At this point, many builders apply a coat of dull drying varnish. One is amply repaid, however, in the added beauty and life of the finished product secured by applying one, or better, two coats of a good furniture varnish before finishing with the dull varnish. These two coats of varnish should be sanded carefully with No. 0000 sandpaper.
The right brush is half the battle, for in varnishing and enamel work a fine brush will enable one practically to avoid showing brush marks. A Russian oxhair or fitch brush is ideal.
For enameling or varnishing, apply the varnish quickly and freely, with the grain of the wood. Now without filling the brush, stroke directly across the grain. This will help spread the varnish or enamel in an even film, making up for any thin spots missed in the first application. Now scrape the brush fairly dry, over the edge of the varnish cup, extending the brush strokes, if possible, from one edge to the other without a break, to take up any surplus varnish which would otherwise run and make sags. Try to choose a clear, dry day for varnishing and enameling.
In applying shellac, one cannot brush back into the surface as with varnish. Shellac sets very quickly. The alcohol evaporates very quickly and so shellac may, upon use, be found too heavy for proper brushing for this reason. It should then be thinned with denatured alcohol.
Dull drying varnish is intended as a representation of the true, hand-rubbed dull finish. Powdered pumice stone is used for this rubbing. Rubbing with oil (regular rubbing oil or good sewing-machine oil) produces a dull effect, while rubbing with water is the first step toward producing the high polish.
A piece of rubbing felt an inch thick is best, but if this is not available, make a pad of a piece of firm, soft cloth. Place both the oil and powder in open dishes. Dampen the cloth or pad with oil and dip into the powder. A dozen or more strokes with the grain of the wood will usually dull the gloss of varnish or enamel satisfactorily.
Do not rub too hard or too long in one spot, as rubbing has a tendency to soften the finish. Also, avoid hitting the edges of the surface, as they seem to rub through instantly. A small vegetable brush is the best tool to reach the corners and molded surfaces or carving. Dip it in the oil and powder the same as the pad. Wipe off the oil with a soft, dry cloth, wiping with the grain.