A question about finishing mahogany

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I am doing my first project using mahogany. I am using a wood filler before I apply an oil finish. I bought a wood filler product from Rockler. The instructions say to sand after the filler has dried but not to sand too hard or the filler would be removed from the wood pores. Can any one give me some advice about what grit paper you have used to sand your mahogany after filling? I would assume something light like 220 but I would like someone with experience to confirm please.
Thanks.
Dick Snyder
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Sand only enough to resmooth the surface and remove excess build up. Typically I only sand to 180 grit but what ever you use as a last grit should be OK.
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Dick Snyder wrote:

An oil finish as in tung oil or linseed oil, or as in varnish? I wouldn't be too inclined to use any kind of filler with tung oil or linseed oil; that would kinda defeats the purpose IMO.
If you're using oil varnish, will you be staining the wood? Some of those fillers can look pretty damned ugly stuck in the pores of perfectly good Mahogany, stain or no. I'd definitely test your methods on scrap before committing anything to the final workpiece.
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No stain. I will be using General Finishes Seal-A-Cell Clear (an oil and urethane blend - David Marks uses this product) followed by several coats of Arm-R-Seal, also from General Finishes. I have some left over mahogany so I will try the filler on a piece followed by the Seal-A-Cell and then just the Seal-A-Cell on another piece so I can see the difference.
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Dick Snyder wrote:

Good. :-) Life is so much easier that way, and Mahogany doesn't need stain to look fabulous. However, I'm curious as to what the filler is going to look like without any colorizing...

I've not tried that combination, but it sounds like a reasonable approach; General Finishes makes a quality product.

Do report back with your findings.
BTW, is the workpiece relatively "flat" or do you have a lot of contours to contend with (as with a complex molding or turned legs)? Going for the "piano" finish (as Sonoma described it) is exponentially more difficult if you have to deal with all kinds of nooks and crannies... Case in point: have a look at my "amoire" project if you want to see the "piano" finish from hell:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bbqboyee/sets/72157603972580761 /
It took me longer to do the finish than it did to construct the dang thing (complicated *considerably* by the presence of stain), and it's still nowhere *near* perfect...
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Wow. Nice work.

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SonomaProducts.com wrote:

Thank you, sir. That Mahogany is just beautiful and the finish is as deep as the ocean. You should see it radiate when the light hits it! Makes me forget all the work I put into it... Almost. :-)
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Steve Turner wrote:

I forgot how much I hate you, until just now. :-p
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-MIKE- wrote:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hz8ul-gmLyA

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Steve Turner wrote:

You probably spent half an hour looking that up. :-)
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WOW! Great work.

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You asked for a report back Steve. I have put Bartley wood filler on two different parts of my project (table top and table legs). After I apply the oil finish, my eye detects no change in color between the filled and unfilled table top and same on the leg. The only difference of course is that the filled areas are smoother.

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Dick Snyder wrote:

Can't remember if I've ever tried Bartley wood filler, but they make good stuff so it's not surprising that it gave good results. And if you're happy with it that's all that matters. :-)
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I assume you are talking about a grain filler to try and get a piano type surface. If so, an you haven't done this before, you need to practice quite a bit to learn how. (p.s. don't practice on your project) I've done grain filling a few times and still never got it completly right.
Most people use burlap to buff it off after it flashes dry (hazy). Then sand across the grain so you don't pull the filler out of the grain lines and I would use a very light hand and 400 if you are really trying for flat.

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Thanks for the tips about filling. I am building three stacking tables. The tops are a rectangle of curly maple veneer on a baltic birch substrate that is surrounded by 2 1/2" wide mitered mahogany edges. The legs are rather thin pieces of mahogany (so that the second and third tables fit inside the preceeding table without losing a lot of space to leg thickness). I mostly care about getting a nice finish on the table tops rather than the skinny legs. I was advised by Rockler to use burlap but I didn't really have any idea about how to sand it. Your advice is very helpful. I have a top I messed up with which I am doing experiments.
Thanks again.
Dick
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On Mon, 23 Feb 2009 09:20:28 -0800, SonomaProducts.com wrote:

I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but I've read that mixing pumice with some shellac makes a good grain filler. Apparently the pumice becomes transparent in the shellac. If anyone here has tried it, how did it work?
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FWIW, am using a product called Bartley paste wood filler. It is natural so that one could add tinting if desired which I do not. I have filled a couple of test areas and it is quite transparent. When I put my oil finish on over it and a neighboring area that had no filler, there is no difference in color between the filled and unfilled areas.

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Larry Blanchard wrote:

I have, and once leveled out it looks quite nice. However, for my armoire project I decided not to go with that approach because the pumice made the surface very difficult to sand smooth, and it wore out my sandpaper almost as fast as I could tear off a new piece!
For that project I tried just about every filler approach known to man, gravitating in the end towards various solids mixed with shellac (I even tried SALT, which worked surprisingly well but I was afraid it might react with the wood or have negative effects on the longevity of the shellac). I was very interested in that "piano" smooth finish, but I didn't want to see any kind of opaque "filler" in the pores of the wood. Plus, the fact that stain was involved (water soluble dye) complicated the process; breaking through the stain when leveling with sandpaper is *going* to happen, and many of the otherwise successful approaches I tried broke down when a repair was involved. In the end, I abandoned solids altogether.
Perhaps the obvious approach would have been a traditional French polish, and I tried that but my skill level was laughable. The process I finally used was to stain with dye, followed by coat after coat of garnet shellac slapped on without any regard for getting it smooth or level; I was simply going for buildup. Once sufficiently thick, I would level it with a sharp card scraper (MUCH faster, cleaner, and easier than sandpaper!), taking almost all of the shellac back off (you can save the shavings and reuse them by tossing them back into a jar of alcohol) until the pores were filled. Any time I broke through the stain, I simply restained that area and repeated the process. Shellac is a solvent based finish, so there are no witness lines and the repairs are invisible. Eventually, I got enough buildup to where I could switch to wet sanding with 400 and 600 grit sandpaper until the surface was baby-butt smooth, and the final step was to spray on a nice wet coat of satin lacquer. Done!
I still have most of the twenty or so pieces of scrap Mahogany with the various failed experiments in finishing, and none can compare with that simple layer of translucent garnet shellac lying deep within the pores of the wood. It's purty!
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Well... if you have a spray rig and can lay down enough lacquer, it will flatten close to glass all on it's own and a little wet 400 brings it to the piano status pretty easy. Here is an example on a red oak piece. Granted only the top was coated unitl plastic flat but if you can do it with rough oak...
http://www.sonomaproducts.com/Graphics/JL-ET-large4.gif
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SonomaProducts.com wrote:

Been there and done that; the problem with lacquer is that it shrinks something terrible. You need to let it cure for several weeks before you sand it, otherwise it *will* shrink into the pores and will no longer be glassy smooth. Also, you'd better be dang sure you don't break through to the wood and/or stain while sanding, or you'll have to respray the area (which *unshrinks* the surrounding cured lacquer) and wait all over again. I found the shellac approach to be much more forgiving.
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