This is an inert natural mineral that is commonly found in most parts of the country. Its main job is to act as a wood primer and protective agent. It is quite similar to another product called multani mitti (Fuller’s earth), which is used in naturopathy and beauty treatments (such as face packs), but peeli mitti has a much darker, almost cadmium red colouring (despite its “yellow” name). Just the way multani mitti cleanses the skin, peeli mitti penetrates into the grains of a raw wood surface and protects it from fungal, bacterial and pest invasions. It is also responsible for the honey colour often seen in polished wood.
Peeli mitti is very cheap, with a price tag of Rs25-45 per kg. Though available in 25kg bags, it is often sold loose as well. A simple 7x3ft door shutter and frame can be treated with as little as 150-200g peeli mitti. It mixes well and quickly with water to become a slurry.
This slurry is applied after the raw wood has been smoothened with a wood planer and sandpaper to remove its undulations and rough edges. The slurry dries quickly (30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on atmospheric humidity). The excess mitti can be removed using cloth rags or low-grade sandpaper. This way, only a small quantity of the clay, absorbed in the wood grain, is left behind, enhancing the base colour of the wood.
Shine on: Get the desired finish with polish or wax treatment.
Polish or wax treatment can now be applied to the surface to achieve the desired finish (though peeli mitti protects its host from rot and disease like most primers, it is not strong enough to withstand the wear and tear of nature, and needs the further protection of harder surface finishes.These, in turn, will also require periodic refinishing).
Water-based ‘white glue’
Most water-based adhesives are good for joining wood. Unlike rubber-based glues or synthetically modified chemicals such as epoxy polymers, water-based glues have a longer setting time. This is actually a great boon for carpenters, who need to work with large surfaces (laminates, ply, veneers) without compromising the quality of workmanship due to quick drying or unequal bonding. Water-based glues also don’t stain the surface, which can be a problem with epoxy-polymer-based adhesives. In fact, water-based glues become practically transparent on drying, and are very effective for sealing joints or filling slight imperfections on the surface as well. Fevicol is one of the preferred brands.
Natural beeswax is highly recommended for a wax finish on wood. The only problem is sourcing it. Plus, owing to the organic nature of the product, it is difficult to evaluate and control the quality of the raw material.
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