I've done a little shellacing and a fair amount of Danish oiling. I'm
building a bed (walnut) and was planning to oil it until I realized
that projects that I oiled a few years ago that looked fabulous then
have dulled somewhat over time. This was mentioned in one book I saw,
but generally, it's rare to see that aspect mentioned. I'd like to find
a finish that really pops the grain like oil, has a not too glossy
look, doesn't dull, and requires little or no maintenance (and won't
wear from normal sheet friction and such). Is that a quixotic quest? If
so, what are the tradeoffs?
I've never done much real brush work with finishes and I don't have
spray equipment, so I'd like to find a process that requires only a
modicum of skill. I'm wondering if I can use a little oil for the sake
of the grain and then wipe or brush something easy (and not too glossy)
over it. Any help out there from you finishing types?
If you need color, wipe on a tinted oil. Wiped-on Waterlox Original
and wipe-on varnishes are dead easy to apply, and just as easy to fix
the rare mistake. If you don't need the tint, you probably won't even
need the oil.
If the oil has a pigment in it, use a coat of full-strength Seal Coat
or other dewaxed shellac as a barrier between the oil and varnish. The
shellac is easily applied with a disposable foam brush. Work quickly
and don't go back over areas you've already done. LET THE SHELLAC DRY
if you think you've made a mistake! <G> Any shellac boo-boos can be
fixed with 400 grit and maybe a spot of mineral sprits (as a lube)
AFTER the shellac is fully dry. The barrier coat will stop the wiping
varnish from moving or removing pigment. To reinforce the point,
DON'T OVERWORK THE SHELLAC, LET IT DRY!
Practice on some scrap, both to decide if you need the oil and to get
the feel of the wipe-on process. The test board(s) will also help you
decide on a sheen and the number of coats to apply. You'll likely
need twice as many coats when wiping as brushing. Routing any old
edge profile on the test boards will help you practice on other than a
This is an incredibly easy finishing method after just a little
practice. Odds are, you won't even need the tint or shellac.
I finished a walnut entertainment center last year with Watco Medium
Walnut oil followed by three coats of satin wiping varnish with great
results. I waited 3-5 days for the oil to cure before I put the varnish
on and had no trouble with bleeding, though shellac in between wouldn't
Good luck (and do a test piece first)
I've found I don't need to go through the whole oil process. Just a
wipe with Watco immediately wiped dry will pop the grain. Then I apply
several coats of shellac or, if water is a real problem, polyurethane.
So far the poly has been used only on a desktop and the top of an
aquarium stand :-).
I've had good luck with wipe-on polyurethane gel from Rockler - easy to
apply, durable, and it seems to bring out grain nicely. I've applied
it over stain, and over bare wood, but it should apply just as well
over oil as long as the oil is completely dry.
Minwax wiping varnish. (or wiping polyurethane, I would have to look at the
You would think it was oil, except it leaves a durable film.
Sadly it requires several applications, but nothing is perfect.
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