09-25-2010 07:19 AM
I was given a partial can of Circa 1850 - Paste Varnish the other day and have never used this product. I am currently refinishing some dinning room chairs and am considering using this product.
I ran a little test last night on a couple of pieces of wood, it seems that there is very little build using this product and system. I am not a fan of "slop it on till it looks like a bar top" but I do need some degree of build for protection.
The chairs have been stripped, redowelled, assembled and stained (Old Masters Gel).
Does anyone have any experience with this product/process?
Would you use a coat of shellac first?
09-25-2010 02:34 PM
“Circa 1850 – Paste Varnish” is nothing but gel polyoneverythane. “Circa 1850” might justifiably be compared to manufacturing a silk purse from a sows ear given that the year 1850 was roughly 100 years ahead of the introduction of poly.
In general gel varnish (at least in my view) should be avoided. It is formulated to remain on the surface; it does not penetrate nearly as well as traditional liquid varnish and, by virtue of the fact that it is poly the penetration is even poorer than an alkyd or phenolic resin varnish. As such it is prone to “bruising” when subjected to sharp impact (a white, cloudy blemish that can only be repaired by stripping). You may want to consider a shop made wiping varnish, or even a shop made oil/varnish blend. Nothing in that can will resemble a finish applied in the 1850’s…
09-25-2010 02:37 PM
I'll let Steve chime in here as I know he's had a brief discussion with a major manufacturer when they wanted him to carry gel varnish in his stores. It's his story, so I'll let him tell it.
09-25-2010 05:39 PM - edited 09-25-2010 05:53 PM
…but I still remember it as one of those moments that cemented my skepticism about anything having to do with the marketing of finishes. I had just joined Paxton after closing my shop. My primary responsibility was to determine which non-lumber and non-plywood products we would carry. I had set up a finish “sale table” near the counter and had stocked it with all things Minwax as well as our inventory of “salad bowl finish” and other deceptively labeled products. We were in the process of moving all of the gel varnish to the table when the owner of a generally fine finish company (who also doubled in sales at the time) came into the store. At the time I had no idea who the man was. When he saw his gel varnish product on the table he asked why we were putting it on sale. I told him that “gel varnish was the answer to a question that no one had ever asked.” I then went on to tell him pretty much what I have already said to Paladin: “…it remains on the surface; the initial coat does not penetrate. This leads to a condition of ‘bruising’ resulting in the need to completely strip and reapply the finish.”
At that point he introduced himself and informed me that the only reason I would have the problem I described would be that I “wasn’t applying it right”. OK! I’m always willing to learn; “how should gel varnish be applied?” Here, as closely as I can recall, is his response.
“To get good penetration you have to liquefy the gel. This is done by aggressively stirring the gel until it becomes a liquid. Then, wipe it on.”
Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. I am to stir the gel until it liquefies; then, I am to wipe it on. Right?!
Why would I go to all that effort? Why wouldn’t I just buy a can of your wipe on poly, which was never gelled in the first place? And, why isn’t what you have told me to do in the instructions printed on the can?
The gel varnish went to the sale table and it never returned to Paxton’s shelves in Cincinnati. Neither has it ever appeared on our shelves, nor will it. Gelling stain is a great idea (when used in an appropriate application). Gelling varnish is never a good idea…it’s an answer to a question that on one has ever asked. It’s done because it can be done (not because it should be) and because it presents a marketing opportunity playing off of the legitimate success of gel stain. Stain and varnish are different products with different purposes, different properties and different requirements. What works with one only works with the other in the fertile minds of the marketing department…