Designs For Small Living Rooms
Applying varnish, glaze and stain
The natural colour of wood can be enhanced with an application of wax polish. If a bit more colour is required, you could try staining or glazing the wood. This rather battle-scarred bench has come up beautifully after being stained a rich chestnut colour. The intensity of the wall colour helps strengthen the wood’s tones.
Varnishes fall into different categories, depending on the solvent with which they can be diluted. These are oil-based polyurethane (diluted with turpentine), water-based acrylic (diluted with water) and alcohol-based (diluted with methylated spirits). Oil-based varnishes are available in matt, semi-matt or gloss finish, so choose carefully.
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If you are using varnish simply to give a painted surface a good protective finishing coat, there are many household varnishes to choose from. However, polyurethane varnish has a tendency to go yellow. On many finished surfaces this will not matter, but on a pale colourwashed wooden table, for example, it is important not to ruin the effect of the subtle paint colour with the wrong varnish. Oil-based varnishes can be tinted with universal stainers or artists oil paints.
Instead of oil-based varnish, you can use acrylic (water-based) varnish or those known as ‘decorative’ or ‘copal’ varnishes. These are more pleasant to work with, being quick-drying and having one quarter the toxicity of oil-based varnishes. PVA is also a useful varnish – white when liquid and clear once dry. It gives a good protective finish to most surfaces, particularly when using paper.
Shellac is a yellowish-brownish liquid which is not as tough as varnish but can be a useful sealant. French enamel varnish, made from bleached and chemically dyed shellac, looks much the same and can be dabbed on to bright brass to dull it down and give it an aged look. Originally brown, it comes ready-coloured in a wide range of shades and can be successfully diluted with methylated spirits. The liquid can stain and varnish wood in one application, but it dries very quickly so you have to work fast.