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Thread: Don Kondra's Secret Magic Mix

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    close to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
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    Default Don Kondra's Secret Magic Mix

    If you dread the finishing part of a project as much as I used to, perhaps I can persuade you to give this mix/technique a try.

    The idea of using a oil combined with a film forming finish is not new; this is simply the one I have settled on after experimenting with a number of different products.

    An ideal finish should be easy to apply, enhance the grain and figure of the wood and provide a reasonable level of protection from normal wear and tear.

    The soft hand rubbed glow is a bonus. If you want a shinier finish, apply more coats.

    While we are at it, wouldn’t it be nice to have an easily repairable surface that does not require stripping.

    This is it. Just give the surface a good cleaning, scuff sand with a foam pad and reapply.

    The application method assures there is no danger of brush marks or sags in the finish.

    It dries fairly quickly so dust settling on the finish is not an issue.

    The ingredients are as follows -

    25% pure tung oil (available at Lee Valley)
    25% spar (exterior) varnish
    50% paint thinner
    Japan drier - one capful per Cup of mix

    Roughly a cup of mix will do a coffee table sized project.

    I use this finish often enough that I mix up a quart at a time, without the Japan drier. Then I pour off as much as I need and add the drier which is available at paint stores.

    Only mix up as much as you expect to use in two or three days, the drier will cause it to gel after that even in a closed container.

    For the first coat I place an 8" square of T-shirt right in the container of mix.

    Squeeze it out enough so it isn't dripping all over the floor and apply to the wood, keep going over any thirsty spots for ten minutes or so.

    Then firmly wring out the rag and use it to wipe the project off.

    All other coats are simply wiped on and wiped off, again with the same rag.

    The idea is to build up thin coats.

    I have applied three coats in one day but I recommend one in the morning and one in the late afternoon.

    I apply three to four coats on legs, etc. and at least six coats on tops. This may sound like a lot of work but a coat only takes minutes, it is similar to applying a coat of oil.

    I sand lightly with fine foam sanding pads after the first coat and again before the last coat. A rag slightly dampened with paint thinner makes a good tack cloth or you can just use the air compressor to clean the surface.

    After three days or so I will rub down the surface with white scotchbrite pads, always with the grain.

    If the finish scratches you can wait another day or so for it harden further or continue to use the scotchbrite and then wipe with the grain with a rag slightly dampened with paint thinner, this will dissolve any scratches.

    If you are having a problem with streaking on large surfaces on the last coat, let it dry and apply a coat thinned another 50%.

    It will take a week for the finish to fully cure.

    BEWARE - If you change the ingredients, you are on your own


    Cheers, Don.

  2. #2

    Default

    Don: Based on my experiences this all makes cense to me. What does the Japan Dryer do? What would happen if it was not added?

    Recently I used Waterlox original on my bench. I was very happy with how the finish came out. I believe it has a similar formula but is quite expensive and does not last long after the container is opened.

    This formula looks like it would be a good alternative.

    E.G.
    You stop learning the instant you start talking...
    And start again when you stop thinking how smart you are.

  3. #3
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    Default

    Hi Edward,

    If you omit the drier, well, it won't dry

    Seriously, it will take much longer which defeats the purpose of being dust free so fast.

    This is a bonus for ww'ers that don't have a dedicated finishing area.

    And adding the drier before you use it means the balance of the materials will stay fresh for quite a while, I have about two cups of the mix left from a batch made in Jan/06 and it's still good....

    Cheers, Don

  4. #4

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    Don: I don’t mind looking a little dumb asking what appears to be obvious, but I am seriously considering your formula and want to understand the cause and effect of the ingredients so I can make appropriate adjustments as I go. How critical is the ratio of drier and where is the minimum and maximum. One cap full could be quite a variance depending on the cap, but maybe it is not that critical.

    I found on the net that overdoing it can cause problems as well.

    E.G.
    You stop learning the instant you start talking...
    And start again when you stop thinking how smart you are.

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Default

    Hi Edward,

    First let me say that all the bottles of drier I have bought have come in the same size bottle ie. 4 oz so the "cap" size is the same.

    I have found that different amounts of drier added has basically two effects.

    Too much and any leftovers will gel overnight, a waste of product. The odd time I have done this and corrected it for the next series of coats did not seem to effect the final finish....

    Too little and the coat will take hours to dry which means it will take longer to finish the project and possibly need scuff sanding between EACH coat because of dust sticking to the project.

    As with any new finishing technique, I should have added a caution to do a test before committing to using it on a project.

    I do try to be accurate when measuring the ingredients but....your weather and humidity conditions may be different enough from mine to matter.

    Cheers, Don.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Default Attention Brent

    "Japan dryer when used excessively reduces the elasticity of a finish. I have never used as much as Don is suggesting - the manufacturers talk in terms of drops... I am somewhere between the two of them with my JD use.

    Another issue to consider is that most manufacturers and finish experts recommend extending the varnish with the same type of oil used by the manufacturer. Most spar varnishes I have used use linseed oil not tung oil. The bonus here is that linseed oil is inexpensive.

    Don's ratio is very dilute in my opinion. I have would use Don's ratio for the initial penetrating coat, after that I would use way less thinner and oil and more of the varnish by ratio to build solids.

    Sheen has nothing to do with the number of coats once a consistant surface film has been established. You will alter the sheen of this mixture by altering the amount of varnish...

    I have used this mix of finish materials for years and I really enjoy being able to tweak the ratios to suit my needs. That being said, experiment for yourself and start with the guidelines that the pros suggest - from there you will create your own magic!

    Different woods, surfaces (horizontal vs. vertical), exposures to various liquids and weather and the ultimate uses of the piece require different ratios. There is no one perfect mix."................

    Thanks Brent for getting this back out of the ether and onto the thread as intended!

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