I have just finished construction on my first real piece of "fine" furniture.
It is a small chest of drawers made of solid cherry.
Now begins the part of woodworking that I really do not enjoy: finishing.
My choices are:
Shellac: This is what I have the most experience with and do not find to be
Lacquer: I have done a little work with this medium and would apply several
coats over two coats of Sealcoat.
Polyurethane: I have done a lot with Poly (brushed) and have had mixed results
. It is my least favorite finish to work with.
BLO: I have used boiled linseed oil on a couple of projects, but never on
something that would end up I the living room. Actually, I have never used it
on finely sanded wood. I know that the medium is rubbed on and that a number of
coats are require for a decent build up.
But when all is said and done, what kind of finfish does BLO provide?
What is the proper prep for BLO?
Does it buff out to a nice sheen?
How long does it take for the smell to go away?
How durable is it?
Of course, I could always paint it pink.
Thanks for any serious advice.
New Eagle, PA
STOP! Why go any further? You've just given two excellent reasons for
using shellac, IMHO. Add to those that you can control color very well
through choices of shellac and use of transtint dyes, the finish is
repairable, it's quick, and if you want a film finish, nothing rubs
out to any nicer looking finish. I love shellac, and in your situation
would need a pretty compelling reason to consider other choices.
Examples might be need for better wear resistance, resistance to
liquid spills, or if I wanted a close-to-the-wood look.
My experience here is limited to one project with Deft. Great result,
but hate the fumes.
I'm with you there. Have pretty much sworn it off.
I've never used it to the point of getting build-up. I think it is a
very attractive finish for cherry, and I like the natural look. But
for a chest of drawers, I would prefer a film finish--just my
I cannot smell the desk accessory I made a year ago. But I would never
put it anywhere that does not get good air circulation (like inside a
chest), because the time for the smell to go away may be measured in
generations of your descendants.
One you left out is non-urethane varnishes, either alkyd or phenolic.
That might be a good choice for the chest, but NOT FOR YOU, since I
would never recommend learning a new finish on a serious project like
this. Another reason for liking shellac.
If I were doing this, I would probably use shellac on the whole piece
to do any subtle tinting I wanted, then finish with blond shellac on
the body and phenolic resin varnish (Waterlox high-gloss is the one I
am familiar with) on the top for durability. And being basically a
shellac man, I would be in agony waiting the 3-4 weeks for it to fully
cure before rubout.
Alex -- Replace "nospam" with "mail" to reply by email. Checked infrequently.
Or encourage it to darken by applying a 50/50 coat of thinned BLO, followed
by a full-strength rubbed coat, then a wipe-on varnish featuring your
favorite resin. You could even build a surface finish farther if you care
to, but the coat of varnish should provide good basic water rejection help,
where the oil would still be vulnerable to water damage.
Smell's gone when the vehicle has evaporated. Open to the air, week or so.
Bill Waller wrote:
> I have just finished construction on my first real piece of "fine"
> It is a small chest of drawers made of solid cherry.
> Now begins the part of woodworking that I really do not enjoy:
> My choices are:
> But when all is said and done, what kind of finfish does BLO provide?
> What is the proper prep for BLO?
> Does it buff out to a nice sheen?
> How long does it take for the smell to go away?
> How durable is it?
Don't have a clue how BLO will make cherry look; however, I used it
along with bees wax after the BLO on some white oak pieces and am
quite happy with the results.
Instructions are on the can. Cut with turps and wipe on with a rag.
From memory, 3-4 coats.
As far as the beeswax was concerned, mixed my own concoction.
2 parts bees wax, 2 parts turps, 1 part BLO all melted together in a 1
lb coffee can setting in a pan of water on the stove.
Trick is to create a soft gooey wax which can be wiped on and buffed
out, once it has cooled.
Would I use the above on a bar or other potentially wet location? NO.
A fine furniture location? Absolutely.
Minimal protecttion, but a satin finish that makes the suface look like
Nice is subjective.... a relatively low-gloss finish.
Does not offer much resistamce to water chemicals or abraision
Some folks think it pop's the grain when used prior to a film finish
(shellac/varnish). IME a washcoat of shellac works as well.
Some folks suggest flooding the surface on the first coat. IMO this is a
huge mistake with cherry. Flooding the first coat of anything (BLO, tung,
shellac, poly) will exacerbate Cherry's tendency to blotch. I always put on
the first coat thinned, but more importantly, light.
Posted via a free Usenet account from http://www.teranews.com
I like BLO on cherry. It doesn't build up; it is not a film finish.
I know people talk about putting 5 or 6 application on, but that defeats the
purpose of BLO.
Once it can't soak in anymore, you are done; one or two coats.
The odor is pretty much gone once it is dry. (unless you put 5 or 6 coats
It does very little for durability. On tabletops I will put several coats
of wipeon varnish over it.
There are ways of making it a very good finish. Rubbing it out with steel
wook pumice, rottenstone, and then wax, it is very nice. I recently did a
chest that way and the results were the best ever.
I've not done much in the way of rubbing it out. The sheen that I've had is
a bit on the duller side, but it does bring out the richness of the wood.
Varnish oil seems to give a better build after three or four coats. My
experince with BLO is limited so others may be of more help.
The smell is gone in a few day to a week.
It is durable in that it will last a long time, but not offer a lot of
protection from water or abrasion.
I like lacquer. Don't use Sealcoat though; in fact, I don't even know
what it is except relative to asphalt.
No reason for results to be mixed.
No reason to "build it up", it isn't a surface finish. That is
especially true on a close, small pored wood like cherry.
A very easy one that is attractive.
Sand, apply oil, wipe off when wood absorbs no more, let dry 48 hours.
Repeat once in case wood still absorbs more but be sure to wipe off
ALL excess. Applying with 0000 steel wool works well.
IF the wood was well sanded, you removed all excess oil and smoothed
the wood during or after application and you then wax it when the oil
is dry, then you can buff it out to a nice sheen. Not high gloss like
a piano, more of a glow but shiny enough so that it will reflect
However long it takes to completely "set". During the interim it
smells better if you have added a bit of oil of wintergreen to it.
Against what? Being beat on? Water? Alcohol? Acetone or nail polish
remover? Doesn't matter, it isn't very resistent to any of those. In
fact, *any* finish can be damaged by one or more of those things.
OTOH, this is a "small chest of drawers"...how durable does it need to
What you really need to decide is if you want a smooth, slick surface
finish in whatever gloss or a "close to the wood" finish.
...that you can add oil base varnish to oil (linseed/tung/etc.) if you
want a slightly harder finish. In fact, that's what many commercial
"oil" or "wiping varnish" finishes are. They are no longer really
oil, more of a very soft, flexible, thin varnish. They too are not
meant to build up and provide a surface finish but will dry harder
than plain oil; consequently, rubbing out and waxing will add more
shine to them than to plain oil.
You've received some great ideas for finishes to try. But I'll make
one VERY STRONG recommendation: Don't treat a project that you are
proud of as a test piece for finishing. If you want to try out some
of these other finishes (and I think I will), do it on shop furniture,
or other items what you will not be upset about if they don't turn
out. Use what you know on a major project.
Alex -- Replace "nospam" with "mail" to reply by email. Checked infrequently.
Well, sometimes the project turns out that way unintentionally. <g>
I did nightstands of cherry and maple in shellac and wax, and they look
pretty good three years later.
I did a cherry Shaker clock in Tried & True Original 5 years ago. Looks
good, if a bit dull. Needs another coat of wax, likely.
For the blanket chest/living room table, that the grandkids hammer on,
made of red oak, I used Waterlox Original - 4-6 coats. That stands up
pretty well to abuse that you may encounter. And it looks pretty good
on cherry as well.
I used a wiping varnish in the master bath on the cherry/maple
cabinetry. Two or three coats of 1 lb shellac, then three or four wiped
on coats of McCloskey's Spar Varnish, gloss, cut 25% with VMP naptha.
Dead simple, low to medium gloss, and pretty durable so far, these three
Alexy and Barry are right. Put this aside, and build seven or eight
other projects to test finishes on.
You can get by with two or three handplanes, but twenty or so is what it
takes for some folks to have a little fun. Same thing for the finishes
shelf. Just don't buy any more Minwax. ;-)
experimenter at large...
This is just my opinion, but.....I really like the effect of tung oil
on cherry, allowed to dry completely followed by shellac. I have used
this combination several times and I really like the results. I use
super blond shellac flakes and a number of layers with a light cut. In
fact, I just tung oiled a cabinet made of yellow birch and it really
makes the wood turn from ordinary to nice. I've been using pure tung
oil, which is really viscous, but you can also get tung oil diluted
with mineral spirits. Drying time will vary.....where I live in central
Texas, normally this time of year is dry and hot.....not now but perhaps
later this summer, a three week drying would suffice.
First I want to thank everyone who responded to my original query.
The piece is finished and sitting proudly in the living room. I have posted
pictures of it on a.b.p.w.
After much consideration and testing the various finish options on scrap (oh
yeah I had scrap). I decided, with a little help from SWMBO, to go with
The cherry was free. It came from a salvage job. I did have to plane it down to
the proper thicknesses.
Again, thanks for the input. :-)
New Eagle, PA
Bill Waller wrote:
| The piece is finished and sitting proudly in the living room. I
| have posted pictures of it on a.b.p.w.
I saw 'em - good looking piece! Very glad you didn't go with the pink
DeSoto, Iowa USA
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