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April 30, 2007

Rust Removal & Prevention

Rust Removal & Prevention Question: I have an old table saw & jointer that I inherited from my father. His father bought them in the 1950s and they still work great. However, the tools have developed some rust on the table surfaces. It's not deeply imbedded rust, but there's a significant amount of it on the tops. I'm not sure what the tables are made of, but they are a dark steel color and are not soft at all, so I suspect they are steel. What is the best way to remove the rust from the surfaces without damaging the tops & is there something I can apply to the surfaces to prevent further rust in the future?

Answer: A magnet should tell you if the metal surface is aluminum or steel. But the real giveaway is the fact that the surface is rusting, which is a type of oxidation that needs the presence of iron (as well as oxygen and water) to occur. So your tops should be steel. More than likely they are cast iron given their age. On the metal surfaces not machined or dressed, the surface should have a granular look. Also, in areas like the webbed grate of the side tables on the table saw, you will see evidence indicating the top came from a mold.

Rust is removed by abrading it away. Sanding the metal top removes the rust and leaves scratches. You will need to sand with finer and finer sandpaper to remove the scratches from the previous grit. If you must, you can go higher and higher in grit until you get an almost mirror finish. This is only for looks, however. Most tops are not remotely close to a polished finish from the factory when new, so creating a mirror-like surface finish may cause more troubles (Oh, I've dinged/scraped my freshly polished top!) than it's worth.

I would start with a somewhat fine grit so you don't get overly aggressive and can see how quickly things move along. 320 or 400 grit wet-dry paper with some mineral spirits as a lubricating agent would be a good start. Very mild rust may come off with a nylon Scotchbrite pad. If the rust removal is slow going, step down a grit. Once you have all the rust off, you can stop there or step up to the next grit to remove the previous grit's scratches. There are also rust removal products available such as Rust Free that work to remove surface rust and light to moderate scale from iron surfaces. Rust Free works quickly and won't harm your tools, so severe cases can even be left to soak overnight.

Deep rust can cause pitting that you may not be able to remove with simple sanding. However, while perhaps unsightly, small pitting should not impede the function of the tool. With severe pitting, surface grinding at a machine shop would be necessary.

There are many aftermarket coating products you can apply to help fight rust formation. You can use simple paste floor wax that you spread out and then buff smooth when dry (like you would when waxing a car). Use floor wax only, never automotive wax or polish, as they contain silicone which can interfere with wood finishing. Other products such as CRC Table Guard and Top-Cote spray on and form an invisible film to keep moisture at bay. Another product, Boeshield T-9, is for long-term rust prevention when storing your tools. It has a waxy emulsion that creates a barrier that lasts for months. The coating should be cleaned off before using the machine. To remove the film when it's time to put your tools back into service, just spray on a fresh coat of Boeshield and then wipe off thoroughly.

You can also help prevent rust by using a vapor corrosion inhibitor (VCI) such as a Bull Frog Rust Blocker Shield. VCIs are water-based non-polluting molecular coatings that protect metals in enclosed spaces for a year or more at a time. The VCIs bond electrochemically to metal surfaces, yet leave no build-up of oil or wax to contaminate your hands or work.

It's always best to try to remove any surface rust the moment you notice its presence. Sandflex Rust Erasers work well to remove light rusting or spots of rust beginning to form on surfaces. The longer rust lingers on a metal surface, the deeper it penetrates and the more elbow grease you'll need to use to get rid of it. Remember, rust never sleeps!

April 25, 2007

Tormek 2006 Supergrind Sharpener Special!

FREE TT50 Truing & Dressing Tool! For a limited time only! While supplies last!

Tormek 2006 Supergrind Sharpener SpecialWe've never seen an easier, more efficient way to sharpen cabinetmaking tools, turning and carving tools, knives, and practically anything else to a razor edge—even jointer and planer knives. The Swedish-made Tormek 2006 Supergrind Sharpener runs a water-cooled 220-grit aluminum oxide grinding wheel which restores damaged edges and reshapes bevels with absolutely no risk of overheating and damaging even the most delicate steel. The wheel rotates at a genteel 90 rpm, slow enough to avoid slinging water at you but fast enough, given its 10" diameter, to grind quite respectably. You could grind faster on a bench grinder with good wheels, but then you'd miss Tormek's ingenious next step, turning the grinder into a sharpener and power strop which can polish any cutting edge to a mirror shine in seconds.

Standard equipment includes a US105 Micro-Adjustable 11" Tool Rest and a SVH60 Chisel and Plane Iron Jig (maximum 2-3/8" wide by 1/2" thick). Getting plane irons square is nearly inevitable. Bevel-edged chisels are easily perfected by varying the pressure on the two jig knobs until the grind shows you've gotten it right. Tormek's WM200 Pro Anglemaster makes setting grinding angles a snap. It sets any angle from 15° to 75° and features built-in adjustment for different wheel diameters from 10" down to 6". Thus you can maintain accuracy on aging wheels, and use it on other grinders as well.

Tormek's Horizontal Base lets you mount the rest at the rear of the machine for grinding away from the cutting edge, ideal for carving and turning tools.

Once a tool is ground to a satisfactory shape, or if it needs only touch-up sharpening to begin with, set the jigged tool aside and dress the grinding wheel with the fine side of Tormek's Stone Grader, a special two-sided dressing stone. As you press the grader firmly against the rotating wheel through a few revolutions, it dresses the surface to 1000 grit, quickly turning the coarse grinding wheel into a fine sharpening wheel. It's as effective as changing wheels entirely, but it's a better idea; you can go back to work at once, without altering the jig or tool rest settings at all. You'll sharpen at exactly the same angle at which you ground the tool, and it will take only fifteen to thirty seconds to work up to a sharp edge. To grind your next tool, dress the stone briefly with the coarse side of the grader to return to 220-grit grinding action.

The final step, stropping, is easiest of all. Tormek provides a tube of toothpaste-like stropping compound with the sharpener. Treat the leather wheel with mineral oil before your first application of paste. You won't forget more than once that the tool must be stropped away from the edge. Point it toward the oncoming soft leather surface instead, and you'll instantly create a nice scar to remind yourself how it's supposed to be done. To avoid rounding over a sharp edge, let the heel of the tool's bevel touch the leather wheel first, then lower the cutting edge until it just kisses the wheel. Strop lightly for five or ten seconds, the strop the back of the tool just as carefully. And now, handle that tool with care—that edge is sharp!

If you want not only to grind but also to sharpen everything in the shop—especially hand tools—there's nothing finer than the Tormek SuperGrind.

For more sharpening products visit the Highland Woodworking website.

April 24, 2007

ToolBank Tool Drive at Highland Woodworking's One Day Sale

ToolBank Tool Drive at Highland Woodworking's One Day Sale

Saturday, May 5th
9am - 4pm

Bring in your used & extra tools to donate to the community & receive a tax deduction!

The Atlanta Community ToolBank will be at our retail store during our Spring One Day Sale accepting tool donations for their Tool Library, the country's largest tool lending program. The ToolBank provides tools to Atlanta's nonprofit organizations for use in volunteer service projects. Don't miss this opportunity to clean out your shop & put your old tools to work for Atlanta!

Learn more about the ToolBank & Tool Drive

Visit the ToolBank website

Directions to our store

April 23, 2007

1948 Chevy Woody Comes Back to Life

The final goalHard as it may be to believe, it was once possible to buy an automobile whose body was made substantially out of wood. Yes, those old cars were known as Woodies, and today surviving specimens are both rare and priceless.

Sean Headrick, an Atlanta-area woodworker, is currently restoring the wooden bodywork on a dilapidated old 1948 Chevy Woody station wagon. On Saturday, June 16, he will demonstrate some of the special techniques he's using to reproduce the wooden components on this old automobile while explaining the many challenges involved in such a difficult undertaking.

This free event will begin at 10am at Highland Woodworking at 1045 N. Highland Avenue, NE in Atlanta. The June 16 demo is part of the store's outstanding Saturday Mornings at Highland series, a weekly experience that is free, fun and educational for anyone interested in woodworking. Topics will vary from week to week, ranging from refinishing furniture to sharpening tools to woodturning and carving and many other creative opportunities.

Visit Highland Woodworking for more information about the Saturday Mornings at Highland educational series.

For project photos, see Sean's blog at : http://rebuildingchevywoody.blogspot.com

Read our Wood News Online interview with Sean and see a gallery of his work.

April 20, 2007

A Trip to Leigh Industries

I just returned from a trip out to the rainy Canadian Pacific coast. Leigh Industries invited us out to their factory in Port Coquitlam, British Colombia for a new product announcement. Ken, Matt and Barry showed us the factory, demonstrated some products and told us about new tools on the way.

Here are some pictures from the factory.

This is a stack of D1600 dovetail jig bodies awaiting machining.


Here are some FMT jigs in the assembly area.


The Leigh VRS

The main topic was the new VRS (Vacuum & Router Support) attachment for Leigh dovetail jigs. We put the VRS in our catalog a few weeks back with only the basic information because that is all we had. I've seen it in operation now and it is a fantastic addition to any Leigh dovetail jig. It mounts on the support arms of your jig and provides both dust control and router support. The only time you have to take it off is when you need to flip the fingerboard. Since it's held on by rare earth magnets, it is easy to remove and replace (it even has a handy hanger built in.) My favorite part of the VRS is that it gives you a place to park your router while adjusting the jig or changing out workpieces.

Here are some pictures of the VRS.






Watch this space for more exciting new products from Leigh.


April 18, 2007

Nail Gun Safety

I ran across this article on CNN earlier this week. It's worthwhile reading for every hobbyist woodworker. Basically, nail gun accidents are way up, but only among home users. Be careful in your shop!

CNN on nailguns in the shop.

April 16, 2007

Three Ways to Resaw

Free Hand ResawingAs with any job, there's usually more than one way to do it. Instead of learning a specific technique, it's better to understand the principles behind the task, so you can problem solve when things don't work out. Resawing is the same way. You learn one method only to find out it doesn't work today on this piece of wood with this particular blade. Having a couple of techniques and understanding the principles of resawing will give you options during different circumstances.

The following methods assume a well-tuned saw, proper blade selection and a certain amount of skill. I highly suggest practicing these methods on scrap wood rather than on something you're depending on for a finished project. For further reading I recommend Mark Duginske's Bandsaw Handbook (200393).

The most obvious approach is free hand resawing. Flatten one side of a board, join an adjacent edge and mark continuously around all four edges with a gauge referenced from the flatten side. With the joined edge on the saw's table, feed the board into the blade making minute adjustments as you go. Speed is the advantage here. No fences to set up, no lead angles to calculate, just mark and go. Let the blade cut the way it wants. If you have a dull blade and can't get a new one in time, you can sometimes get away with free handing a board. You thus avoid the compressed, C-shaped surfaces dull blades produce. Free hand resawing becomes the only choice for some woods that are case hardened, suffering from compression, or that have some other defect. These defects cause wood to distort while being sawn, and can bind against a fence, knocking the work off line.

Free hand resawing makes sense if you only have a couple of boards to do. An example would be book matching, which produces only two pieces from one board. Because it requires a great deal of muscle control and skill, it's not the best choice if you're new to the bandsaw or if you need to produce a stack of veneers.

A point fence is nothing more than some 3/4" stock rounded on the end and clamped perpendicular to the blade. The point fence lets you bear against something solid while you feed your stock into the blade. By following your layout line, you account for blade drift with less muscle control than with the free hand method. It offers more predictability while retaining some of the simplicity of free hand resawing. You still have to make minute adjustments as you work, but it's less fatiguing and more reliable. Point fence resawing is a good choice if you have more than a few book matches, or when free hand resawing is too risky.

If you want to take multiple passes on a single board with a point fence, you'll have to unclamp and move the fence for each rip. This way the flat side is always against the fence and the joined edge is always on the table. In any case you should sight down the work board at each pass to insure the piece hasn't warped.

Resawing with a Straight FenceSTRAIGHT FENCE
A bandsaw fence resembles any fence we're familiar with like a tablesaw fence for instance. Unlike a tablesaw fence, which must be parallel to the blade, a bandsaw fence must be able to skew to allow for blade drift. Blade drift is also called lead angle, and is a fact of life. Sometimes it can be as much as a few degrees left or right of the blade, and occasionally it is unperceivable.

The first step is to determine which way your saw wants to cut today. Join a board and mark a line parallel to that joined edge. Now, free hand rip that board on the marked line at a good pace, and turn off the saw when you are half way through the rip. Inevitably the board will be skewed in relation to the blade either to the left or right. Draw a line on the saw table using the joined edge as a guide. Take a sliding bevel and set it to the drawn angle on the table. Use the bevel to set your straight fence for the lead angle. Take a test cut and readjust if necessary.

Different manufacturers have different ways to adjust their fences for lead angle. Some don't allow for adjustment, so you'll have to modify the fence or improvise. Of course you could make your own out of plywood or MDF and hold it down with C-clamps. Kreg makes an aftermarket Bandsaw Fence (124023) that fits most saws, and it's fairly easy to skew. You can also get a Kreg 4-1/2" Curved Resaw Guide (124025) or a Kreg 7" Curved Resaw Guide (124026). These fences act like point fences and readily attach to the Kreg Bandsaw Fence.

The straight fence method is probably the technique of choice in a production setting like when making veneers. It's very predictable once you've set everything up, and requires the least physical effort to control the work piece. You only have to flatten and join once and keep those surfaces registered to the fence and the table respectively. You then move the fence closer to the blade after each rip. The piece falls off to the right presuming the saw's frame post is on your left. But straight fence resawing assumes the wood is well behaved and won't warp, twist or bow as is comes off the saw. As the blade dulls and its geometry changes, you may have to reset the fence to a new lead angle.

So there you have it; three ways to resaw wood on a bandsaw. Learn each one so you'll have options when things don't go well. Above all, practice and analyze what's going on. You'll find yourself getting less frustrated and enjoying the woodworking process even more.

Chris Black

April 13, 2007

Differences Between Anant's Standard Bench Planes and Kamals


As stated in our catalog, Kamal bench planes represent Anant’s premium line of planes. This being the case, Anant’s standard line of planes isn’t bad either. We believe both to be excellent values. You get far more plane in either case than you would expect given the price.

Kamal bench plane irons are nearly 1/8” thick! The standard irons run 5/64”, which is still thicker than most vintage Stanley’s. In general, a thicker iron means less chatter and fewer marks left on the wood. A thicker iron or cutter also allows you to move the frog forward to close up the throat opening without having the unsupported end of the blade flopping in the breeze. For the most part, a tighter throat means you’ll experience less tear out on the face of the wood when planing. A tight throat is especially desired on smoothing planes (#3 and #4) where the planed surface will be seen.

The chip breakers on the Kamals are also 1/8” thick. Having a stouter chip breaker adds additional support and heft to the cutting edge, and therefore dampens blade vibration. Again, this is more important on smoothing planes that have the frog in a forward position.

Anant does a pretty good job of machining their tools. In fact, of all the iron bodied, Bailey pattern planes coming out of Asia at this time, Anant’s machining is far and away the best, and that goes for both of their lines. To finish rough castings on their standard line, Anant sands all surfaces. On their Kamal line, they machine grind working surfaces. If you’re someone who likes to polish plane bodies to a high shine, then you’ll appreciate the Kamal series’ finish, and you’ll have far less work to do. On both lines, Anant manages to get things reasonably flat and true. However, the machining on the frogs is nicer on the Kamals, but this is mostly aesthetic rather than practical. Any minor blemish that does pop up is almost always remedied with a quick stroke of a file.

Each Kamal plane is slightly heavier than its standard counterpart. For instance, a Kamal 4-1/2 weighs in at 5.25 lb while the standard 4-1/2 is 4.5 lb. The Kamal castings are slightly thicker. We’ll let you debate the merits of hand plane mass.

Both Anant bench plane lines come with wooden handles (knobs and totes). For some unknown reason, Anant insists on putting a plastic knob in the bullnose position of their otherwise brilliant 78 standard rabbet plane (199208). The original Stanley and Record never had this. We recommend you remove the offending knob and toss it out. Ah, much better. Anyway, Kamals get brass buttons, screws, wheels and levers while the regular Anants come issued with zinc hardware.

We like Anant products because, let’s face it, not all of us can afford a $350 handplane. Anant gives you value for your money and much better than average quality. With the addition of the Kamal line, you have a real choice when it comes to premium planes. It’s a cliché, but you will always come out on top buying the best you can afford. Generally speaking, quality is more critical on smaller planes that produce finished surfaces, surfaces that will be seen, and less important on larger planes designed for surface preparation or stock removal. Many woodworkers spend the bulk of their plane budget on a smoothing plane and a block plane and less on a jointer and jack. Of course, quality is its own reward and having nice tools is a luxury worth pursuing. Now, as nice as these tools are don’t think for a minute you won’t have some tuning and sharpening to do on these planes. So roll up your sleeves and get to work. For further reading on tuning metal planes, please check out my article, Tuning Metal Bench Planes for the Rest of Us.

Chris Black

April 11, 2007

Women Woodworkers on the Rise in Atlanta

Women in WoodworkingAlthough men have historically dominated the craft of woodworking, half of all new woodworking hobbyists are women, according to recently published reports.

Highland Woodworking, formerly known as Highland Hardware, has taught woodworking classes in Atlanta for the past 30 years. Popularity among women has increased to the extent that it now offers classes specifically for budding female woodworkers.

Marilyn MacEwen, author of Woodworking 101 for Women: How to Speak the Language, Buy the Tools & Build Fabulous Furniture from Start to Finish, will appear at Highland Woodworking’s retail store on Saturday, April 14, 2007, to speak about this growing phenomenon, as well as to demonstrate some of the key hand tool techniques she recommends for women, including cutting dovetails, basic use of hand saws and planes, and using marking and measuring tools.

A professional woodworker since 1980, MacEwen builds furniture and home accessories at her studio in Fairview, North Carolina, where she draws upon her love of the forests, mountains, rivers and wildlife surrounding her home to inspire her unique furniture designs. Her customer base extends throughout the country and abroad.

The event on April 14 is part of an ongoing series of free demonstrations known as "Saturday Mornings at Highland". At 10 AM each Saturday of the year, the Virginia-Highland store offers a free, live, 90-minute demonstration of woodworking skills, tools and techniques presented by instructors from its knowledgeable staff, local woodworking clubs and guilds, manufacturer's representatives, guest authors, and others.

A schedule describing other upcoming Saturday Mornings at Highland is available online, or you may call the store at 404-872-4466 for information about the current week’s event. Each demonstration is free of charge, and no registration is necessary. Anyone interested in expanding skills and exploring new woodworking techniques is invited to drop in the store at 1045 N. Highland Avenue, NE in Atlanta any Saturday at 10 AM.

Directions to Highland Woodworking's retail store

April 10, 2007

Festool has arrived!

Festool Logo

We are happy to announce that Festool has arrived in our store. Come by anytime to see the tools!

In the world of professional power tools, Festool is arguably the best. If we could engineer the highest quality tools with every conceivable feature and without limitations, the result would be Festool. Superb design and meticulous German construction ensure low tool vibration, unmatched accuracy and rock solid reliability. Even the little details give the feel of unparalleled innovation: power cords that unplug from the tool allowing an extra level of safety and ease of replacement if damaged, and the sturdy Systainer® storage unit that comes with every power tool and can be stacked and latched together to keep things organized. Standing behind their products with a 3 year warranty and first-rate service, we feel Festool offers exceptional long-term value for those who depend on their tools and want the best.

If you are in Atlanta and you haven't visited our store, you can get directions here.

If you can't make it in to the store, you can see our selection of Festool products here.


April 4, 2007

A Day in the Shop with Irwin’s Chinese-Made Blue Chips

Irwin Blue Chip ChiselsLet me start off by saying I’m not an engineer, although I did flunk out of engineering school and join the Army. I’m also not a trained metallurgist, but I have done quite a bit of blacksmithing and tool making. In fact one of my homemade jobs made it into an issue of Fine Woodworking. So when I say I tested a batch of Irwin’s new version of the Blue Chips, think woodshop, not laboratory. My test criteria basically consisted of me sharpening the chisels and using them over the course of a day as I would normally use my own bench chisels. Then, given my experience using hundreds of chisels over the years as a cabinetmaker, I decided if I liked them. You know, do they stay sharp, do they hold up, are they worthy or are they paint can openers.

If you read my previous entry, then you know Irwin moved the manufacture of the Blue Chip chisels from Sheffield, England to China. Now, I’m not one to pass judgment on the global economy and all that, but I do want to provide our customers with good information and good tools. So into the shop I went with the new Blue Chips.

I spent about 4-5 hours sharpening and working with the new Blue Chips. I resharpened them as necessary. Mostly I chopped out the waste from dovetail joints in some cherry destined to become gift boxes. Cherry seemed to be a reasonable choice for a test wood since it’s fairly hard but not bone-crushing hard like purpleheart.

As with most mass produced chisels, it takes a few sharpenings to get a good idea of how they’ll hold an edge. This is because of decarburization. Decarburization occurs when steel is heat-treated and the carbon is burned away from the steel’s outer surface. Usually this weakened material is ground away after the tempering process, but not always. As a result, it typically takes a good flattening and a couple of sharpenings to see if a new piece of steel will hold an edge. This was certainly the case with the new Irwins. Initially some of the edges crumbled during the first few mallet blows. As expected, the edges held up better and better after the second and third sharpenings.

The handles have not changed. As far as I can tell, they’re still as durable as they ever were. One thing I did notice when comparing them to my old set of Marples is that they’ve shortened the smaller sizes somewhat. The 1/4” chisel was nearly a 1/2” shorter than the old model. The overall machining isn’t much different than the originals. I did find myself trying to be overly critical and nit picking at grinding marks. Truthfully, the backs of the Chinese Irwin’s were fairly flat and didn’t require much lapping. I started with a 220 grit Japanese stone, went to a 1000 grit stone and finished up with a 6000 grit polishing stone. In all it took less than 8 minutes per chisel to get them to where I was happy.

As far as edge retention, I can’t say that I was overly impressed. I’ve acquired some nice chisels over the years and have probably gotten spoiled. A set of Japanese chisels I have can be honed on Monday and stay sharp all week. Perhaps my expectations are too high. If you’re looking for a set of decent chisels for the job site or a starter set, then these new Irwins may be just the thing. Another set of chisels in the Irwin price range you should definitely look at is the Narex 6-Piece Bench Chisel Set (146012). Their wooden handles won’t hold up the rigors of hammer bashing like the Irwins, but the overall steel quality is certainly there.

Chris Black

April 3, 2007

Look in Your Mailbox for Our New Catalog!

Highland Woodworking Spring 2007 CatalogIf you are on our mailing list, keep on eye on your mailbox, as our new catalog has shipped out! It's full of new products and the great selection of woodworking tools, supplies and information you've come to rely on from us. Check out our new schedule of classes and seminars, too - we've got Curtis Buchanan and Toshio Odate coming back!

If you do not currently receive our print catalog and would like to do so, please contact our Catalog Request Department or you may call our 24-Hour Toll-Free CATALOG REQUEST LINE: (888) 500-4466.

Visit Highland Woodworking to shop online.

April 2, 2007

Finishing a Cutting Board

Finishing a Cutting BoardI made a cutting board for my daughter, but am uncertain as to how to finish it. What do you recommend?

Oiling wooden boards and bowls helps seal the grain against stains, odors and moisture. However, you want to use a product that's edible, flavorless and won’t turn rancid. Pure mineral oil, such as Butcher Block Oil, is a good choice because unlike vegetable oils or olive oil, it doesn't turn rancid and remains safe throughout its life.

Apply the oil with a soft cloth in the direction of the grain, flooding the surface and allowing it to soak in for a few minutes. Then remove any excess oil remaining on the surface with a clean, dry cloth. The oil will reduce the penetration of moisture into the pores of the wood. Some folks prefer to warm the oil slightly before applying it. Beeswax may also be added to the oil to create a tougher finish. Just shave about 1/2 teaspoon of pure beeswax into a cup of mineral oil and warm until the wax shavings have dissolved. Then apply to the piece while still warm in the same manner as described above. It's also a good idea to oil the surface after it’s washed or weekly to replenish the oil removed by washing and disinfecting.

Walnut oil is another popular choice for items intended for food use. Unlike mineral oil, it is a drying oil that reacts with the air and eventually hardens and will not evaporate over time. Mahoney Walnut Utility Oil Finish is a pure California walnut oil which is heat-treated to penetrate deep into the wood. Like raw walnut oil, it imparts little or no flavor or odor, nor will it go rancid. Wipe on or immerse the piece in the oil and let harden for 24 hours. Mahoney Oil Wax Finish is a blend of heat-treated walnut oil, beeswax and carnauba wax in paste wax form that may be used alone or in conjunction with the Mahoney Utility Finish. Regardless of the oil you choose to use, keep in mind that it is more of a "treatment" than a "finish", and will require maintenance. Apply periodically for maximum effectiveness.