Interior window finishes
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Joined: 29 Jan 2014
Posts: 4
Location: St. Albans, WV

PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 12:08 pm    Post subject: Interior window finishes Reply with quote

Hi I am in the process of restoring my double hung windows. I think I have the exterior process figured out. My question is about the interior finish. The house was built in 1916 and from what I can tell the interior sashes windows were originally finished with either shellac or BLO. I am leaning toward the latter, since the finish in some areas is really black and alligatored. I was planning on stripping the interior sash sections by just sanding. Then rub with paint thinner "mineral spirits." Working or to stain or not to stain based on the comment below. Then likely apply a blonde dewaxed shellac as a sealer, then apply a mixture of equal parts of McCloskey's Man O War, 100% Tung Oil and Spirits of Pure Gum.

I want a durable and tough finish that will require little maintenance over the years. Does this procedure seem OK. I am worried about the underlying shellac sealer being softer then the overlying varnish. Will the moving the window sash up and down wear the underlying shellac at all?

The windows are pine but the interior trim is white oak as is the stair case in the house. The stairs and the window trim on some of the windows were refinished before we purchased the house. And it looks like they stained the them before they applied a poly finish. But I am not certain about the staining part. I would like to get the window sashes to match the trim. I guess I will have to experiment.

Any suggestions? And does these procedures seem OK. Or an I over thinking it.

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Joined: 21 Jun 2008
Posts: 660
Location: Little Rock, AR

PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2014 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you want different species to match, or come close to matching, shellac for color is really the best way.

It builds a film, and the color is in said film.

As a result, after successive coats the boards will have a similar color at least, even though you can't make them have the same grain.

While you can't use shellac outside, using it inside on a window for color is fine. The glass blocks enough of the sun's radiation to keep the shellac stable.

Do not use anything with any type of oil on the first coat. The oil will darken the grain and make the differences in the boards stand out more. Shellac being only semi-transparent will tend to obscure the grain a bit, which is what you'll want.

I would put something with a little more durability over the shellac, though, shellac will not hold up well to the abrasive properties of a sash rubbing against its jamb. I personally use Waterlox on top. A lacquer would accomplish the same thing.

Here's an example from my house..

White oak floor, heart pine trim, cypress windows. One coat of clear, two coats of garnet, and a coat of Waterlox and they're all the same at a glance. Upon close inspection you can see differences in grain and slight color variation, but they're awfully close...

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