish, it can also be overcoated with the acrylic aerosol lacquers (which includes the Ebonisnig Lacquer).

Waxes: WoodWax 22, Microcrystalline Wax
Visually there’s nothing to choose between these two after application. The difference comes in drying time and durability. WoodWax 22 is very quick drying and can be buffed up in a matter of minutes. It can be used straight onto bare wood but is best over a sealer. It is made from natural waxes – beeswax and carnauba wax (in a solvent base). The beeswax gives the shine and the carnauba makes it harder wearing, but it still prone to water marking if it gets wet and fingermarking if handled a lot.
For a tougher finish use Microcrystalline Wax. With a higher melting point it withstands handling, and the density of the coating makes it highly water resistant. The trade off is that it is slower drying (about 15 minutes) and requires a sealer underneath it. It is also more expensive than the WoodWax 22. Use very sparingly for the best results.
Our Microcrystalline Wax has also been tested for food safety and is also available in stick form. This avoids any need to wait for it to dry. Also available is the Woodturners’ Stick Wax which is similar in composition to WoodWax 22, and of course we also supply a Carnauba Wax Stick.

Oils: Tung Oil, Finishing Oil, Hard Wax Oil, Lemon Oil.
All of the oils in our range have slightly different characteristics. The most ‘basic’ of them is the Tung Oil. If you want a very hard wearing finish that doesn’t involve the use of solvents and driers then this is the one for you – as long as you don’t also mind waiting around for it to dry. Depending on the thickness of coating and the ambient temperature this can be several days, sometimes even longer.
Finishing Oil contains Tung Oil, so it is still pretty tough, but it also has a solvent and driers in it, speeding the drying time up to about eight hours. It still has a subtle amber tone, and several coats will build to a high gloss finish. Finishing Oil also has a UV filter to slow down the damage that sunlight can cause.
Hard Wax Oil is virtually clear, very hard wearing and quicker drying, coming in at about four hours. It’s also a thicker liquid (thin the first coat with white spirit if you want) and builds to a brighter finish, if required, much quicker. 2-3 coats will be sufficient with this one.
Lemon Oil on the other hand is a very thin oil, not designed to give a thick film on the surface or build to a gloss regardless of how much is applied. It will protect the timber and help keep it dust and fingermark free, without overpowering – but still enhancing – the natural beauty of the wood. It has a pleasant lemon aroma, which for some reason came as a surprise to one, anonymous, reviewer on the Axminster website…

Aerosol or Brush/Cloth?
This is very much a matter of personal choice, although there are some factors to consider. I personally wouldn’t use an aerosol on a large area (dining table etc); it’s not only an expensive way of doing it but getting a good finish on such a large area is going to be difficult.
But on smaller pieces it’s hard to beat the finish you get from spraying. Spraying is especially good when working on stained and painted items as the lack of mechanical contact (i.e dragging a brush across) means that the colours stay where you put them. Spraying is also great for those awkward, intricate and delicate items that are otherwise impossible to finish.
And if I’m using Melamine Lacquer to finish a pen I build up a couple of coats of the brushing version, cutting back between coats, then apply a final coat by spray to get the depth and the best finish.

Have I covered your choice dilemma? Is there something else you’d like me to cover? Just let me know. I don’t send this email from a ‘no-reply’ mailbox! If you hit ‘reply’ it comes straight to me.
I haven’t mentioned our Woodturning Weekender recently and I know (because I get the statistics!) that we’ve had a lot of new Chestnuteers (Newsletter subscribers to the uninitiated) over the last month or so. If you want to come and join us for a friendly weekend of woodturning and socialising please do click on the link to find out more. This is very likely to sell out and be a ticket only event, so don’t dilly dally if you want to come!

I’ll be back next week