I'm getting close to being ready to finish a piece I'm working on.
This project is a lot of firsts for me, and another first I'd like is a
correctly done finish. Any advice you all can provide is greatly
The piece is mostly quartersawn white oak. There are 8/4 legs, 4/4
stiles, and veneered panels. I say "mostly" oak because there are a
few veneered mahogany panels as well. The joints are all blind mortise
& tenon. It's a decorative piece for the most part and won't get a lot
- Should I finish the legs & stiles before glue up?
- Should I finish the panels before glue up?
- What steps & products should I use to finish the oak?
- What steps & products should I use to finish the mahogany panels?
At this point everything is dry fit, sanded with 150 grit, and waiting
for me to make a decision of where to go from here. Thanks,
> I'm getting close to being ready to finish a piece I'm working on.
> This project is a lot of firsts for me, and another first I'd like is a
> correctly done finish. Any advice you all can provide is greatly
> The piece is mostly quartersawn white oak. There are 8/4 legs, 4/4
> stiles, and veneered panels. I say "mostly" oak because there are a
> few veneered mahogany panels as well.
SFWIW, just finished a couple of pieces using white oak.
Finished with BLO followed by bees wax cut with turps to make it easier
Only a few weeks old, but the recipient is happy.
Finishing sub assemblies and then gluing the sub assemblies together
works, but you have to be super careful not to mar the finish with the
clamps and handling. And glue squeeze out will mar the finish. Was it
me, I'd assemble the entire piece and then finish it. That way I can
sand out any marks from clamping. A lot of the time in finishing is
setup and brush cleaning. With the project completely assembled, you
only do it once. Doing sub assemblies one by one means set up and brush
cleaning is done more often.
For looks you have a choice between an oil finish that sinks right into
the wood and leaves NO surface film, OR a varnish/lacquer/shellac finish
that does leave a glossy film, like you see on pianos. Traditionally
rustic and danish modern pieces get an oil finish and more high style
pieces get a glossy finish. Its just a matter of taste. You might run
your choice by your significant other.
Oil finish is easier and more foolproof. I use MinWax, but there are a
bunch of competing products that probably work just fine. It comes in a
variety of colors from water white down thru VERY dark walnut. Pick a
color. I always do the last pass of sanding with 220 grit. 150 grit is
a little coarse. Vacuum up the shop, wipe all the dust off the piece
and then slop on a thick coat of Minwax. Let it soak into the wood for
a reasonable length of time (15 minutes maybe, read the instructions).
Then wipe the piece down with a clean rag. Let it dry overnight and you
are done. Be aware that the oak and mahogany will absorb different
amounts of Minwax and come out different shades.
Glossy finish is more work. You need at least two coats, and more are
better, and you must sand between coats. I always use three coats
myself. First sand down with 220 grit. Then, unless you like the color
of the wood as is, you give it a coat of stain to make it browner. The
cheapest and easiest to find stains are just thinned out paint. They
deposit a layer of opaque pigment to darken the wood. Better results
can by had with water stains, a water soluble dye, at the expense of
sanding again because the water raises the grain of the wood. Once the
wood is the right color, apply the first coat of finish. Let it dry
good and hard. Sand again with 220 grit. Apply the next coat. Sand
again. Keep adding coats until the piece looks right, or you get tired.
Shellac and varnish can be brushed. Lacquer has to be sprayed, it
dries so fast that the brush marks don't have time to level. If you
have spray equipment, lacquer is the way to go, the fast dry shortens
the time for dust to settle into the wet finish and need sanding out.
Shellac gives a good finish, and dries much faster than varnish.
Shellac is fine for ordinary furniture, but it is not water or alcohol
proof, so it shouldn't be used for pieces that might have a drink
spilled on them. Varnish is tougher than shellac, but spends hours
drying and sucking up every dust mote in the universe.
Oak and mahogany, or any kind of wood for that matter, take the same
finishes. The oak and mahogany will accept difference amounts of stain
and come out different shades, but you expected that.
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