Author-craftsman Bruce Johnson has introduced millions of do-it-yourselfers, craftspeople and antique collectors to the world of wood finishing and antique restoration. As the official spokesperson for Minwax®, the leading manufacturer of wood finishing and wood care products, Bruce motivates people to take the initiative to beautify their surroundings. Through his many books, magazine articles and columns, as well as frequent appearances on national television talk shows, Johnson is recognized as an authority in the do-it-yourself community. Appearing on PBS, HGTV, The Discovery Channel, and currently hosting “DIY Woodworking” and “Build A Log Cabin”, on the DIY cable network, Johnson has brought the illustrious craft of wood finishing to the forefront of the American home.
An expert in wood refinishing, antique restoration, and home improvement, Bruce has published more than a dozen books on these topics, including Fifty Simple Ways To Save Your House, The Wood Finisher, The Weekend Refinisher, and The Official Identification and Price Guide to the Arts and Crafts Movement. For more than 20-years, he penned an antique refinishing advice column, “Knock on Wood,” which ran in dozens of antique/collectibles publications. Currently, he writes a column on Arts & Crafts for Style 1900 magazine.
A rare combination of craftsman and journalist, Johnson began his career as a high school English teacher, but left teaching to set up his “Knock on Wood Antique Repair & Restoration” shop. He spent the next 10 years as a full-time professional refinisher, but eventually returned to writing. Yet, Johnson says, he won’t ever be without a workbench and a couple of refinishing projects down in the basement.
Johnson is also the founder and director of the Arts and Crafts Conference and Antique Show held every February in Asheville, North Carolina, at the Grove Park Inn. The conference, which includes the largest Arts and Crafts antiques show, attracts more than 1500 Arts and Crafts collectors each year to its many seminars, tours, demonstrations and exhibits. Johnson is proud to have played a role in reviving interest in designers like Gustav Stickley, who founded the Arts and Crafts movement. His latest book, “Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Furniture,” was awarded the 2009 Thomas Wolfe Literary Award. These furnishings are treasured by such collectors as Steven Spielberg and Bruce Willis, among many others.
i just sanded my old but still in great shape coffee table. i think it is oak. it gets a lot of use and wear and tear. i would like to stain it and put a very durable finish on it. what should i use? wate r based minwax and then polycrylic, or wood finish and polyurethane? i like what you did with the dining room table.
For larger projects, Diane, I prefer the oil-based Wood Finish Stain followed by the oil-based Fast Drying Polyurethane. It doesn’t dry as fast but is easier to work with on large surfaces than the water-based line of products. Good luck!
I have an old beer barrel (that’s what I call it) and all the wood slats are loose. We through it in our swimming pool once and the wood expanded and it tighten up great to make it sturdy but that didn’t last long. Is there anything I can do with it to expand it and tighten up the wood permanently?
I would appreciate any ideas you can give me.
Merlene, you are on the right track. Soak the barrel again to swell the wood into shape then let it dry in a shaded area so that it doesn’t dry out too quickly. Once the wood is dry but has not yet shrunk, apply 3 coats of Minwax Wipe-On Poly to seal the wood and help it retain its shape.
I have an old pine rocking chair that I have sanded by hand and started to stain with the polyshades (1 step). It is not staining well at all. I did stain part of it, but am not happy with it at all. I now read on the can that you should use the pre-stain product on pine. Can I put this pre-stain on the portion of the chair that I have already stained and then re-stain?
Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner has to be applied to bare, unstained wood, Margie, so it won’t work over Polyshades. I suggest sanding off the Polyshades you have applied, brush on a coat of Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner, and then trying one of the Minwax Gel Stains on your chair. Thanks! – Bruce Johnson
Under “normal” mid-west weather conditions how many years does the manufactures exterior wood door finish last?
Under the same conditions, and proper prep/application should 2 coats of Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane last?
I can’t speak for any of the door manufacturers and I’ve learned from experience that the length of time the Helmsman will hold up until needing re-coating is totally dependent on how much direct sunlight it receives. In my own experience I’ve seen it last for up to 5 years but again, it depends totally on how much sunlight it receives each day. Sorry I can’t be more precise than that. Good luck in your projects!
Bruce, I have some reclaimed wood that I will be installing on my kitchen island counter. I have smoothed it to an acceptable degree to be a working surface for food. I will need to fill some small cracks and holes in the reclaimed wood. We may be placing food directly on this counter-top and will be using a food grade oil on the surface. Is there a wood filler that you can recommend, that is food grade, and will take the oil in a similar manner as the douglas fir wood counter-top?
Minwax Stainable Wood Filler is the best synthetic filler I have found on the market, but I would recommend that you test it in one spot on your douglas fir boards since you are not going to be staining them. This way you can check to see if the Stainable Wood Filler comes close to matching your wood. Sounds like a fun project, Doug. Best of luck.
I have a new Bernhardt server that I do not like the color of the wood. It is wood veneer and I want to change the color. It is a bit too orange and I would like a walnut color. Does it need to be sanded first and can I neutralize the color before applying a stain? I liked the extreme colors of minwax. Is this a good product to use?
Great question, Marie. All stains need to be able to soak into the wood in order to adhere, so the finish on your server now is going to act as a barrier. I would recommend that on an inconspicuous place you sand it lightly by hand with a medium grit sand paper, then apply one of the Minwax stains to just that area, following instructions, and see if it works to your satisfaction.
Do I need to apply Pre-Stain Conditioner before I add my new color?
Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner is designed to be applied to bare wood prior to applying a stain, in order to reduce the blotchiness that many woods experience when stained. When in doubt, I always recommend Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. Good luck, Marie!
If I want to stain to a softer color or lighter color, after I remove the finish what can I do?
The lightest possible color, of course, is completely natural, that being no stain at all. To see what the bare, sanded wood looks like with just a clear finish, moisten the wood with a damp cloth. Before the water evaporates, that’s what the wood would look like with no stain at all. If that is too light for you then go to the Minwax Stain Guide to choose the light color you prefer. But always test any stain on the underside or a hidden spot first. Have fun, Marie!
I installed pine T&G on a couple walls in a bedroom. I want to stay with a natural finish, the pine is totally unfinished now. Can I use a wipe on poly finish to the pine. Of course I would like to do the easiest with the best results, as I have alot of other projects going on with the house I am building.
Thank You for your suggestions.
Most definitely, yes, Joe. For ease in application on your installed boards I would pour the Wipe-On Poly into an open metal container, brush it on your pine boards, then use a rag to work it in and wipe off the excess.
Help, although not my first rodeo , I made a beginner’s mistake in not taking the prior finish off completely. Stain is beautiful ( minwax Jacobean) but still wet after 18 hours . How do I remove his without a gloppy mess and start over?
Will trying to dry with a hair dryer work?
Thanks,signed,never do that again!
Sorry, but I don’t think the hair dryer trick will work. As you have discovered, stain is designed to dry in the wood not on the wood. I would try removing it with mineral spirits (paint thinner) and a synthetic scrubbing pad. Next you’ll have to decide whether or not to sand off the old finish down to the bare wood, as this is what you would have to do before re-staining. Good luck, Lynne!
Hi Bruce. Thank you for all of your valuable information.
Ive just designed, built and completed a southern pine coffee table.
I used Minwax oil based pre stain, one coat of Minwax Cherrywood Gel stain and 3 coats of Minwax oil based dark walnut. (I love the deep, dark rich color it yields).
Whats next to protect? Minwax poly? Tung oil? I dont mind the extra work, so what do you suggest?
Great work, Franklin. Now we just need to preserve and protect both the stain and the wood and since this is a coffee table that will eventually (or immediately) get a good deal of use, including glasses etc., I would recommend two coats of Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane in whichever sheen you prefer (satin, semi or high gloss). They all give the same durability. Since you are obviously a craftsman, I would lightly sand the first coat of polyurethane with #220 grit sandpaper then would polish the final coat with #400 or finer sandpaper dipped in any sort of oil: mineral, baby, lemon, etc. This will give you a smooth, professional finish. Good luck!
Hi, really appreciate your help. I have a very old dining room table. Don’t know the wood. The finish has become smudged and perhaps tacky where arms have rested on the edges and the overall surface is streaked. I have tried to clean it with furniture cleaner but to no avail, it may have even made it worse. Is there a way I can refresh the surface without completely redoing it, maybe using steel wool. I would like to keep the color of the stain because it matches an enclosed leaf. Also, it would be wonderful if something that was water resistant could be put on it. Thanks much.
Well, Pam, we can give it a try, but let me start by saying it sounds like this finish is nearly worn out. That being said, we can give it a shot as a last resort can always be refinishing. First you need to clean it, removing the dirt, grim and build up that is causing the stickiness. I would start with Minwax Wood Cabinet Cleaner to get it down to the original surface. Then I would sand it very lightly with #220-grit sandpaper. Nothing more coarse than this! You just want to scuff the surface lightly before rubbing on a coat of satin Wipe-On Poly to protect the old finish and to give the table some life. Good luck! -Bruce