Pretty much all wood finishes come in standard tins, but there are lots of problems with tins, particularly for hobbyists.
- It’s easy to drip finish into the rim, causing the lid to not seal properly.
- Not all tins are created equally – some are from incredibly malleable material and will dent and deform if you look at them.
- Actually extracting the finish out of the tin can be tricky – it is a good practice to decant whatever finish into a secondary container to avoid contamination, but pouring it from the tin leads to the first issue occurring , or just wastes finish dribbling down the side.
Don’t get a good seal? Oxidisation can start to occur pretty quickly, then you get finish curing in the can, a hard layer or jelly can form pretty quickly once the solvent starts leaking. Lets hope you don’t have an expensive finish!
If you’re doing floors or you’re a professional/full time woodworker, these issues may not effect you. New flooring job? Just open a new tin, every time. Client is paying for it. For hobbyists, there are a few methods that seem to work, all around oxygen displacement. The two I’ve heard of are
- Marbles. Yup, standard glass marbles. As you use up finish, throw marbles in the bottom of the tin, and that should raise the finish closer to the lid, and that means less air.
Downside is that for non-gloss finishes where you need to stir the finish, you’ll need to remove the marbles to properly combine everything
- Gas. Bloxygen is a relatively well known option – shoot an inert gas that’s heavier than air, and it forces the air out. Bloxygen is just “ultra-pure” argon, so you can use argon from a hardware store, but Bloxygen may be easier to manage (usually sold in larger quantities)
For probably the last 6 months or so, I’ve been trying out StopLossBags as an alternative to tins. This is not an ad, I’ve paid for everything myself. I bought them direct from StopLossBags as there is no longer an Australian supplier.
They solve the problem of oxygen displacement by letting you squeeze out most of (if not all of) the air before you screw on the cap.
They also solve the problem of pouring out finish since it has a small nozzle.
The transfer process from tin to bag was a little intimidating the first time around, but went much smoother than I thought. The whole process took about a minute and a half for a 1L tin of hardwax oil.
So far the results are really promising – they’re easier to use than tins, and I haven’t had any lumps forming in the other bags I’ve been using. If I have issues down the track, I’ll be sure to report back.