If you want the inside of your project to look as good as the outside, flocking just may be what you’re looking for. Made of shredded felt fibers, flocking babies your treasures on a soft, scratch-free, durable surface with lots of visual appeal. Sure, you could just caveman it and leave your drawers all rough and natural. You could also polish your precious heirlooms with a rasp. But if you want a professional quality liner that’s easy to install, read on and I’ll show you how it’s done.
Meet The Flockers
Flocking is available in a couple dozen colors. My go-to is royal blue because it works well with just about any wood, light or dark. My personal stock also includes brown, red, green and yellow, colors I tend to use only by special request. Some choose to finish their drawer and box interiors by gluing in sheet felt or velvet, both of which often leave unsightly seams and sometimes curl at the corners and edges over time. Flocking feels like velvet and installs seamlessly; the perfect solution to a problem you never knew you had. Try to ignore those ugly seams now!
I always use clear spray lacquer on projects that I intend to flock. Other film finishes (polyurethane, for example) should work as well but, when in doubt, test on scrap wood with the same finish before putting your project at risk. Penetrating oils – linseed oil, walnut oil, teak oil, and so on – can prevent the adhesive from bonding securely so I recommend avoiding such finishes on items you plan to flock. The same goes for waxy finishes.
In my shop, flocking – if used – is always saved for the final step of a project. Apply your finish and let it cure completely before moving on.
Read The Grain
Flocking adhesive is essentially a thick oil based paint tinted to match the fibers. Paint – like other finishes – tends to wick into open wood pores. That can spell cosmetic disaster on drawers and boxes having thin end-grain sections. It’s important to seal the end grain to prevent colored adhesive from bleeding through and staining the exterior of the project.
When I lacquer the exterior of my projects, I always hit the innards with a couple light coats as well to begin sealing the pores. Next, I note which direction my grain runs. On the drawer pictured above, you can see that the grain runs vertically. With vertical grain, the bottom of the drawer is most vulnerable to bleed-through because that’s where the exposed end grain is. Depending on the design of a given project, the grain may run from side to side, front to rear or diagonally. In the case of burl wood, the grain may even be a chaotic swirl.
Seal of A-glue-val
After identifying the grain direction, seal the surface to be flocked by rubbing white wood glue into the pores with your finger. You don’t need to go crazy with the glue; just be sure to clog all of the end grain. Wipe off any standing puddles and set it aside to dry for a few hours.
Now that the glue is dry, use masking or painter’s tape to cover the areas you don’t want to flock.
A cardboard belt is a waist of paper. A cardboard box, however, is just what we need. Line the box with plastic sheeting to make cleanup a metaphoric breeze. After all, a real breeze would make cleanup a nightmare.
A cardboard flocking applicator (a “flocker”) is a two piece telescoping tube used to blow the fibers onto the adhesive paint. Other methods – pneumatic, electrostatic, and violent shaking – do exist, but this is the best and most practical option for the DIY’er.
Use the bottom half of the applicator (the one without holes) to scoop up more fibers than you think you’ll need. But don’t fill the tube completely.
Color Me Impressed
Once you start painting on the adhesive you’re up against the clock. If the paint you’ve already applied skins over on you halfway through the process, the fibers aren’t going to adhere worth a crap. So don’t try to flock too many drawers at one time. It’s also important to have your work area and loaded flocker ready to go before proceeding.
Apply a generous coat of adhesive with a soft haired brush. I use a natural hair artist or acid brush. Synthetic brushes just don’t work as well and may require some patches to be dabbed for sufficient coverage. Anywhere that wood shows through will be starved and end up resembling a mangy mutt: pretty flocked up. So, if you still see wood, you need to add a little more adhesive.
Flocking And Blowing – Not Just An Expression
To use a flocker, gently pump the inner tube in and out of the larger one. Short strokes at a rate of about two per second works best for me. Adjust your technique as needed. Start by turning the flocker vertically so all the fibers fall to the bottom. Then hold it horizontally and start pumping gently.
Slowly raise the back end as shown until fibers are blown out of the holes as a cloudy mist, not a clumpy mess. At first, concentrate on the tightest inside corners, followed by the more obtuse corners. As you do this, the larger surfaces will receive a dusting of fibers as well. Take your time and really saturate the adhesive. As soon as the fibers soak in and expose paint, dust it with more fibers.
After you’ve got a good start on the corners you can work more on the larger surfaces. But continue tending to the corners as well. When you feel like you’ve got a good enough coating of fibers: blow on more. Once you’ve done that, add even more. A good flocking job requires a glut of fibers, and then some. In the end, the adhesive should be saturated to maximum capacity.
Overkill this step with every fiber of your being. Then set it aside to dry for a day. Don’t worry about wasting your flock. The excess is still perfectly good and will be reclaimed with no problem.
Lots Of Fiber. Big Dump.
Now that the flocking has had a full day to cure, go ahead and dump out the excess fibers and remove the tape.
Use a soft brush to whisk away any loose fibers, especially in the corners.
It’s almost inevitable that a little adhesive will get under the tape in some areas. The act of painting it on often forces it in around any rounded or chamfered edges. As long as you discover the issue within a day or two it can easily be cleaned up with a little mineral spirits on a folded up paper towel or rag. That’s another reason why you should always apply your finish before flocking. On bare wood, any stray adhesive will leave a permanent stain.
As alluded to earlier, it’s impossible to use too much fiber. Simply scoop up the excess with a paper card and throw it back into the bag for next time. No worry; no waste.
The Proof Of The Flocking Is In The Flaunting
When I make band saw and other keepsake boxes, I always flock the interiors. The difference is night and day. Once you flock you’ll never glue in felt or fabric again. And bare drawer interiors will feel like concrete by comparison. It’s time to step up your game! Now flock off, will ya’?
Flocking can be obtained from a number of woodworking and craft suppliers, including our sponsor, Rockler.
17 thoughts on “Flocking – How To Use It”
Hi, I used this same process and have some strange areas that need more fibers. Have you ever had to re-apply more fibers to an already flocked box? If so, any tips? I was thinking about using spray adhesive but not sure if this will look sloppy.
I have the same question. Did the spray adhesive work for touch up ?
Tania, I know you’re question was posted a year ago (sorry). If I were to reapply flocking, I’d scrape and sand away the old as best as I could. Then start fresh with flocking adhesive followed by fibers. Trying to apply new over old isn’t likely to give the results you’d want.
Hey Steve, I’m glad that I found you here and that I found this flocking material. I knew about this stuff early on, but when I looked for it more recently people took my inquires mostly as vulgarity, and though I had a need to adorn some of my gift boxes, I discontinued my search for the stuff. Thank you steering me in the right direction once again. Ralph – aka: Art Rafael
Hey Art! It’s been quite a while, old friend! Flocking is some wonderful stuff. I’m glad I could point you in the right direction. Best of luck to you!
I was also blessed with family members who were real tool, equipment, etc. “nuts” (for lack of a better word at the moment). They exhibited a genuine love for buying quality items … so many things fall victim “planned obsolescence”. I also enjoy the humor you interject into your writing.
Anyway, just wanted you to know …
I appreciate the feedback, J T Fukushima! Along with a little knowledge and inspiration, tools usually possess the ability to dodge obsolescence. Tools are empowering. Tools make life easier. Tools give creativity a stage on which to perform. Yup, I’m a tool nut for sure!
Interesting process, did not know it is such an involved process! Certainly adds a quality plus to projects! Can you flock with a rainbow of colors?? I can imagine a lovely “stained glass” effect being quite pretty. Thanks for the info, Steve appreciate learning something new.
Thank you for reading, Linda Derrington. It may difficult to get crisp details and sharp borders between adjacent colors. But yes, you can flock multiple colors and patterns. I like your idea though. I may have to try a stained glass-style pattern sometime 🙂
I always wondered how that was done. Understanding the process gives you a better appreciation for the finished products.
Thank you for reading, Sherry Johnson.
great job!!! cool box Guess need to try one
Thank you for reading, Marla White. Flocking is actually pretty easy to use.
I must say, that box turned out flocking awesome.
Thank you very much!
Great article. It ads an elegant look to the finished project.
Thank you, Russell!