The fun of making wooden toys and gifts is second only to seeing the joy in the faces of those who receive them. Unfortunately, having to finish them quickly at the last minute is less festive. To help out, here are some easy-touse, fast drying finishes that are safe both for kids’ toys and for the loving folks who make them.
Simple, Safe and Clear
The simplest clear finish is one coat of shellac to seal the wood, followed by paste wax to leave a smooth, silky feel. Buy either shellac or Zinsser SealCoat®, which is pure de-waxed shellac mixed to the perfect wipe, brush and spray consistency. Both are available in liquid and aerosol cans.
Flood it on liberally and wipe it off immediately to seal the wood. Small parts can be dipped, then wiped off. For larger parts, brush, spray or wipe it on liberally, then quickly wipe off all you can with paper shop towels or rags. Set the parts to dry in a warm spot for 15 or 20 minutes. Once dry, rub the surface with 0000 steel wool dipped into paste wax, which will smooth any subtle roughness. Wipe off the excess wax thoroughly.
Want a thicker, shinier finish? Skip the wax and steel wool and instead, once the first wiped-off coat of shellac is dry, lightly sand it with 400-grit paper. Add two or three more thin coats of shellac with a soft brush, or spray it from an aerosol can. Give each coat 30 to 60 minutes to dry. Once dry, the steel wool and wax treatment will give it a soft sheen and a silky feel.
Though it is not quite as people friendly, lacquer in an aerosol can will dry about as fast if you keep the coats very thin. If you have a bit more time, you can use water-based finishes, though they do dry somewhat slower. They, too, are available in both liquid and aerosol can versions. All these finishes are kid-safe once they are dry.
But Wait; I Want to Decorate!
The flood-on and wipe-off method of applying Zinsser SealCoat, an ideal sealer, also creates the perfect primed base for paint, should you decide that color is called for. Painting over sealed wood helps the paint stay where you put it instead of allowing it to seep through the wood and muddy your crisp color lines.
Go to any craft store and you’ll find ready mixed acrylic artist paint in two-ounce squeeze bottles. It comes in hundreds of colors so you won’t have to mix your own, and its low price means you can afford a wide array of hues. Pick up some small artist’s brushes while you are there.
A thin layer of this water-based paint will dry in an hour or so, and you can, in a pinch, help it along with a hair dryer set on low. The acrylic will hold up fine by itself, but if you want a bit more shine, you can go over it, after the paint dries, with a thin spray of shellac, SealCoat or water-based finish in an aerosol can.