Friday, June 15, 2012

Finishing School, Or, I Heart My Personal Protective Equipment

I've embarked on the second stage of finishing my no-longer-brand-new Jensen spinning wheel.  When I first got it, I sanded everything, then applied a coat of pure tung oil diluted with orange solvent (both from Real Milk Paint Co, which seems to be only place that sells uncut tung oil.) 
Today, about 6 months later, I decided it was finally time to go to the next round, which involves a brisk rubdown with 000 steel wool before applying another coat of oil.  Let me tell you some stuff I have learned in this process.  I hope this information will be helpful to you, dear reader, if you ever decide to embark on oil-finishing your own spinning wheel.
  • Orange oil solvent, although naturally derived and "generally recognized as safe", is not exactly non-toxic.  The fumes smell wonderful, but they will totally give you a headache.  Use in a well-ventilated area.  Discard rags outside.  (As a side note, this stuff works great for getting that polymerized cooking grease off of your tea kettle and stovetop...but I digress.) Honestly, I think it might have been just as good to buy the hardware-store tung oil, which is cut with mineral spirits; I diluted the tung oil anyway, and I'm not sure I gained anything by going the granola route with the orange solvent, since it is flammable and has toxic vapors, just like the petroleum-based version. 
  • Tung oil is a hardening oil.  This means that if you leave it on the brush, it will harden the brush.  In case you can't tell, I need a new brush.
  • Sanding generates dust.  Sanding with steel wool generates EXCITING steel wool dust!  The steel wool package says to use gloves and protective eyewear.  Uh, what about my lungs, dude?  I strongly recommend a dust mask or respirator.  A decent respirator is not too expensive and, bonus, you can use it for mixing dye powders later on.  Seriously, the steel wool dust really freaked me out.  I vacuumed my hands, my clothes, and the surrounding area before taking the respirator off.  (And needless to say, I did this outdoors.)  In hindsight, it would have been good to wear an apron.  (Oh, and in case it's not obvious, you should also wear a dust mask when sanding with regular sandpaper.  It's not fun to inhale tiny bits of wood, even if it is lovely solid cherry wood crafted by a master artisan.)
  • Dude, there is a LOT of surface area on a spinning wheel, especially when you include the lazy kate, bobbins, whorls, and distaff.  My general method was to take all the removable parts off of the wheel (flyer, tension screw and block, treadles, footmen), and then to work through sanding all those loose bits in one sitting.  Then in a second sitting, I will sand the wheel.  Then in a third sitting, apply a coat of oil to the parts, then yet another sitting to apply a coat of oil to the wheel.  There are a lot of sittings. 
  • The steel-wool rubdown, though tedious and slightly scary, is really quite gratifying.  It smooths out raised wood-grain and knocks away any bits of dust that settled in the first coat of finish.  Wood that was looking sort of dried-out and neglected after my six months, now looks satiny-smooth and delightful!  Can't wait to get the oil on.
Sorry about the text-heavy post!  I promise pictures next time.

1 comment:

  1. This is a handy post for me. I haven't done a steel wool scrub and additional oil coat on my kick spindle, but I probably will at some point. I'll neglect it for a while first :-)