Natural Woods are many different types, such as Soft, Medium and Hard grain. Woods are likely to be Fresh, Seasoned and Old woods. Woods have different types of faces such as the end grains, flat and side faces. The woods have problems of uneven colours, patterns. The variation in textures is both natural and tools or machine made.
Wood products have similar problems but an average quality due to the mass production processes. The variations however are between near-natural products (plywoods, veneers) and synthesized products (particle boards, MDFs etc.)
For a clear coating application all wood surfaces require surface preparation treatments and post coating application treatments. The surface preparation treatments are over and above the nominal craft processes such as planing, sand papering, etc. These are mainly Filling, Sealing and Staining. The post coating application treatments are not always required, but could be Buffing, burnishing, waxing, etc.
Fillers generally consist of an Extender, a Binder and occasionally a Colourant. Fillers are required to fill in the pores in the wood grains of Natural woods and cavities in case of wood products. A levelled surface provides better gloss and integrity of the coating (one continuous surface without breaks). The coating material does not sink into it, and provide an even finish. Transparent fillers (low body NC lacquer, shellac, etc.) are used not only to fill the pores, but provide a sealing coat to the decayable material in the grains and vessels filled with gum exudates.
Extenders are low opacity -reflectivity, fine grade powder of materials like gypsum, chalk, china clay, precipitated calcium carbonate, lime, asbestine, colloidal silica, barytes and talc(unlike the Zinc oxide or Titanium dioxide -the white pigments that adds whiteness and opacity).
Binders are binding agents that hold together the extenders, temporarily or permanently, and also bind the extenders to the wood substrate. A binder could be water, gums, oils, alkyds and poly vinyl emulsions. Solvent bound binders are better compared to water bound binders. The later ones raise the grain or fibres off the surface.
Colourants provide an equalizing tint to the wood surface and slightly colour the white extenders. Fillers, made of low opacity-reflectivity pigments serve a dual purpose, of filling as well as staining.
Stains as colourants
Stains provide a correct transparent tinge to the surface. Stains are generally dye-material soluble in water, oil or solvents. Water soluble stains though of many different varieties, raise the fibres and are difficult to penetrate. Oil soluble stains are heavy bodied, take longer to dry out and interfere in the subsequent coating application. Solvent soluble stains are costly, dry out immediately and may bleed residual gums and other exudates.
Stains have one important drawback that they darken the existing colour of the substrate. Where timber surfaces need to be of lighter colour, surfaces have to be bleached or toned with opaque materials.
Bleaching process lightens the existing colour of the wood. It includes a treatment with hydrogen peroxide followed by an alkaline accelerator like lime, caustic soda, sodium silicate or ammonia. Bleaching affects adhesion and toughness of coating. It also provides an amber hue to the coating on aging. Staining is also done by micro spray guns, singeing, burning or carbon deposition from flames.
On wood surfaces where there are very irregular grains or no patterns, these are screen-printed, pressed or embossed using stains. Such patterns may emulate a wood grain pattern or just very fine mesh or lines.
Post application treatments
Clear finishes often require some post application treatments. These are mainly burnishing and waxing. Burnishing is mainly done to NC lacquer, Acrylic and Melamine coatings, to provide a glossy surface. Burnishing is not done to slow drying coatings, because such coatings, though are dry on outer face, take days to thoroughly dry out. Burnishing is done with a Carborundum like rubbing material with a waxy or oily base. Waxing provides a dull sheen and a protective coating. Waxing is also done to renovate old coatings. Waxing compounds also include a small amount of oils and sometime silicone materials.