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Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category

How to Finish Mahogany: 3 Great Tips for Finishing Your Woodworking Projects

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

You have dozens, maybe hundreds, of ways to finish mahogany for your woodworking projects. That’s one of the best aspects of the wood; you can do just about anything to it and it’ll look wonderful. So there’s no way to make a definitive declaration about the best finish for mahogany. But I can pass you a few tips, ideas, and tried-and-true techniques that have served woodworkers for many years.

Absorb these three techniques, you might find them useful for your woodworking projects. The video above demonstrates how to fill grain, stain and dye to achieve the following looks and colors in mahogany.

1. How to Make a Deep Red Antique Mahogany Finish Using Dye, Stain, and Filler

deep red mahogany finish on genuine mahogany dye stain

Want a visual? This video demonstrates every step, click to watch:

Of the three process we’ll show you here, this one is the most sophisticated, but it also has the most interesting result of the three. While there are a few steps, it’s a straightforward process that’s not hard to pull off. Even though I’m going to list the exact brands and products I used to create this finish, they’re less important than understanding the process. Other brands will work just fine, too. In short: dye the wood to make it the overall color you want, seal it, fill the grain with something dark (aside from the filler I used, there are several other options too), apply a protective finish on top and polish it.

Products Used:

  1. Solar Lux aniline dye, medium brown walnut color (it dries with a maroon red color)
  2. Old Masters Woodgrain filler
  3. Zar oil stain, Early American color
  4. Denatured alcohol
  5. Zinsser SealCoat
  6. Spray lacquer

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the wood surface as you normally would by sanding to 180 or 220 grit
  2. Prepare the dye by diluting it by 50% with denatured alcohol in a mixing container. Apply the dye, either with a pad or by spraying
  3. Let it dry, then apply another coat of dye. Repeat until you’re happy with the color
  4. Apply a coat of Zinsser Sealcoat after the dye is dry. Work quickly and do not let it drip or pool.
  5. After it has dried, you may lightly and carefully sand the sealer if it developed nibs or bumps. Be cautious not to sand through the dye.
  6. Mix Old Masters Woodgrain Filler with a dark brown oil stain. In this example that’s Zar Early American. Use a 2:1 ratio, 2 parts filler to one part stain.
  7. Apply this tinted Woodgrain Filler with a rag, brush, or scraper to work it into the pores of the wood. Follow directions on the can. Let it dry for about 5 minutes, the wipe it off moving across the grain.
  8. Allow the filler to dry about 4 hours. Do another application if the grain is not filled to your satisfaction.
  9. Apply the topcoat of choice. The sample above is finished off with another 3 coats of Zinsser SealCoat, sanded between each one with 220 grit. And then it’s sprayed with 3 coats of lacquer, also sanded between each coat.
  10. Buff and polish when the top coat is ready.

2. Staining Mahogany The Easy Way

staining mahogany is easy to do

Left to right: Zar oil stain “Merlot” color; Old Masters Penetrating Oil Stain ‘Dark Mahogany” color; Old Masters Gel Stain “Cherry” color.

Coloring mahogany doesn’t need to be as involved as that first process. You’re allowed to just open a can of wood stain and put it on the wood. The results, of course, are far less dramatic and less nuanced, but they’ll still look nice. There are a lot of kinds of oil stains to choose from, but basic penetrating oil stains seem to bring the nicest results from the bunch. Opinion, of course. But the pigment builds up in the pores, darkening them more than the surface wood which highlights the character in the wood.

Not all oil stains are engineered the same way. Gel stain, for example, is most often suited for creating a wood grain appearance on fiberglass doors. That’s why if you were to get up close to the stained piece of mahogany on the right you’d notice that the color appears to be almost like a translucent layer of color riding on top of the wood rather than getting into it. The gel stain has muddied the grain of that piece of mahogany. Gel stain has its place — on a piece of raw mahogany is, arguably, not it.

Genuine mahogany also accepts water based stains just fine. As usual, raise the grain and sand it back before applying the water based stain. If you do want to use a water based stain, I suggest filling the grain with a darker water based filler first. Perhaps Timbermate’s walnut colored filler.

After staining mahogany (and after it dries!), protect it with your preferred top coat like varnish, shellac, lacquer or polyurethane.

Take a closer look at stained mahogany examples:

3. Fill the grain to get a perfectly smooth finish

Harder to see in pictures, but the piece on the left has the grain filled with a mahogany colored filler, the piece on the right does not. Both have a lacquer topcoat.

Harder to see in pictures, but the piece on the left has the grain filled with a mahogany colored filler, the piece on the right does not. Both have a lacquer topcoat.

Your mahogany woodworking project will benefit greatly if you fill the grain first, and you’ll notice the difference between a finish with the grain filled and one without the grain filled. So how do you do it? There is more than one way to skin this cat, so here are two.

1. Woodgrain Filler or another paste filler

We already brought up Old Masters Woodgrain Filler in the first process above. So that’s one product you can use, and it’s easy to work with. The trick with it is that you’re supposed to tint it with an oil based stain because out of the can it’s an off white or cream color. So you tint it, apply it, wipe it off, and once it dries sand it smooth. The sanding could be optional if you wipe it down well enough and you approve of the color that it leaves. Naturally, the stain you tinted the filler with will color your wood — the sanding will clear it up though. If you still want to stain your mahogany a darker color, you can do so. So you get the benefit of darkened pores, filled pores, and the choice of keeping your mahogany its natural color or staining it.

Another way to keep the stain in the filler from darkening your mahogany is to put down a washcoat (a coat of sealer) before the filler.

2. Timbermate, or another water based wood filler

The benefits of a water based wood filler is that it dries much faster and clean up is much simpler than the oil based filler above. You also don’t have to tint it, as it frequently is available in numerous colors. The brand Timbermate offers a mahogany color filler, which is what I’ve used in the sample in the picture above. A darker filler might prove to be a little more interesting, darkening the pores more, but the point is that the filler helps you achieve a glassy smooth finish quickly.

 

 

In this post, we share several tips for finishing mahogany in a way that gets you to the color you want and with a glass-smooth protective top coat.

In this post, we share several tips for finishing mahogany in a way that gets you to the color you want and with a glass-smooth protective top coat.

6 Wood Finishes for African Padauk: Which One Is Best?

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

The vivid orange color of African padauk wood is, yes, 100% natural. And therefore it has a mind of its own. As a project made with African padauk ages, the orange color of the wood usually turns dark – sort of a maroonish brown – and depending on your taste you’ll either find that objectionable or not. Because this change is largely spurred by ultraviolet light, different wood finishes will preserve padauk’s color to different degrees.

So which wood finish works the best? Which one preserves the color the best? Hard to say – but we’ll hand over the evidence and let you be the judge. We tested 6 different wood finishes on African padauk and set the board outside in direct sun light for 21 days. It’s not a long time, but in direct sun light, the change happens quickly. Here’s what happened:

african padauk board with finishes

The Test

Here's how we conducted the finishing test. The board is divided into sections with a shallow groove, then half of each section is finished. The we placed a 2" wide masking strip across the grain to protect a small control area from light, allowing to compare apples to apples. How does the wood change with exposure to light? Do different finishes protect the color better?

Here’s how we conducted the finishing test. The board is divided into sections with a shallow groove, then half of each section is finished. The we placed a 2″ wide masking strip across the grain to protect a small control area from light, allowing us to compare apples to apples. How does the wood change with exposure to light? Do different finishes protect the color better?

To make a good comparison I needed four parts for each of the six finishes, which you can clearly see in the picture on the right, above: a raw section, a finished section, and then a smaller section of both the raw and finished that would be protected from the light for control samples.

 

See the photo at right.

For these control sections I simply placed a 2″ wide strip of masking tape across each of the six sections. In the end, this allows us to compare each of the six exposed finishes to see how it changes and see how each one may protect the color.

Here’s the process:

  1. Divided the board into six sections by cutting five equally-spaced grooves across the grain
  2. Sanded the entire board to 220 grit to prepare it for finishing
  3. Taped off about half of the width of the entire board (the right side of the board as seen above)
  4. Applied 2 coats of each finish, allowed them to dry
  5. Placed a 2″ wide masking tape strip across each section to create the controls
  6. Placed board outside in bright, direct sunlight

Conclusion

  1. Clear dewaxed shellac preserved the orange color the most in a comparison among these six samples. Basically, the section that’s finished with shellac and exposed to light is brightest of these six.
  2. Tung oil, interestingly, makes the wood pretty dark immediately upon application but it also showed the least amount of change during the 21-day light exposure test.

Is this definitive? No. This is just one test of six finishes – there’s certainly more to be done! But the one lesson to learn here is your project will retain the orange color much longer if you can keep it out of direct light.

See For Yourself

Here’s a better look at how each finish behaved in this test. Click the photos to zoom in.

Ebonizing Ash The Easy Way for Woodworking Projects

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014


You can get a magnificent effect by making ash totally black – also known as ebonizing. That’s because the wood has a large open grain, much like red oak, and you can make that texture show through while ebonizing the wood. The result is an astonishing juxtaposition of a 100% black color with the nice visual warmth of beautiful wood grain texture.

Admittedly, it’s not for everybody. Some woodworkers despise the idea of coloring wood in any way. But others don’t. Frankly, I think it’s a perfectly legitimate technique in the art of working with wood.

So how do you do ebonize ash? You have a few ways to do it, but this demonstration is by using a jet black wood dye. It’s straightforward, easy to do, inexpensive, and very fast.

Black India ink is a good choice because it comes out perfectly black with about 3 coats. The downside is it's waterbased and will raise the grain.

Black India ink is a good choice because it comes out perfectly black with about 3 coats.

If you were to do what everybody does when they want to learn about something — that is go to Google and pluck out a search — you’ll find some legends and fables about using various home-brew remedies like a solution of vinegar and steel wool. A home chemistry experiment might be fun, but sadly, it’s an exercise that won’t work well on ash. The iron ions that result from the reaction of mixing the steel with the acid (vinegar) will react with tannic acid found in some woods, such as oak, and that reaction makes the wood turn black. But there is no tannic acid in ash. So it won’t do the job on ash.

Waterproof India ink, however, will work and it’s a good option. You get a solid black color in about 3 coats. The only problem is it’s waterbased so it will raise the grain and therefore requires some extra care in order to get a good smooth wood finish.

Using a jet black dye, in this case Jet Black dye from Solar-Lux, is another fine choice and it’s the product I’ve chosen to use in the demonstration video above. Unlike dyes that you mix yourself, Solar-Lux is a premixed alcohol based dye. The trouble with mixing your own black dye for ebonizing wood is that it often comes out too gray, or sometimes blueish. The Solar-Lux Jet Black dye turns out to be a good answer to these troubles. It doesn’t raise grain and it’s solid black.

Like all dye on open grained woods, there does remain one small problem. After you apply the dye and take a close look at your piece, you’ll see that the dye just doesn’t reach down deep into the pores. You’ll see little specs of wood peeking through, but they’ll be deep in the pores. That’s due to the surface tension of the liquid, it doesn’t matter what color. But it’s most obvious when putting black on such a pale wood like ash — white specs will stand out amid a black dyed board.

Applying a jet black dye gets the surface wood totally black. It won't raise the grain because it's alcohol based. The Spanish Oak Wiping Stain by Old Masters makes sure the deep pores get colored black.

A powerful combo for ebonizing wood: a jet black alcohol based dye gets the surface wood totally black. Then the Spanish Oak Wiping Stain by Old Masters makes sure the deep pores get colored black.

But there’s a fix, and this is where it’s handy to understand the difference between dye and stain. Wood stain’s job is to color wood pores rather than the wood surface. Therefore to ebonize ash is to employ the strengths of both dye and stain.

So, in this demonstration I’ve made one sample with three parts to show you a few things:

  1. A black dye on ash
  2. A black oil stain on ash
  3. A black dye followed by a black stain on ash

Take a look for yourself, you’ll see how easy, quick, and effective this is.  If you use this method, just finish it off with a top coat of your favorite kind of clear finish. That could be polyurethane, lacquer, etc.


 

Ebonizing ash has a cool effect because the texture of the wood grain shows through.  You get a 100% black wood without the look plastic - the wood grain shows that you indeed used real wood in your project.

Ebonizing ash has a cool effect because the texture of the wood grain shows through. You get a 100% black wood without the look plastic – the wood grain shows that you indeed used real wood in your project.

With a little side light you really get to see the grain. This may look like white specs, but in fact it's just the clear lacquer topcoat reflecting light.

With a little side light you really get to see the grain. This may look like white specs, but in fact it’s just the clear lacquer topcoat reflecting light. This is the same board you see on the left.