Using Old Master's Gel

by Judy Roberts

Using Old Master's Gel

Over the years we have worked hard to perfect the finishing process we recommend. The purpose of this article is to share what we have learned thru trial and error. We found it best to apply the finish before the parts are glued down.

Surface Preparation:
All surfaces must be dry and as dust free as possible. We use an air compressor to blow each piece off before applying the first coat of gel. Application: Stir the gel thoroughly before and during application. Do not apply in direct sunlight or areas of extreme air movement. A good tip to keep the gel from drying out while you coat the pieces is to open the can, turn the lid upside down and put a small amount on the inside of the lid. Place the lid on top of the can and refill as needed. This keeps air from drying the surface of the exposed gel. Because the gel is very thick and it soaks into the wood it works best to apply the gel one piece at a time. We use a 1” foam brush to apply the gel and Bounty paper towels to wipe each piece clean.

First Coat:
Apply the gel to the sides and top, leaving the bottom free of finish so the glue will hold the pieces firmly to the backing. Applying the gel to the sides and top will help seal the wood, protecting your piece from the ever-changing climates. If the gel is left on too long before wiping off, drying time increases and the sides could remain tacky. It is VERY important to use a clean paper towel (or a clean part of the towel) for each piece. This eliminates “cross contamination” which may increase the chances of a tacky surface which will extend the amount of time needed to dry. Also continued use of the same paper towel will cause the towel to break down and leave more lint.

Second & Third Coats:
Applied to the top surface and outside edges only. Apply gel to surface, wipe quickly with a clean cloth. Buff lightly with another clean cloth, working in the direction of the grain until the surface is smooth and your paper towel comes away with no residue. Three coats are what we recommend; however, additional coats will enhance and provide greater protection. Sanding between coats is not necessary as long as you buff each piece until no residue is left on cloth. Occasionally the gel raises the grain on aspen. We use a 4/0 steel wool between the second and final third coat.

Drying Time:
Drying time will be affected by temperature, humidity and thickness of the gel. Most oil-based varnishes dry upon exposure to air, which is also known as “oxidative cure.” We use a small oscillating fan set on low about 4 feet away from drying project pieces. This is especially helpful in areas with higher humidity levels. We also have a dehumidifier running at all times. It is the oxygen molecules in the air that interact with the gel, creating a chemical reaction that causes the gel to dry. We recommend at least 8-10 hours between the first and second coats. Less time (6-8 hours) is needed between the 2nd and 3rd coats.

Judy Roberts
Judy Roberts


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