Make your own Tack Rag

Make your own Tack Rag
by Al Carrell

Dust is maybe the biggest enemy you’ll encounter in furniture refinishing. After you’ve applied the finish, and it has set up, any dust particles that were on the surface of the furniture before you started are now sealed in forever. Sometimes it can look pretty bad.

One of the keys to a better finish is to use a tack rag. These are inexpensive to buy in the paint store or paint department. However, making your own tack rags is an easy project and can save a little money, plus the fact it’s not always convenient to leap into the car and go out for supplies when you’re in your grungy refinishing clothes.

For the rag part, you need a well-washed lint-free cloth made of cotton. Diapers left over from when you had babies are great. Old oxford cloth shirts are also good, but make sure to remove the buttons first. Heavy cheesecloth is all right as is any other old piece of cotton cloth.

The first step is to cut the cloth into about men’s handkerchief size. If you use pinking shears to cut with, there’s less likelihood of raveling. Now dip the rag into lukewarm water and wring it out as completely as possible. Next you must saturate the rag with turpentine. You can pour some turp into a bowl and dip the cloth in. Again, ring the devil out of the rag.

Since it’s call a “tack rag”, it’s got to be tacky. This is done with a little varnish. Place the rag out on a flat clean surface and drip varnish all over the surface. Probably the easiest way to drip is to transfer some varnish into a clean empty plastic container with a cap in which you’ve punched a hole. Make the dots about every inch apart in an all over pattern. Fold the cloth together so the dots face each other. Now roll it up and wring it and knead it to spread the varnish around. Unfold and refold in another direction. Wring and knead again. The idea here is to spread the tackiness so it coats the entire cloth uniformly. Keep up the wringing and rolling and folding until it is uniformly spread.

Test it to see if it’s right by running over a surface. The tack rag should be tacky enough to pick up dust and hold it, but should not leave the surface tacky.

The time to use the tack rag is just before you start to apply the varnish or other finish. Work just a little bit ahead of the brushing.

When not in use, store your tack rags in a tightly sealed far. IF the rag needs restoration, add a few more drops of warm water followed by more drops of turpentine. Wring it thoroughly.

Attack the dust with your tack rag, whether you make it or buy it and your furniture finishing will not be a hairy experience!

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