The Furniture Guys

Ed Feldman and Joe L'Erario

Adventures of the Furniture Godfather

Adventure one: The Furniture Godfather's Lesson in Lye

Lye is a chemical that has been used for years by fine finishers. While some swear by it others say stay away itís too dangerous. Well I am a staunch advocate having used it for many effects over the years after reading about it in many old finishing guides. after all, itís strips paint, it colors wood, and, it will perfectly clean wood that needs to be bleached.

Lye can burn the skin, you donít want it in an eye, and you donít want to breath in the initial fumes when it bubbles up in hot water, but with proper precautions such as the right gloves, goggles, a mask or respirator and a hose nearby will aid in the success of your using lye. Also, it must be remembered that lye and water must never be mixed in metal contains of any kind. Use plastic or earthenware only!

Lye is not a perfect finish, in fact, itís not a finish at all, merely a piece of the puzzle, a way to an end---and, it should be treated as another piece of finishing knowledge.

As said above, Lye can be used as a paint stripper. (More about this process at another time) If you intend to bleach something (thatís not veneer, mind you) lye will render it absolutely clean so that bleach will enter the wood for a much more evenly bleached surface.

Lye will also render the color of aged wood to new wood especially where OAK is concerned, and, oak has always been my favorite candidate for the lye bath. As is the nature of my work, where new wood is often combined with old wood, I will often use lye and hot water to age new pieces of wood so that when it comes time to stain, all the wood will have a more even look to it.

So hereís the tale already ...