I'm in the process of building built-in floor to ceiling bookshelves.
The cases are made from 3/4" cherry ply with cherry faceframes.
I'm looking for suggestions on a durable but relatively simple finish.
I've used Watco and shellac on previous efforts but was leaning toward a
linseed/tung/poly wipeon. Is this a good finish for the shelving? Can
I really just wipe it on or would I need an HVLP setup to get it right?
I want the finish to be "perfect" and knowing how long the oil/shellac
finishes have taken me in the past, was looking for an alternative.
Thanks in advance.
Whatever finish is used ensure you consider the full CURE time, not
only the dry time, before loading books. I made some slide panels
encased in oil enamel and it took three weeks for the paint to cure
before they wouldn't hang up.
Probably not real helpful, but I've leaned toward poly on the actual
shelf portions of bookshelves just because it wears well and dries
smooth and hard. You can't see it when there are books on the shelves
and you can finish the visible portions with some more appropriate
finish for the look you want.
I am also building a cherry bookcase. I am using General Finishes wipe on
poly. You can see pictures at www.woodblog.com. Under projects click
bookcase. This is my first bookcase so I can't speak to whether poly is a
good choice for the shelves or not, but its what I chose. And yes you can
just wipe it on. The Kitchen Island project on my site was also finished
with the wipe on poly.
Varnish is curing oil, resin, carrier/thinner. If you want to make it a
wipe on just thin with mineral spirits somewhere between 30 and 50
percent and you have wipe on varnish (which includes poly). There is no
difference between plain old varnish and wipe on varnish other then the
latter is thinner and takes more coats to get the same build. The up
side is wipe on mitigates and or eliminates the usual problems one has
with brush on thickness. Air bubbles, drips, sags, and brush marks. To
my mind a worth while trade off
There is a home brew formula for Danish oil, the basics of it is, 1/3
varnish, 1/3 curing oil, tung or boiled linseed, 1/3 carrier/thinner.
This is not a building finish and, due to the high ratio of oil in the
mix you'll have to wait a week or so before putting books on it. Oil
cures slowly. You can play with the mix for different characteristics.
Mike, your comments bring to mind the Jeff Jewitt article in FWW a few
years ago about wiping Sherwn Williams Fast Dry Oil Varnish using Viva
paper towels. Three coats wiped on per day. Mix varnish and naptha
1:1 for fast dry. Viva towles are smooth so finish wipes on smooth
also. I found it works as advertised. Any idea about any difference
in cure time compared with regular oil varnish?
Well, I have my own ideas but I suspect there are going to be all kind
of people jumping all over them however it won't be the first time.
Mineral spirits, naphtha, lacquer thinner are or can be thinner/carriers
for varnish. The only difference is how fast each evaporates which
really has little to do with the oil polymerizing or the resins cross
Wipe on varnish does cure faster then a out of the can brush on
viscosity but only because the coats are considerable thinner then
what you get if you apply it from the can.
How much faster would be a function of how thin the coat is and
environmental conditions at the time. I'm sure that a faster evaporating
thinner such as naphtha may hasten the process a hair or two but not
I just finished the same thing in red oak for my wife's dream office. I
found it paid to remember that this is a bookshelf, not a desk---not
only will most of it be covered up 99% of the time, it probably won't
see a lot of wear.
Three coats of danish oil wiping off after 15 mins each time, a week to
dry, and two coats of a really good paste wax and they look darn good to
me (and my wife). If you follow up the danish oil with a few coats of
fake tung or some other oil-friendly varnish it will look like it
belongs in a yacht.
Note---if you do cover with wax, remember to invest in a set of bookends
for shelves that aren't completely full, otherwise everything falls over
pretty easily! (self included)
I have had pretty good luck with wipe on poly. Provides the deep luster of
oil but is durable, with several coats. I finished a train table for my 5
year old grandson months ago with four coats and it is holding up well
(separate post in ABPW).
Poly seems distractingly "plasticky" no matter how much you cut it. Best
to substitute straight alkyd or phenolic varnish. Behlen's Rockhard cut
50% looks (and feels) great once cured, much closer to shellac than poly.
Take a look at Waterlox Transparent.
(http://www.waterlox.com/product.cfm?productid=5 ) I love the look I get
from it rubbed in with 500 grit wet/dry paper. Waterlox offers better
protection that Watco, too.
Alternatively, General Finishes Seal-A-Cell and Arm-R-Seal would also fit
the bill, and are on my list to try soon. These are available at most of
the unfinished furniture stores. I've heard good things and want to try
them since they're more easily obtainable for me locally.
And either way, if you want "perfect" practice on scrap to get your
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