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Like stain, varnish must be applied in the direction of the grain, although you don't have to worry so much about accuracy. Because many varnishes are completely transparent, it is easy to miss areas during application. Good lighting and regular inspection of the surface are necessary to ensure good coverage.
Follow the grain of the wood. Finish one section before beginning the next (image 1). Brush out the varnish to give an even coat (image 2) Sand down the surface of the first coat because varnish, especially water-based varieties, tends to lift the grain of the wood ((image 3). Wipe the surface with a damp cloth to remove dust, and let it dry before applying the next coat (image 4). Apply further coats as required.
If you want to mix dyes to a specific shade, make sure they both have the same base—oil or water. Dyed wood needs a protective finish such as wax or varnish over the top.
Apply dye with the grain. Keep a wet edge where you work and take care not to overlap onto areas that have dried. Seal the dye with a protective finish. Check the manufacturer's specifications for compatible finishes.
Stained exterior woodwork needs only occasional maintenance. A single coat, applied every year or two, will keep wood protected and looking good. Once a year, lightly sand and wipe exterior varnish before applying a maintenance coat.
The finish of exterior hardwoods treated with Danish or teak oil can fade quickly. Although the wood will remain protected, manufacturers often recommend that exterior oiled surfaces are recoated at least once a year.
Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009