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Behlen Grain Filler Help


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I think what you need are more specific instructions as to how to properly apply grain filler.

Pore filler can ALWAYS be re-liquified and excess removed by using the proper thinner (water for water based, Acetone or mineral spirits -I think- for oil-based, check to be sure) so if you need to remove some, you can do it that way.

As for proper application, you should be working in small areas, don't try to cover the whole body all at once or it WILL dry on you too fast.

Water based dries much faster than oil based, and you don't really need that much to begin with. What you DO need is attention to detail when you do apply it.

Apply cross grain, pushing it in with a credit card or some such thing, then wiping off cross grain as well once it's mostly dried. When you think you're done, hold the body very close up to a light source (like a lamp with the shade removed) and peer very closely at the grains to see if you got them all. You don't always get all the grains on the first application, so what you wind up doing is several small area applications, always checking against the light source, checking for total fill in coverage.

These things take time and practice to get them right, it's not as easy as many make it out to be.

AND when you're trying to do it over top of a sealer coat, you've added a layer of difficulty to the project as well. The sealer coat should be VERY LIGHT, or the pore filler will not bond with the grains very well and will keep coming back off when you wipe your excess off.

AND it takes some MUSCLE to get excess pore filler back off, it doesn't just wipe off like paint, you have to WORK at it, which is why some people have such a hard time with it, they don't really understand the stuff to begin with very well.

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Just started to use Behlen's brown grain filler for a walnut body( a bit light for walnut), and regardless of how fast i wipe off, a thick smudgy coat is always left. i have already layed a coat of Mcfadden sealer and am afraid of sanding through removing the filler residue.

Did you apply it straight out the tin?

Grain filler should be 'let down'. Either with water as in your case, or white spirit for spirit based products. Rub hard accross the grain and wipe excess of instatly before leaving to harden. If you have used it 'as is' that is why it's gone clumpy.

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Its been about 2 years since i last used Behlens, im just trying to knock the ol' rust off my techniques. I just dont remember how tempermental the filler was, though i have great results with the water based filler in the past. So... i cant express how frustrating its been trying to find advice on filler techniques(with the exception of Proj. Guitar). I have been working in 6" areas at a time, with a glue squeegee, paper towels and a fine scotch brite pad for residue removal. If i dont wipe the area instantly, a squeegee line will dry hard as clay. Also, through numerous sources ie. stewmac, lmii, etc.- say i should spray a vinyl sealer thin coat to start, then fill pores. i agree that it would be much easier to fill with no sealer, i guess i just dont understand the consequences of filling a non-sealed body. Blah blah blah, sorry so wordy. Thanks for the speedy advice guys. :D

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Wipe off -instantly-?

...I don't think so... :D

I meant the excess. Sorry for not making it clear.

Correction: After re-reading my original post, it DID say "wipe off excess". Meaning all the crap that goes in to the drill holes and such. All of THAT should be wiped off instantly. Here is a picture of a lady at the Gibson USA Plant carrying out this EXACT procedure of "Wiping off the excess" grain filler:

http://www.gibson.com/products/gibson/plant_tour/pt37.html

It is absolutely common practice. I just yesterday bought a new can of Rustins Grain Filler in "Natural" and it says on the tin: Quote: "This product may be reduced with White Spirit. Apply across the grain by pressing hard with a soft cloth and wipe off any excess before leaving to set for 24 hours.

I have absolutely no clue why Drak seems to think that is wrong or why he needed to put a silly, smart mouth comment. Try reading properly Mr. VIP Drak before going for the brownie points.

Edited by gosh
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Actually Drak is correct. You don't wipe off the excess immediately. You allow it to dry for several minutes, it will fog over a little and that is when you want to use a piece of burlap or what ever you choose to wipe off the excess. You want to apply just enough to fill the pores, and squeege it into the pores and remove the puddles as you are working it in. Once it fogs over you rub it down and remove the excess.

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Actually ihockey, he is right, and I did misread the post a little, maybe I read it too fast, I think it depends on what you want to call 'excess' really.

If you have far too much excess of the stuff all over the instrument, then absolutely, one needs to wipe off the excess before it hardens, and gosh is indeed 100% correct in that case.

It certainly is a huge pain in the arse to try and wipe off any more filler once it is dried than absolutely necessary.

My point was that if you wipe too much off too quick (i.e., 'instantly'), you'll pull the filler right back out of the pores again.

Brownie Points? Hahahahaha! If you only knew of what you speak... :D :D B)

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I was basically pointing out the pulling it out of the pores too quickly. I guess it falls under how much you consider excess. When it is heavy and thick and in puddles, you need to remove it quickly, I usually squeege with an old credit card which also helps to pack it into the pores. But the litle bit of a fine coats that still remains on wood, I let dry enough to fog over and then use some sort of rough cloth to remove it. This is following the intructions straight from the can, I am pretty sure it is Behlens.

I haven't seen anyone answer yet though what the purpose of sealing the wood first is. On four projects that I have had to use grain filler I haven't bothered to seal the wood first, and never had to apply more than two coats of grain filler. So does it actually do anything to help in the filling process or is it just to prevent changing the color of the wood.

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I haven't seen anyone answer yet though what the purpose of sealing the wood first is. On four projects that I have had to use grain filler I haven't bothered to seal the wood first, and never had to apply more than two coats of grain filler. So does it actually do anything to help in the filling process or is it just to prevent changing the color of the wood.

It is primarily recommended so the pore filler doesn't color the wood too much. And if you use too much, the pores become 'slippery' and rounded, and will not hold onto the pore filler as well, that is why the sealer coat needs to remain very light.

Personally, I think it certainly has it's place in having one more 'tool' in your 'finishing toolbox', but I don't like the fact that it is so often recommended as one of the 'Bible Steps' in finishing so much, because it IS NOT absolutely necessary.

I have never done it either, but I sure see it recommended a lot in the finishing guides around the internet...

Personally, I think it is recommended so much simply to sell more product, I could be wrong, but I do understand marketing basics, and with specialty products, you have to push them to get sales, or they will just sit on the shelves...

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I think sometimes the sealers are used after the initial product and before another one as in a tie coat to create a surface that the following coat can adhere to (in very specific applications like when using incompatible finishes together). Anyhow, I agree that in going through all the finishing info and doing all the little tests and practice finishes, I found little usefulness in the applications that I used, however I will say more of my tests were on porous woods and I am a big fan of the epoxy grainfill, which as in the situation here, can void the use of a sealer as the filler does a decent job of this. I use the 206 from west systems which is wayyy thinner than any I found at the hardware store. Plus, personally I loved the way it colored the wood, just gave it this beautiful look. Plus, it also has about a 25-30 minute dry time, so you have plenty of time to do whatever business you have. Here is an offcut of some zebra I epoxied for fun Zebra.

As for its use as a tie coat, I am wondering really if it would be worth using a sealer versus shellac though? The sealer I have been using is shellac, so thats kinda what my post is based on, however, I don't think all sealers would be shellac, so that would decrease its use even more. I dunno, just throwing the tie coat use out there as I think that it can be helpful in that respect, and enable you to use incompatible products on a finish, though I think its not going to come up that often for most people. I think the changing how a finish colors the wood as mentioned, is also a good point because I found differences there as well. But, yeah overall I see the sealer using in every finishing recipe, but found many people not using it with completely beautiful finishes and no issues, interesting stuff. J

Edited by jmrentis
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Buy the book 'Understanding Wood Finishes' (Flexner, Rodale Press)...and you can stop guessing at it and start to understand the truth behind all these things, it's all spelled out in very clear detail. ALL of it. The whole ball of wax.

The technical definition of a sealer coat is simply the first coat applied to the surface that seals the surface from accepting any more finish, the coat that starts the build process, the coat that stops up the pores...that's it, that's all there is to a sealer coat, and it can be any product at all that meets the criteria listed above.

Period.

End of sentence.

ANY product could call itself a sealer (but most don't).

Wax can be a sealer coat.

Shellac can be a sealer coat.

Epoxy can be a sealer coat.

Varnish can be a sealer coat.

Urethane can be a sealer coat.

Lacquer can be a sealer coat.

Spray-tac adhesive can be a sealer coat.

Tar can be a sealer coat

Tru-Oil could (but sucks as) be a sealer coat

Spray Paint can be a sealer coat

Hide Glue can be a sealer coat

Titebond glue can be a sealer coat

and on and on and on...

So you see, anything that actually DOES call itself a 'sealer' product, well, it would throw up a red flag for me instantly for the (hopefully) obvious reasons.

Sanding sealer has SOAP mixed into the lacquer to make it EASY TO SAND.

Instead of calling it sanding sealer, the more honest name would be EASY-TO-SAND LACQUER, because there's no inherant 'SEALER' product in it at all, just soap added for those sensitive luthier hands. :D

Well, last time I checked, I don't really need any help in sanding a guitar out, and I prefer my finishes 'sans' the soap. B)

jmrentis, what you are referring to is called a BARRIER COAT, and is also covered in detail in the book.

Buy it and become informed. :D

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I used a light 1/2 lacquer 1/2 thinner "sealer" washcoat this time, after thin application of the Behlens waterbased filler, i can literally wipe off the excess immediately (just to see), and an unremoveable haze still remains from where the squeegee left off. Using burlap to wipe off the haze either minutes or hours later, the only streak/haze free result is after pulling a muscle in my arm wiping through the lacquer/thinner sealer. even soaking the burlap in water has no effect on the filler- only straight lacquer thinner or acetone. Am i insane or should i just quit and apply for disability?

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I'll check the book out and appreciate the recommendation, though I've reading enough on the finishing subject and listened to enough people who do it for a living to try and say what I was trying to say. I do understand the term sealer, it just seems to be used mostly as either sanding or vinyl sealer (around pg) specifically probably as people see the need for sealer in recipes and check Stewmac or LMI and find those or I read sealer in regards to which ever brand the person might using like for McFaddens rosewood sealer and such. For which I've seen them use the product before the grainfill(true seal), then after grainfill, and after some waterlox, all the while calling it a sealer, even though they've sealed prior, so I've come to just use the term as loosely as I've seen it, but that is probably not helpful for anyone.

Sometimes definitions can get confused when its use varies and you see it one way more often than its true meaning, it almost becomes slang, I'll avoid doing so here from now on though, to avoid any confusion. Its like when people speak about grainfilling, some people grainfill in the true sense and sand back so only the pores are filled and the wood can still be penetrated, but I've also come across many people who prefer a light layer across the top(usually with epoxy), which would be by definition be a sealer, though they rarely regard it as a sealer at that point, you know what I mean.

The barrier coat and tie coat are the same thing, different people call it different thing and I've seen it used more as a tie coat than a barrier coat, both make sense to me, I just use the one I've read more. I do understand fully how it works, but since I have yet to impliment it, I'll use the words I think or I believe when speaking about it, as I do often because there will always be someone who disagrees or has a better way and being that I have yet to try it personally, who I am I to say this is how it is, so I leave room for people to make their claims. When using these words I'm not guessing, I understand what a sealer is and its use perfectly as with barrier/tie coats(though haven't tried this one yet) usually I'll state specifically when I am guessing and will warn.

I still need and want to do more reading on finishing though and I would like to check out that book as I have yet to decide on what exactly I will be doing on my project and more knowledge by different people doesn't hurt, which is why I have been testing different finishes and concepts. I do appreciate all the knowledge you inpart here and I was just adding a use for sealers that you hadn't mentioned, in that they could be used as a barrier or tie coat and not just absorbtion of finish in wood. In essence its doing the same job, sealing the previous layer from being touched by the next layer or sealing. Usually, I've seen shellac used for this, though recently I've been hearing about waterlox and am curious to check it out. I enjoy the amazing of variety of finishing possibilities, I've literally read or listened to well over a dozen, maybe even dozens of finishing techniques that seem reasonble and I can only imagine how many there actually are, based on the finishing section at my local Rockler, I don't even want to know. Anyhow, again thank you for the recommendation and clarification and I will try to be more specific and clear when I post. J

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When I post, I always remember that many people can and will read this many years down the road, so sometimes I impart information aimed not only at this thread, but for people who will read it later on down the road in searches.

The whole 'sealer' coat thing always seems to be shrouded in some sort of mystery, when really it is no mystery at all...so every once in awhile I like to dust off the cold clear facts so many people who may just be 'read only' will gain some knowledge and not feel like they always have to buy additional product...or if they do, they will totally understand the what and why behind the product so as to give it more flexibility for their usage.

All these things...from pore fillers of many varieties to dyes to sealer coats, barrier coats, color coats, clear coats, etc., these things are all very flexible and there are NO 'absolute rules' with this stuff, but when a person doesn't really understand the application or term, they will blindly follow someone else's 'recipe' when it may not be necessary at times, and actually harmful at other times.

When YOU know what all the terms mean, specifically and distinctly, and what all the products do, THEN you can decide for yourself what is necessary and helpful, and what is not, and not have to follow some 'internet recipe', or even listen to me and the WOD :D .

The book I listed will arm you with knowledge, very valuable knowledge. :D

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I actually really like reading your posts! And I tend to read a number of other peoples info on finishing(not here) or even chat it up at the woodshop. When I first thought about finishing there seemed to be only one or two logical choices that would suitable as that is what I saw most here and from luthier companies, but upon further exploration I was amazed at what I found. Some of them are just beyond my skills, not in that I couldn't do it, but being fairly new I wouldn't want to take on the chance that I run into issues like with polyester. I've read countless pages on it and could no doubt spray it, but what would worry me is if I make some lame error just from inexperience and in having such a durable finish, it could really make for a miserable time, using the chemicals don't really bother me and get rid of the uv aspect. But I am really looking for something more forgiving for now, but at the same time, something durable. As I said I've read a bit, and I see the pluses and minuses of many and have been testing some, but I am slightly indecisive so, its tough to choose, but I'm slow at building so I have time yet.

There really is loads of info on finishing and so many books and professionals that talk it up. What I really enjoy is when I find someone who has done years of experience with multiple finishes, not just once or twice with each one because they often has a real good look at pluses and minuses of each, plus enough time will have usually past to see how well each one held up. That is also why multiple sources is a bonus to me because each person might have more experience in one or several finishes, while another might have other experience. With each usually claiming one is better than the other, which really only proves to me the difference between them is not so significant that you would be making a bad decision with any. Though, HOW, you do the finish will greatly affect everything as you stated, if you don't understand the purpose and idea behind the items/processes in a recipe, you will likely mess something up. Also, in understanding everything you can start experiment, which I have been starting to do a little of, like seeing the difference in sealing then grainfilling or not sealing and grainfilling, which I've actually notice a fairly noticeable difference when using my thin epoxy, though Zebra wood is quite inconsistent in grain and pores, so among my offcuts there could be some room for difference.

As I said, I'll pick up that book soon or maybe see if I can get someone to buy it for me for the holidays. And please continue to do what you do around here, it is very helpful for everyone. As I said I enjoy your posts, while you can learn a lot in books there is also so much that will only come with experience and it seems your posts are often full of this info, which is helpful for people just starting out or even a few finishes in because they avoid those costly mistakes that could have been easily avoided had someone just explained it. Anyways, I'm done rambling. J

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Buy the book 'Understanding Wood Finishes' (Flexner, Rodale Press)...and you can stop guessing at it and start to understand the truth behind all these things, it's all spelled out in very clear detail. ALL of it. The whole ball of wax.

+1 Excellent advice!

I learned the hard way - you'll be time and money ahead spending $20 or so on such a book. Trial-and-error and guesswork = wasted materials, wasted time.

Although there probably is some value in learning firsthand what not to do. :D

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Ok, screw Behlens pore filler. Mcfadden's all the way :D Like night and day. Im lovin Mcfaddens everything right now, lacquer goes on like water and sands down like spruce. Just thought id add that- finishing luck finally going my way for once. Next to purchace the spray booth and buffing arbor, Hooray for buying too much equipment :D . Thanks for the additional help in transitioning into solvent based fillers.

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