Kevin MCMahon

Trouble with Arm R Seal

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Hi Everyone,

I'm new to this group and to woodworking. I'm in the process of finishing my first "real" furniture project. I'm using walnut to create a media cabinet. I bought the walnut from Owl Hardwood. I believe it's kiln dried.

The project was going great until the finishing phase. Here's what I've done: a light layer of boiled linseed oil (BLO), followed by dewaxed shellac (Seal Coat from Zinsser), then one layer of General Finishes Arm R Seal satin - light sanding, then another layer of Arm R Seal satin. This is where the problem came in. The second layer produced a horrible plastic appearance. I went from a nice clear, grain showing finish to something that looked like it came out of a plastic assembly mold. That's a little exaggerated but it took on a terrible gloss and genuinely looked like raised grain plastic.

I showed it to somebody at owl hardwood and they thought maybe the dewaxed shellac and arm r seal somehow interacted. Perhaps I sanded the first coat of arm r seal too much. Regardless, they suggested using steel wool to take off the gloss. This helped but I'm still left with the plastic look and lost the beautiful appearance of the wood. I tried sanding and refinishing but got the expected blotches of leftover finish the sanding hadn't reached.

I'm now thinking I need to strip it all off and start over but would welcome any other suggestions, as the dropping temp in Chicago has me worried about finishing. Can anyone suggest an alternate path back to grain showing, satin finish? If not, can you recommend a varnish / shellac stripper? What am I in for there? Will it take off the BLO? Will it harm the wood , or make the newly applied finish cloudy? Will I have to do both sides of the wood, as only the outside did this plastic thing. I hadn't put dewaxed shellac on the inside. Perhaps that was the problem?

Any help is greatly appreciated. I was so close to having a piece of furniture to be proud of and now I'm a little sick inside.

Thank you, in advance, for your help.

Kevin

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Did you make sure to stir the ARS really well before you applied it?  The difference between satin and gloss is that the satin ARS has flatteners that are in suspension in the material.  The flatteners settle to the bottom of the can and you have to make sure to stir it before you apply.  If you forgot to stir, or didn't stir enough, that would account for the glossiness.

Do you have any photos?

Also, sometimes the first couple coats of ARS can absorb into the wood unevenly because the wood is still so thirsty.  Light sanding and putting another coat on could even it out.

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You don't need to put BLO/shellac on before ARS as it can go onto bare wood - unless you are pore filling in which case just shellac would do. In fact GF recommend using Seal A Cell as a undercoat. It sounds as though you hadn't stirred the ARS properly. The white gunk at the bottom of the can is flattening agent and is necessary to create a flat or semi gloss finish to the final coat. Also I find putting 4 coats of ARS on a horizontal surface and 3 on other surfaces is best. Remember to wipe off excess a few minutes after applying to prevent it pooling and creating a plasticky look.

Don't strip it as you can just lightly sand 600 to 800 grit over it to flatten it down again and then reapply.

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Yeah I wouldn't strip it yet.  Try sanding with like 320 or 400 lightly to flatten it out like Terry suggested, then apply another coat of (well stirred) satin.  I would bet that fixes it (without seeing photos...)  If it doesn't work you can always strip it after.  But I wouldn't give up yet.

Also next time skip the BLO.  Just put the ARS directly down on the bare wood (or on a coat of shellac if you want it to build faster).  I can guarantee you wont be able to tell the difference.

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I have put ARS on top of shellac before, and not had any problems.  I found that initially I got the plasticy look when I put it on too thick, or as Terry suggested not wiping off the excess soon enough.  

While you can't wipe the excess shellac off (dries too fast) it too should be a very thin coat.

As far as what/if you put anything under ARS, it depends...do you need to; no.  But if you want to age cherry a bit, I have found BLO then in the sun then ARS darkens it more than ARS in the sun.  When I have used dyes and gel stain as a glaze I will use shellac in between as a sealer before ARS (for an Arts and Crafts look).   On walnut, I tend to agree that it isn't necessary, though depending on the piece garnet shellac can warm walnut more/differently than just strait ARS. 

I think the best solutions have already been mentioned...try sanding, and thin coats first.

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Hi Kevin, I am by no means an expert at finishing, but if there is one thing I learned it's to do test bords first. Not sure if you did this and had different results with the final piece, but whatever remedy you go with try that on test bords as well. Try to recreate your problem on a test board and then fix that first.

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Troubles or is the finish just doing its job????????

 

Here is the thing....first, Arm-R-Seal ("ARS") is an oil that has a high amount of solids. This builds a thick durable finish in the least amount of coats. If you apply ARS then wipe it back off, what have you just done? You removed the solids that you had paid for and wasted finish. 

If you want a close to the wood feel use General Finishes Seal-A-Cell. it's an oil that has far less solids. You need to match the finish to the project. Projects that require less protection such as a mantle or picture frames. Use an oil or water based product that has less protection (solids), most often they can be cheaper. Table tops counter tops, something that is handled or cleaned frequently, exposure to water,coffee, etc., needs the protection of more solids. Yes, more solids can gives you the "plastic" look. That's your woods suit of armor, hence the name Arm-R-Seal, Arm = Armor.  

Last, as the others suggested, did you keep the finish mixed? 

 

-Ace-

Edited by AceHoleInOne
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Wow! Thank you very much for the responses. It's a relief to think I might be able to recover from this. 

The dewaxed shellac was part of a finishing protocol I was following that I read about it in a few places. When input it on, it seemed to generate a little more clarity. Ironic, give my results now. 

As somebody suggested, I may also have put it on too thick. I will sand it down a bit and reapply thinner coats, perhaps using the wipe on method rather than the foam brushes.

in wiping on Arm r seal , are there any  pitfalls to be aware of, or general suggestions for the process such as temperature, amount on rag, etc.?

Thanks again for your help. It's a relief to not feel so in the dark.

Kevin

Good point about arm r seal. I have young kids and was looking for a decent amount of protection for this first real project. But, perhaps I'm getting what I asked for. Still, I've used it before with better results.

I forgot to mention in my last post that the lack of mixing also makes sense to me. I may have been rushing it a bit too much and forgot to mix frequently.

i will sand it back a bit, mix well and reapply on thinner coats.

Thank you vet much for all your help.

Kevin

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I apply with a white cotton T shirt folded into a pad shape. Dip the smooth folded over end in finish. Use long strokes when applying. Don't over work it. Get it on and work it a few strokes. Let it be, and it will flow out smooth. Keep a wet edge and try to work fast on large areas.  

-Ace-

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Troubles or is the finish just doing its job????????

 

Here is the thing....first, Arm-R-Seal ("ARS") is an oil that has a high amount of solids. This builds a thick durable finish in the least amount of coats. If you apply ARS then wipe it back off, what have you just done? You removed the solids that you had paid for and wasted finish. 

This does not fit with what I have heard about it.  Namely that it is a wiping varnish similar to what you would get if you mixed a full strength varnish with mineral spirits in a 1/1 ratio.  So it would not have a terribly high solid content.

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This does not fit with what I have heard about it.  Namely that it is a wiping varnish similar to what you would get if you mixed a full strength varnish with mineral spirits in a 1/1 ratio.  So it would not have a terribly high solid content.

Not sure who you heard that from? But I stand by what I posted :) If I was a finish maker and you wanted to apply my "high solid" product and wipe it off....good for me. I'll sell you more product. Not all oils are manufactured the same. But GF ARS is a quality drying oil. 

The example you offer of mixing ARS with MS would be most similar to the GF Seal-A-Cell product. Just not sure of the ratio.

-Ace-  

 

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Arm R Seal is thinned varnish.  I don't know the ratio but it is a little thinner than Minwax with, it seems, higher quality resins.     Seal a Cell is thinned Arm R Seal.   Salad Bowl Finish is thinned Seal a Cell.  

Edited by Guest

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Arm R Seal is thinned varnish.  I don't know the ratio but it is a little thinner than Minwax with, it seems, higher quality resins.     Seal a Cell is thinned Arm R Seal.   Salad Bowl Finish is thinned Seal a Cell.  

Really Mike you think so???

I haven't used either in years. ARS was always thicker than Minwax. I coated a lot of table tops with ARS.

 

-Ace-

 

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I agree that it makes no sense to wipe off excess ARS, nor is it best practice because you'll end up with friction streaking.  ARS is best laid down in thin coats without overworking the surface...wipe on in long, gentle, deliberate, overlapping strokes and move on.  You don't wanna drown the surface after the first coat.  You should build ARS slowly with thin coats...I hardly ever do more than four because it starts looking plasticky at that point.  If you want a thick film, just grab a can of straight poly and a paintbrush.  (Not recommended)

Also, I will repeat once more and I stand by my assertion that there is no oil "in" ARS.  It is not an oil/varnish blend like Danish oil.  It is pure varnish manufactured with oil and resins, then thinned.  Danish oil you can wipe off the excess because it has such a high oil content and it doesn't tack up quickly like ARS does.

You have enough advice here to address every possible cause of your problem, so I won't repeat them.  But I will echo the sentiment that the BLO and shellac under ARS is completely unnecessary.  I still don't understand why people feel the need to complicate finishing when it doesn't need to be complicated.  A blotchy wood can benefit from a seal coat of shellac, but the fact that you put down BLO first negates the shellac's usefulness in that case.  This subject has been beat to death and I'm tired and cranky because I hate my jointer, so I'll just stop here.

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Ace - yes I do think Arm R Seal has more thinner by volume than Minwax poly.  But I agree Arm R Seal is more durable/nicer in general.   I think the resins (solids) are higher quality.  It just means that you might need 3 coats of Arm R Seal to get the same amount of solids as 2 coats of full strength Minwax brush-on poly (they do make a wipe-on poly too).

Eric, yeah my head is still spinning from the last time we held chemistry class.  I agree that BLO and Shellac under Arm R Seal is generally  not necessary.  But the walnut they sell at Owl (where OP got his lumber and where I go sometimes) is treated with a lot of steam to blend the sapwood.   It is gray gray gray.   Shellac or BLO helps restore some of its color.    But you don't need both.  Personally I'd use BLO or mix my own dewaxed amber shellac (seal coat doesn't have enough color and zinser amber has wax).   

Edited by Guest

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I apply with a white cotton T shirt folded into a pad shape. Dip the smooth folded over end in finish. Use long strokes when applying. Don't over work it. Get it on and work it a few strokes. Let it be, and it will flow out smooth. Keep a wet edge and try to work fast on large areas.  

-Ace-

Thanks, Ace. I'll follow that method.

Also, Mike you're right about the gray walnut from a Owl. I felt like the BLO gave it some life. I also liked BLO better than just arm r seal alone. Just my preference after some tests.

As for the dewaxed shellac, I guess lesson learned there. I'm new to this work and was following a finish protocol I found online in a few places. More research in the future.

I'm a hobbiest and can't get back to this until the weekend. But, I'll try to post some pictures of the problem I'm having and tgen let you guys know how it works out with sanding, better stirring and thinner layers upon reapplication.

Thanks again for all your help.

Kevin

 

:)

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I'll concede that BLO adds a warmth and richness to cherry and walnut to which ARS falls just short, and I've said as much many times in the past.  I've done it.  But I would have gone straight to the ARS after the BLO was given due time to dry...a few days at least.  The shellac is an unnecessary step in this case, IMO.  Use shellac as a first coat on blotchy woods before an oil-based top-coat (if you don't want blotch...if you're trying to pop figure [blotch], shellac is not your friend), or as a sealer in between incompatible finishes...if you ever find yourself needing to use incompatible finishes.  Shellac is useful...but I think it's often used in superfluous ways.

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Definitely. If I had it to do over, I'd go BLO and then straight to ARS. I'll keep this in mind as I try out other projects. Or, who knows, I may find myself stripping this walnut and starting over. I sure hope not, though. First, the other intervening steps to try and bring it back.

Regardless, thanks Eric.

Kevin

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One non-superfluous way shellac can be used is as a final finish on its own. Properly blended shellac is quite durable, simple to /apply, and comes in a wide array of natural tones that can be used to enhance the color of the wood, without obscuring the grain. If that isn't enough, analine dye can be used to add tint to shellac, also. It dries quickly for re-coating, although several days should be allowed before heavy use. It can be polished to a glassy shine, or rubbed out to any lesser sheen. It won't kill your kids / pets if the gnaw on it (shellac is used as a shiny protective coating in many confections). Yes, it will re-dissolve if exposed to alcohol, and maybe acetone, but that same characteristic makes it very simple to repair or retouch. Just sayin', for a media cabinet, shellac alone is a perfectly acceptible option.

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I agree that it makes no sense to wipe off excess ARS, nor is it best practice because you'll end up with friction streaking.  ARS is best laid down in thin coats without overworking the surface...wipe on in long, gentle, deliberate, overlapping strokes and move on.  You don't wanna drown the surface after the first coat.  You should build ARS slowly with thin coats...I hardly ever do more than four because it starts looking plasticky at that point.  If you want a thick film, just grab a can of straight poly and a paintbrush.  (Not recommended)

Also, I will repeat once more and I stand by my assertion that there is no oil "in" ARS.  It is not an oil/varnish blend like Danish oil.  It is pure varnish manufactured with oil and resins, then thinned.  Danish oil you can wipe off the excess because it has such a high oil content and it doesn't tack up quickly like ARS does.

You have enough advice here to address every possible cause of your problem, so I won't repeat them.  But I will echo the sentiment that the BLO and shellac under ARS is completely unnecessary.  I still don't understand why people feel the need to complicate finishing when it doesn't need to be complicated.  A blotchy wood can benefit from a seal coat of shellac, but the fact that you put down BLO first negates the shellac's usefulness in that case.  This subject has been beat to death and I'm tired and cranky because I hate my jointer, so I'll just stop here.

Arm-R-Seal and Danish oil are different animals, as you mentioned. ARS is a urethane modified with oil (not a chemist but google what the heck that means) and no additional oils are added. ARS is a hard tough finish that sits on the wood to protect the wood. Danish oil is penetrating, meant to soak in and protect the wood from the inside, not as a film builder thus giving you the close to the wood feel.

Finishes are spoken and made out to be complicated. Finishes are formulated to do a specific job and really are a "one trick pony." When folks play chemist and mix a little of this with a little of that because of something they read on the internet.....you know how that story ends. :rolleyes:

-Ace- 

Edited by AceHoleInOne
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I've done BLO under Arm-r-seal and I've done shellac under it, but never both. The BLO I've done as a way to pore fill. Just wet sand the BLO with a fine grit wet dry paper and then wipe off the excess slurry. After the BLO has plenty of time to dry I sand lightly and apply arm-r-seal for a nice protective finish. In this instance the BLO (or Danish oil works the same for this purpose) isn't there for color but rather as a medium for the pore filling process. 

And I particularly like a thin coat of garnet shellac under Arm-r-seal on walnut. It warms up the wood nicely without obscuring the grain. And it seals the wood nicely so the arm-r-seal starts to build immediately and the piece overall requires fewer coats.

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Not sure who you heard that from? But I stand by what I posted :) If I was a finish maker and you wanted to apply my "high solid" product and wipe it off....good for me. I'll sell you more product. Not all oils are manufactured the same. But GF ARS is a quality drying oil. 

The example you offer of mixing ARS with MS would be most similar to the GF Seal-A-Cell product. Just not sure of the ratio.

-Ace-  

 

Look into The Woodwhiperer videos on basics of oil finishing.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCzblO0f8P8

Edited by ponderingturtle

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Look into The Woodwhiperer videos on basics of oil finishing.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCzblO0f8P8

Thanks for posting the link. Mark does a good job in the video. :)

However, Arm-R-Seal is an "oil." Oil is used in the process to modify the urethane. Arm-R-Seal is a "drying oil" that builds a film. If you want to apply a film building finish that is manufactured to build a finish and you wipe all the solids off. Go for it. My opinion still stands, that this is a waste of what this finish was meant to do, simply put. 

 

-Ace-

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The Cliffs Notes for this thread:

Varnish (including wiping varnish) is used to build film finish and should not be wiped off.

Oil/varnish blend (including Danish oil) is used for an in the wood finish and should be wiped off. 

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Thanks for posting the link. Mark does a good job in the video. :)

However, Arm-R-Seal is an "oil." Oil is used in the process to modify the urethane. Arm-R-Seal is a "drying oil" that builds a film. If you want to apply a film building finish that is manufactured to build a finish and you wipe all the solids off. Go for it. My opinion still stands, that this is a waste of what this finish was meant to do, simply put. 

 

-Ace-

Technically it is a thinned oil based varnish.  Not at oil.  Oil based means you thin it with mineral spritis(or what ever oil type solvents) not water, alcohol, or lacquer thinner. that is distinct from being an oil varnish blend like most danish oils.  An oil based varnish no matter how much it is thinned is still different from an oil or oil varnish blend.

So it is thinned with oil type thinners.

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