Sometimes, with the heat lightning-esque spider webs of lines they create, it can add a pleasing “aged” effect to furniture, making things look a little more vintage. Often, though, I think people just tell themselves this so that they feel a little better about watching their furniture show visible signs of growing closer to an expiration date.
What might change a lot of people’s minds about finish cracks being “cool” is if they knew how easy it was to get rid of them. There is a process called reamalgamation (which is a mouthful, I know), by which you can (usually) take care of finish cracks and discolorations as they appear, saving not only your finish but the wood it protects as well!
Here’s how it works:
Using a solvent, you’re going to break down the finish into a liquid state, and let it dry and harden again… you’re essentially reapplying the same finish material. The type of solvent that you use will depend on the type of finish you’re working with (ethanol for shellac, lacquer thinner for lacquer). Remember how I said you can “usually” take care of finish cracks? Well, varnish can’t be reworked. Sorry.
Before breaking out any solvents, clean the finished furniture thoroughly, with a rag and some mineral spirits, so that no dirt or grime gets mixed in with your soon to be fresh (again) finish. Get yourself a brand new, never-been-used-before brush (natural bristles won’t deteriorate in the solvents), and go to work.
Time’s a wastin!
Reamalgamation is a process that, once begun, has to be finished quickly, so keep cool, but don’t slow down. Apply a healthy amount of solvent with your brush to the crack, in long, quick strokes that run with the wood grains. Don’t worry if the cracks don’t disappear right away; they’ll do so as the finish dries. Apply enough solvent to cut down to the wood, but not into the wood. This may take a few dips of the brush, which is why speed is important.
After the finish has hardened, put a little elbow grease into the mixture by waxing the furniture. Buff it out like the karate kid, and bam!…you’re in business.
Your Woodworking Expert,