Some woodworkers love finishing, some tolerate it, some hate it, and some don’t do it at all. I’m in the “hate it” camp, which is a woodworking cliché if there ever was one, and though I like to think that I’m too much of an individual to ever have been part of a cliché, in this case it is accurate.
Now if were up to myself, I would have only two options for finishing: Boiled linseed oil along with a few coats of wax, or sending the unfinished piece to a professional and have them do it for me. Since I cannot afford the latter, and my wife would likely not care for the former (in many cases), I reluctantly attempt to finish projects on my own. In the case of this cabinet, I chose gel stain and Briwax. The results were mixed.
Firstly, before I completely finished the cabinet, I hammered in exactly nine more nails to the back panel. Cut nails allow for movement, we all know this, but when I shifted the cabinet the left board of the back panel popped, just a hair, but enough to throw up a red flag. To be honest, I was a bit cheap, for lack of a better word, when I nailed the back panels in. To fasten the back panels I used clout nails, which are made for that purpose, but to strengthen the installation, I switched to 1 1/2 inch finish nails, and they alleviated any worries. So once I was sure the cabinet was secure, I turned to finishing the rest of the piece.
I have used gel stain in the past, and I have mixed emotions concerning its usefulness. On the plus side it does not run, and it blotches far less than regular stain does. But it is difficult to control the color. I used two coats on the interior, and in an attempt to darken the exterior, I used an additional third coat. That coat did little to add any contrast, and though I may have done something wrong, I get the impression that gel stain will only darken to a certain point. Don’t misunderstand me, I like the color of the finish, but I don’t like the lesser level of control that gel stain offers. And at this point I am hesitant to use it on another large project.
On another note; I enjoyed using Briwax. Fellow woodworker and blogger Greg Merritt advised me that Briwax sets up quickly. He was absolutely correct, so when I applied it I did it in small sections, and let it set for just sixty seconds. It was my hope that the Briwax (antique mahogany color) would darken the cabinet; it did not, at least not measurably, but it did enhance the finish, and add a bit more richness to the overall appearance. For those of you who have never used Briwax, it is not like Minwax furniture wax, it is much thinner in consistency and behaves a bit more like shoe polish. The application, however, is basically the same: 0000 steel wool and a soft cloth to buff it out. I would consider using it as a finish on it’s own, but that is for another project.
When I returned home from work today I carried the cabinet in from the garage (it was just small enough for me to carry without help) and plunked it down in the corner of the living room where I had intended it to go all along. I began to place photos and knick-knacks on the cabinet when my wife entered the room, told me that she didn’t “like” it where I placed it, and proceeded to tell me to move it. I didn’t argue, I instead brought it into our bedroom (which was my plan ‘B’ as I knew that plan ‘A’ would likely need a back up). For at least the near future this is where it will stay.
I did not necessarily build this cabinet to hold books, though a few books will definitely be on there. More so, I built it to hold other items, among them historical documents and speeches. Three of my favorites: George Washington’s address to his troops-Dec 31st of 1776, Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address, and FDR’s ‘Infamy Speech’ I have printed out on parchment paper and I plan on framing those for display. I had considered making the frames myself, but instead I will purchase them. While I have nothing against making frames, it is not something I want to do at this time. But for all intents and purposes, this cabinet is now finished.