Wednesday, November 10, 2010

For My Sins

I'm not sure how to explain it.  Too much care or not being careful enough; not doing well or not knowing when to leave well-enough alone.  But some diabolic fate seems now to be binding me to the next-to-the-bottom tread of my stairway to the 3rd floor, there eternally to be chained not physically, but emotionally, as I expiate my shellacking sins.

Late Wednesday night the 3rd, I assayed to get the seventh coat of shellac on those stairs.  It didn't go too badly, really.  I filled a divot in the next-to-the-bottom step with the Miniwax wood filler putty that you're not supposed to finish over.  But I need something flexible there and the shellac ought to move with it.  It seems to be working so far.

But after I got done, at just about straight up midnight, I noticed that I hadn't properly brushed out the finish at the right hand side of that same tread.  You definitely could see a brown build up there.

So did I go to bed and sleep on it and see if maybe it looked okay in the morning?  Heck, no.  I got a brush with some alcohol on it and tried to blend it in.

Of course, it didn't.  It just took the upper coats off. 

I tried a little more.  It took off some more.

To hell with it.  I tried cleaning the whole surface with alcohol.  It didn't take enough off.

Off to bed, and deal with it later.

On Saturday the 6th I went the whole hog and pulled out the Western Wood Doctor refinisher and the 00 steel wool and took the entire finish off of it.  So there. 

And proceeded to start essentially from scratch on that tread and started applying the six or seven coats anew.

Last Sunday, I was getting there.  When I wielded a full brush with a light hand, the shellac blended in beautifully. Just one more coat and I'd be done!

Damn!  Somebody remind me not to be doing that after 11:00 PM when I'm tired and the light isn't that good anyway.  This last time, I failed to notice or brush out puddles on both sides of that tread!  It looked terrible! 

Was I going to get out the WWD and strip it off for the second time?

Not likely.  An article on the This Old House website says you can repair shellac, everybody says repairability is one of the great things about shellac, and I was going to repair it.

It's taken me the last three days (and at least one dream-obsessed night) to deal with it, using a small artist's brush first to dissolve the brown ridges and then to lay on a little color at a time.  But I think-- think!-- I'm to the point where I'm going to say Good Enough.  I know the aberrant places are there.  I will have to live with the reminder of how dumb it is to do finishing at midnight when I'm tired and not thinking or seeing straight.  I stick my camera in close where I can catch every last irregularity of it. But nobody else will notice unless I point it out to them.

And if nothing else, this proves that I was right to do my experimenting and get my technique down on these upper steps.  Pretty much no one's going to see them except for me.


A from Is It A House Yet? said...

It's looking great! And I am always reminding myself of the same thing "I am the only one who is going to notice this... I am the only one who is going to notice this..."

Kristen said...

I totally understand that after all that work you've done, you'd want a superior product, but WOW! You are 100% correct - your (minor!) mistakes are not nearly as noticeable to the untrained eye. Those stairs are badass. And beautiful!

Larry said...

You and I are just alike. Perhaps this is what makes old house nuts so special.

Keep up the great job!!