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The trade offs with exterior finish systems is that more pigment in the wood finish system equals more paint like quality equals less maintenance. In my opinion on brick veneer FLW Houses Sikkens Cetol works great because the finish is used small areas like doors and windows. My concern is that with an expanse of stained wood siding the overall effect will be very uniform and paint like. Right now the leading candidates for testing are Cabot's Semi-Transparent Stain and Australian Timber Oil. Does anyone here have experience with Australian Timber Oil? Are there other finish systems that I should consider?
The Tarantino's did extensive work with transparent wood finishes at the Bachman Wilson house, the Richardson house, and their completion of the unbuilt portion of the Christie House. See their website:
On the Resources section of the new and improved SaveWright website, under Wright Building Owners, is an article by Pamela Kirschner about her efforts with the Pope house cypress siding and sash.
I passed a townhouse today which was new less than ten years ago. Its street facade was partially clad with clear-finished boarding -- a handsome sight for the first couple of years. A second coating of clear finish appeared in year three or four; now the entire front is painted. Clear-finished wood cladding is a real luxury, apparently . . .
I wonder if unfinished mahogany is capable of looking good indefinitely. Are there any Usonians with mahogany exteriors ?
I've seen mahogany benches left unfinished weather....it goes grey and looks much like teak, but it seems to warp and check more readily.
See Affleck house in Bloomfield Hills Michigan (1940).
It is an all wood exterior with Sikkens, Cetol 1 & 23, very beauitful. They were restoring all the exterior wood in I believe 2000. Visited a couple times since then...It looks great.
Dobkins originally used spar varnish for years till he was tired of bringing in crews to scrape and sand failed varnish. He later used an opaque stain which
acted as a paint.
When I phyiscally removed the stain I found areas of the spar varnish that the crews did not attempt to remove. A word of caution about chemical removal,
does the LLoyd Lewis home use well water? One must be very careful with alkaline chemicals entering the ground water and changing the ph of the surface of the wood and water.
Other very interesting projects that we are doing at present are a major synagogue expansion project and an accessory building for FLW's 1901 Davenport House. Its is vaguely like the garage in FLW's "Small House with Lot's of Room in It" project published in the Ladies Home Journal in June 1901.
Pine and fir, and materials derived from them like particle board, take on the color of amber or honey when exposed to sunlight and daylight, indoors, whether clear lacquered (brushed or sprayed) or unfinished -- in my own experience. The color
reached its maximum within ten years, and remains the same twenty and thirty years on.
Yukio Futagawa photos of Lewis, published in the mid-'eighties:
It may be that some finishes darken because they absorb whatever air-borne (or other) soils are present, becoming part of the finish coat.
When we moved into our new home, old house, in 1944, all the varnished wood trim was as black as pitch. It wasn't a bright interior with UV penetrating into it, but the wood had darkened remarkably in what was then a 30-year-old house.
I see no reason for finishing untouchable wood surfaces -- a ceiling, for instance. If the boards are planed smooth -- not with an abrasive planer, but with the knives of a rotary planer -- the surface would be very smooth and thus least likely to absorb dirt or to roughen over time. I suspect it is this sort of surface which Jack Hillmer reported being so entranced by, early in his career, on pieces of redwood, and which encouraged him to leave wood surfaces unfinished in his work.
The ceiling boards seen in Futagawa's Lewis photos seem (on the printed page) to have been smoothly planed. In the corridor photo, finish on the door, on the board with contains the knob but not immediately adjacent to that knob, appears to have bubbled.
(Futagawa's photos are usually well-presented in print. This corridor photo, interestingly, was rotated about 1 1/2Âº clockwise, so that the door opening at right would appear plumb -- making the plumb panel edge at the end of the corridor lean to the right, along with the horizon line at the center of the photo. Amusing.)
The plans for the Weltzheimer House in Oberlin, OH, have this notation as the finish for its redwood interior: "1/2 colorless shellac mixed with 1/2 alcohol, then sand down. Repeat 2 times. Rub in beeswax and polish. Repeat 2-3 times." !!!
My Danish woodworking master, Tage Frid, brought us another recipe, again for interior woodwork (i.e., furniture). In this case, oil is made to penetrate the wood; then, with a thicker coat, a surface is built up and polished:
Linseed oil, which is made from the seed of
the flax plant, is one of the oldest finishing
materials, and for many years was the most
commonly used. But even after lengthy dry-
ing, linseed oil never hardens through com-
pletely and, when used by itself, is not a
durable finish. For many years I have used a
three-step linseed-oil finish that is much
more durable than plain linseed. Allow 24
hours of drying time between each coat.
For the first coat, mix half pure raw linseed
oil and half pure turpentine. Put on a heavy
coat with a rag and allow it to soak into the
wood. (In between uses, I keep the rag in a
closed container with the linseed oil.)
The next day apply the second coat, using
pure boiled linseed oil. Leave it on for two to
three hours, then sand the surface with
some worn, fine sandpaper and wipe it clean.
On the third day apply the last coat. Mix half
boiled linseed oil and half japan drier. When
applying the finish, don't cover too large an
area at one time. For example, if finishing a
cabinet, first put the oil on one side, wait
about ten minutes, and apply it to the other
side. After ten minutes more, do the top. The
reason for allowing the time between is that
after a while the finish gets tacky â€” some-
times after twenty minutes and sometimes
after five hours, depending on the drying
conditions. When the finish gets tacky, you
have to work fast, because it will dry sud-
denly. If you haven't allowed the ten minutes
between areas, the finish on the last area will
dry before you have a chance to wipe it off.
When the finish gets tacky, use a piece of
burlap to rub the oil into the pores, going
across the grain. Then wipe the extra oil off
with a clean rag.
To prevent spontaneous combustion, put
used burlap and rags in an airtight container
or burn them.
On the fourth day, steel wool the surface and
wipe it clean with a rag. For a shinier surface,
sprinkle on some rottenstone and polish
with a piece of leather, going with the grain.
Rottenstone is one of the finest natural abra-
sives for polishing surfaces.
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