Shrinking and Stretch—Working Out the Subtle Wrinkles and Kinks

In applying a film finish to a finished piece of woodwork, shrink and stretch are two sides to the same coin. I wanted to show Hannah how a finish shrinks and stretches itself to a surface when you see only brush marks or an unevenness after spraying. Below you see three images but this was after a single spray coat with 2-8 minutes between taking the first shot and the last. Look at the texture in the top left of the drawer front in each of the pictures to see how it changes as the denatured alcohol (the solvent) evaporates to leave pure shellac only on the wood. The finish in this case is a heavy, single coat if sprayed shellac. Other finishes do the same but at different rates and with slightly different outcomes.

I changed the original posted images in sequence to one another for the side by side one below to see the stage difference more clearly:



  1. To better see the difference. Right mouse click (or whatever) on the “1st” and “Final” images, open in new tab or window, blow up to full size (mouse click or whatever). Then flip between the two images, you might then be able to see that the finish is flatter on the “Final” image.

    1. Yes that was great Mike. Much clearer. I added it in exchange for the different ones to the blog. Thanks for that.

    1. Easy Mark a scratch stock or much better still….a wooden moulding plane……
      I only wish Paul would show us.

      Regards John 2V

  2. Where’s the “working out the kinks and wrinkles” part of this??
    I guess I was expecting a hint or technique…otherwise you spray it on carefully and wait a little.

    1. Oh, I think what’s happening to the film finish is explained well enough really Mr Douglas. We often look at an applied finish, usually a brushed on finish, and worry that it looks rough. Half an hour later we look again and say to ourselves well look at that, it’s looking fine now.

  3. The two most important words for developing a finish are, “leave it.” I’m still intermediate in my finish skills, but I’ve put a fair bit of effort into working with a couple teachers and they’ve emphasized this. With experience, you learn when to walk away from what you applied and let it be. Seeing things like Paul is illustrating here is important. Otherwise, you fuss with your application too much and spoil it. It’s really hard to convey in photos, partly because if the finish is in front of you, you can move your head around to see how the light plays off the surface at different angles, which is hard to show in a static photo. The more I do it, the more I feel confident that I can tune a finish layer by layer, just like I tune the fit of joinery, and learn what to ignore at each stage, leaving it for later, and learning the difference between getting color, protective finish, sheen, and feel right and when to go after each. So, I’m glad Paul is showing this!

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