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Do you mix your own finishes?

comments (18) April 30th, 2014 in blogs

AsaC Asa Christiana, Special Projects Editor, Fine Woodworking magazine
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Some woodworkers swear by their own custom blend of off-the-shelf and exotic products. Tell us about yours. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Some woodworkers swear by their own custom blend of off-the-shelf and exotic products. Tell us about yours.

Photo: Ed Pirnik

Ever since Sam Maloof published his famous 1-1-1 formula, modern woodworkers have been creating their own custom blends of oil, varnish, solvent and the like, some swearing by spar varnish, turpentine, Japan drier, or even the exotic-sounding ashpaltum as the magic ingredient. If you are one of those who just isn't satisfied with ready-made, we want to know. Use the comment section to tell us about your favorite home-brew wood finish. 


posted in: blogs, custom, finish, mix


Comments (18)

notrapsoptonlinenet notrapsoptonlinenet writes: My usual finish is straight polyurethane, sometimes thinned with mineral spirits, but the key is how it is applied. It never fails to elicitmpraise when anyone rubs their hand over it. I apply the poly (usually Minwax clear gloss) with a quarter sheet of wet or dry sand paper. I start with 220 grit and sand the wet surface with the grain until I feel the paper is no longer cutting. A add more poly if the slurry gets too thick. At this point, I wipe off the slurry against the grain with a clean cloth and let it dry for at least eight hours, but better overnight. I then repeat the process with 330 grit wet or dry paper. Again, wait overnight and repeat a 3rd time
with 400 grit paper. After wiping the surface dry again (against the grain) I am finished. The surface is as smooth and delightful to touch as any finish I have ever felt with a pleasing luster. Please give it a try.
One caveat: It can be time consuming and messy, but I feel it is worth the effort. Also, do not try to apply to too large an area at one time because the slurry will begin to dry and be difficult to wipe off. In this case, wet the area with more poly, then wipe
off.
Posted: 7:36 am on May 13th

cahudson42 cahudson42 writes: For a high gloss finish on a cherry Butler's Table with a hand-planed final surface, I used 'pulled lacquer' - something not mentioned often here in the US, but used more in the UK apparently.

See Sean Clarke's fascinating (to me anyway) video on "Use Pullover for a Hand-Rubbed Lacquer Finish' http://www.finewoodworking.com/subscription/skillsandtechniques/skillsandtechniquesarticle.aspx?id=5213

The Mylands Pullover Solvent is not easy to find. But a reasonable facsimile can be mixed up using 60% ethanol and 40% lacquer thinner.

If you research articles on the technique from the UK or Australia most likely - be aware the term 'meths' is NOT referring to methyl alcohol - it means ethanol - ethyl alcohol.

There are also some additional posts in Knots - search for 'lacquer pullover'

As with the Hack wiping Varnish, I will usually use a 1:1 Sealcoat shellac wash first - also applied with a 'rubber' - just like Steve Latta showed in his most recent Federal Table episode...
Posted: 11:15 pm on May 8th

cahudson42 cahudson42 writes: For my cherry hardwood furniture, I use Garrett Hack's 3-part wipe-on (search for FWW article): 1 part Tung Oil, 1 part Turpentine, 1 part Spar varnish.

For the varnish, I use an old-fashioned phenolic-based resin Spar Varnish - Cabot, or Ace usually, as I like the slight darkening it provides.

I do not - ever - use Mineral Spirits instead of Turpentine. Always Turpentine. It seems to penetrate better, and buff up better. Tung oil for hardness and water resistance.

If the cherry looks like it might blotch, I first use a 1:1 Zinsser Seal Coat shellac wash - padded on.
Posted: 10:51 pm on May 8th

BStev BStev writes: Actually 'iron and ash' not all finishes need finishing. We spray conversion varnish, lacquer and polyester and none of them benefit from additional attention. The quality off the gun is superb and only gets worse the more we try to mess with it whether with wax or rubbing out. I prefer to spray the sheen I want to see and avoid the rubbing out all together (except for high gloss polished finishes). I do agree that a nice wax inside a cabinet or drawer box does smell nice but that's the only benefit as far as I'm concerned.
Posted: 9:03 pm on May 6th

AsaC AsaC writes: Thanks, all. What I was thinking here was normal-size furniture mostly, to be kept indoors. That narrows it down a bit.
Posted: 2:30 pm on May 6th

iron_and_ash iron_and_ash writes: Finishes need finishing, and many commercial paste waxes have nasty chemicals as the solvent. I've been making my own with beeswax, carnauba wax, and citrus oil as the solvent. Applied the same as any other wax, but accompanied by the pleasant odor, and peace of mind.
Posted: 10:43 pm on May 5th

dejure dejure writes: My rule is, if it mixes, it's fair game to play with altering the end product. This might be applied to hardening or non-hardening oil and polyurethane, or to solvent, whether alcohol, paint thinner, turpentine or water.

One example might be adding more alcohol to a shellac mix. Another might be oil finishes. They are either long or short oil finishes. Which is just a way of saying "short on the oil," or "long on the oil." More oil means the finish is more flexible, but less durable.

Flexibility may be more important than durability. For example, if the material the finish is applied to might be affected by humidity, such as a nautical application, hardness make take second place to the ability of the finish to move and flex. Too hard a material will crack under the flexing.

Put poly on a fence and you'll have an ugly fence in a short time. Dump non-hardening oil on it and you can keep adding oil, until the wood is saturated. Then, you MIGHT seal the deal with a little [very] long oil finish.

Of course, there was some valuable advice given long ago - "all things in moderation."

In the end, there is no perfect finish and even the pro's can't make a "one size fits all" finish perfect for all needs and applications.
Posted: 9:35 pm on May 5th

amitrica amitrica writes: My last finish on a desk made of birch, cherry plywood and birch baltic plywood was: lye and medium red to equalize the tones of the three woods, Dark Walnut Danish Oil (not on cherry, too dark); 2-6 coats of garnet shellac to deepen the finish and then toned with wipping polyurethane (poly + mineral spirits) mixed with bitumen in different amounts, depending on the wood and piece, sanding of course between coats. Some wax colored with the same bitumen dissolved in mineral spirits covered all this, applied with 0000 steel wool.
Posted: 9:02 am on May 5th

bruce277 bruce277 writes: Going back to the really early days of FWW (I think I started reading it at the second issue), picking up on a trick by the late Tage Frid, all I ever seem to use is Watco natural oil finish.
Although, I messed with the application, first coat, brushed on, and ragged off. All subsequent coats applied and wet sanded with wet/dry sandpaper. Starting with 220 grit, 400, 800, 1200. All wiped off with old towels.
Finally 2 coats of Liberon natural finish was applied with Liberon 4X steel wool. I find Liberon's product to be much better than any other I tried.

And if I'm really in the mood, I'll buff with white rouge on a flannel wheel.

Takes time, but its well worth it. And usually only make jewelry boxes, so we're not talking about large pieces.
Posted: 8:52 pm on May 3rd

BigJAF BigJAF writes: Regardless of the finish used (off the shelf or private mix) I prefer to use pieces of brown paper shopping bags to smooth out the nibs between coats. It works well and there is no need to wipe down (after sanding). It's a technique I was taught for fining my wood carvings. Be careful not to use bags with printing on them.
Posted: 1:18 pm on May 3rd

nybfred nybfred writes: I am a chemist and I make my own: 1 part BLO, 2 parts gloss polyurethane and 1 part Varsol. This is brushed on and rubbed off. After a day of drying I spray with a thorough coat of satin lacquer. The next day I knock off the nibs with a worn piece of 220 sandpaper and wax to a rich finish.
Posted: 1:00 pm on May 3rd

Kingsoly Kingsoly writes: I really can not see the point to playing chemist when there are 100's of professionally made finishes out there by people who actually know what they are doing.
So much out there is old wives tales propagated by people who don't know what they are doing.
You need to know your wood what finishes it will take, and the look you want i.e. shine no shine , hand rubbed etc, tung oil based, linseed oil base , nitro-cellulose, shellac etc then just buy it and use it properly. Because what you concoct most probably existed made in the correct proportions already.
Posted: 10:19 am on May 3rd

Zabo2 Zabo2 writes: A lot depends on the type of wood I'm using. For hardwoods I'll use a 1-1-1 mixture of BLO, Varnish, MS. but on soft wood or resinous wood I find it stays sticky and takes too long to cure. On that kind of wood I'll use shellac or a wash coat of shellac followed by polly. For both finishes I always finish up with a coat of wax applied with 0000 steel wool, that gives a satin sheen.
Posted: 10:11 am on May 3rd

Zabo2 Zabo2 writes: A lot depends on the type of wood I'm using. For hardwoods I'll use a 1-1-1 mixture of BLO, Varnish, MS. but on soft wood or resinous wood I find it stays sticky and takes too long to cure. On that kind of wood I'll use shellac or a wash coat of shellac followed by polly. For both finishes I always finish up with a coat of wax applied with 0000 steel wool, that gives a satin sheen.
Posted: 10:11 am on May 3rd

Zabo2 Zabo2 writes: A lot depends on the type of wood I'm using. For hardwoods I'll use a 1-1-1 mixture of BLO, Varnish, MS. but on soft wood or resinous wood I find it stays sticky and takes too long to cure. On that kind of wood I'll use shellac or a wash coat of shellac followed by polly. For both finishes I always finish up with a coat of wax applied with 0000 steel wool, that gives a satin sheen.
Posted: 10:11 am on May 3rd

davidputman davidputman writes: For my bowls and small pieces I use a mix of turpentine and raw beeswax with just a drop off essential oil to make it smell nice. I sometimes add a bit of carnauba to the mix for extra toughness.
Posted: 3:53 am on May 3rd

Bill_San Bill_San writes: For my furniture I use 1:1:1 BLO, Tung and Poly. The first coats of poly I use semi gloss and then depending on what I am building the last coat may be gloss to build protection and give it a bit more shine. I then finish it off with 2 coats of carnauba wax.
Posted: 8:28 pm on May 1st

vanpieters vanpieters writes: I am currently doing wood turning of bowls and I needed a fast drying finish. I finally came up with 1: 1 of Varnish and Raw Linseed Oil and 1: 1 of Varnish and Burnishing Oil
Posted: 5:48 pm on April 30th

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