My next bit of finishing ignorance


I built a shelf unit. I've been trying to match a color more or less. I think I have that part on track. I've been mixing some dyes and I'm getting close. While I've been fooling around with that I've also been trying out some finishing methods.
I did manage to come up with a finish that looks pretty good to me, but via a completely half-assed route. I'll recount what I did, and maybe some (hopefully) gentle soul can tell me how I can do it more sensibly.
I dyed the wood (red oak) with a mixture of some Rockler Trans-Tint and some aniline dye powder, dissolved in alcohol. I used straight alcohol due to lack of time. I wanted to try out the color without doing the "raise the grain" step.
A week later I applied some Minwax Tung Oil Finish. I did what they said: Apply, wait 5-10 minutes, "buff". Result: Very slight visible "finish". The buffing seemed to remove a lot of the "oil", or whatever it actually is.
The next evening I repeated the Minwax procedure. Same result, more or less. It didn't seem to build up much of a finish. In addition, I was surprised to see that the cloth I was using picked up a little of the dye color, even on the second coat. I decided to see what would happen if I applied the Minwax product and just left it there.
I looked at it the next night. No surprise. It was quite glossy. Too glossy for my taste. I used some steel wool on it to take down the gloss. I don't know the "grade" of steel wool. I bought it eons ago for another project.
I then decided to apply some Butcher's Wax Bowling Alley Paste. (also lying around the garage for a while) Rubbed some on. Too much, I suspect. Waited ten minutes or so. Buffed it with a T-Shirt.
Here's what I like about the result: There's no obvious "thickness" to the finish, like poly can tend to have. It just looks like really smooth medium lustre wood and you can really see the color and grain.
I think I like the idea of an oil finish as opposed to poly, and the wax really gave the scrap piece a nice sheen. But I suspect that this Minwax product is not that great.
I also wonder about the "buffing". I did it by hand on the scrap but the whole piece, while not overly large, will require a fair amount of elbow grease. I saw a couple of drill attachments online. One was a brush, the other a pad of some kind. Are any of these any good? Does the "rotary" nature of these gadgets leave unattractive patterns in the wax? Was the T-Shirt a good choice, or should I have used a chamois or something else?
Responses that use words like "novice" rather than "idiot" would be much appreciated.
Greg Guarino
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Actually Greg, it's not half-assed at all, it's learning by doing.
I like Minwax Tung Oil Finish. It's an oil-varnish mix, and someone whispers "tung" over the vat. Sort of like the chicken in Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup.. I use it for bowls a lot. I don't follow the directions. I use a cloth or paper towel and wipe it on, fairly thin, and just let it sit there, no buffing. I don't put enuf on to puddle, just to get a wet sheen. Next day, light scrub with gray artificial steel wool, and another pass with MTOF, same way. Ditto third day. If I want real gloss, I'll sand lightly with 400 grit paper, and do one more coat, otherwise stop. Oh, if I have spectacular grain I want to emphasize, my first coat is slightly diluted Boiled Linseed Oil.
I let it cure for a week. Then I lightly polish the bowl with gray synthetic steel wool, and apply either bees wax or Johnson paste wax. On flat work, I apply the Johnson's Paste Wax with 0000 steel wool, let it dry for 10 minutes or so and really buff it with an old tee shirt or sweat shirt. Actually buff it several times, as I discover problems. The steel wool application makes the finish feel so smooth it's almost obscene.
Personally I wouldn't bother with a power buff, even if I were building a dresser. It's hard to control, and you could end up grinding off the wax in some areas, and missing other areas completely, because the buffer won't get into the corners.
Enjoy--we are all novices in something.
Walt Cheever

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wrote:

Interesting.

What is synthetic steel wool and why do I want it? (as opposed to regular steel wool) And you *apply* the wax with steel wool? I'll have to try that.
Thanks.
Greg

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<snip>

Synthetic steel wool is a plastic-like substance. Green dishwashing scrubbies are one variant. Grey or white are the 'finer' grades. 3M makes the product, and your hardware store sells it.
The scrubbies shed less than the 'real' steel wool, and the sheddings cause fewer problems when they do. Steel, in a moist environment, will blacken and/or stain, particularly with a red oak, which is rich in tannic acid.
It's not a huge problem - only a minor one, or none at all.
And yes, you 'apply' the wax with the synthetic steel wool. Pretty easy to do.
Enjoy.
Patriarch
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I regularly buff waxed finishes with a 1/4 sheet sander with a piece of wool cloth attached instead of the sandpaper. Works well

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