Wood Finish

What do you look for in a wood finish? Many woodworkers look for a finish that is easy to apply, foolproof in operation and exceptionally durable. Recently I had a look at the old and proven Sealacell process; it’s all of the above and more.

The Sealacell process involves a three step operation. The first liquid is Sealacell #1, a penetrating wood sealer. After the sealer has dried for 24 hours, an application of Varnowax #2, a wax blend, helps bring out the color of the wood. A final finish coat of Royal Finish #3 leaves a satin-smooth surface which is resistant to water and alcohol.

I tried the Mini-1-2-3 Finishing Kit, which contains a pint of Sealacell, half pints of Varnowax, and Royal Finish, sandpaper, steel wool, wiping clothes and a drop cloth. The Sealacell products are also available separately, in quantities from half pints to gallons.

The Test

The first step in wood finishing is proper preparation of the wood itself. Sealacell penetrates into the wood and does not sit on top of the grain, so you need a very smooth wood surface to start. A thorough sanding down to 220 grit paper leaves a smooth surface without filling the pores of the wood with dust. A wipe with a tack cloth leaves the wood ready for the finish. I liberally applied the Sealacell to a walnut and tile table. General Finishes recommends using a circular motion with a soft cloth to ensure even coverage. I then wiped the excess sealer off with the grain, using a clean cloth.

After letting the table stand for 24 hours, I applied a thin coat of Varnowax. General Finishes suggests using a nylon cloth to apply a thin, smooth layer. Again, any excess wax is removed with a clean cloth, wiping with the grain.

Twelve hours later I quickly buffed the table with 0000 steel wool, then applied a coat of Royal Finish in the same manner as the Varnowax. Each liquid want on smoothly without bubbles, sags or blotches. By avoiding brushes and sprays, very little actual time was spent applying the finish; most of the time involved waiting for each coat to dry. Also, none of the coats was ever tacky. This means that dust does not stick to the surface. Even in a dusty environment the finish sheds dust.

The Results

The Sealacell process produces a lustrous finish with minimal fuss and bother. The final surface lets all the grain, color and character of the wood show through, yet provides the protection of a layer of polyurethane.

The Sealacell process has other advantages. The result will not chip, crack, craze or yellow as some finishes can. The satin-like finish and penetrating nature of the process avoids the plastic look of a thick layer of urethane. And the process itself is forgiving. If you make a mistake, it is easy to back up and try again. You can touch up or patch the finish at any time, undetectably. This feature alone makes the Sealacell process a valuable one.

The finish resists staining and spotting with water, alcohol and lemon juice. This means Sealacell makes a fine finish for residential kitchen cabinets. A friend of mine has been using Sealacell for this purpose for several yes, and he says that he has found it to be at least as durable as polyurethane finishes, but much easier to use, as easy as Watco, and absolutely foolproof for amateur use. He also noted that he can’t stand the commercial painters who give the kitchen cabinets a quick spray after painting the outside of the house. I prefer to give customers the chance to do it right, and with Sealacell he can’t miss. It avoids the hassle of brushes and sprays, and the outright amateur can do exceptional work with it.

The process also allows the option of staining. General Finishes offers premixed stains using the Sealacell #1 as a base, in walnut, golden oak and pecan. Or you can add your own ground-in-oil pigments or oil based stain to blend your own colors.

There are several precautions you should remember when using Sealacell, or any other finish, for that matter. The fumes from the finish are not good for you, so be sure to provide adequate ventilation while you work. Be careful, too, to finish both sides of any solid wood project. The finish forms a moisture seal which greatly reduces the exchange of moisture with the air. An unfinished underside can lead to warpage. And yes, the liquids will jell if left in contact with the air. Putting clean marbles in the can to raise the liquid level, as General Finishes suggests on its product labels, is one way to prevent jelling. Or you can gently squeeze the can to drive out the air. Keep the top on the finish can and work from a jar or empty can.

None of these precautions is unique to using Selacell, however; they are shared by all finishes. About the only specific problem woodworkers seem to have with Sealacell is finding it. You may want to check out eBay or Amazon if you face this problem.

The Sealacell process avoids brushes, sprays, blotchy spots, dust, water spots and repair marks. It protects the wood while revealing and accenting the grain and color of the wood. It is simple and foolproof in application and touch-up. What more do you want in a finish?

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