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Archive for the ‘Wood Finishing’ Category

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

Monday, June 8th, 2015

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: Best Wood Finish for African Padauk?

  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.

How to Get a Beautiful Wood Finish on Your Tropical Walnut Woodworking Projects

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Tropical walnut might be a new wood to you, and that’s okay. This is a type of walnut that grows in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, and happens to be a close relative of American black walnut. The two woods have similar color, hardness, and general working characteristics – they’re both rather nice hardwoods to machine with power tools and shape with hand tools.

They have their differences, too. More about Tropical Walnut >>>

Tropical walnut has much more straight grain and less curly/swirly and irregular character. And it also rarely includes any pale sapwood in the lumber, which is unlike American black walnut. It’s increasingly more common for American black walnut lumber to have a fair percentage of light sapwood. That’s not to say one is better than the other; it just depends on your tastes, so we’re here to empower you with some on-the-ground facts about the material. If you like the dark color found in walnut and prefer a consistent straight grain and no pale sapwood, Tropical Walnut might be a good wood for you to try.

The video above will show you a couple of machining operations to give you an idea of how nicely this wood works, but it also demonstrates in detail the specifics of applying two kinds of grain filler and top coat. But here’s a summary of the finishing techniques.

Consider Filling the Grain

Using the basic, simple wood finishes on Tropical Walnut is a piece of cake. You can apply your favorite polyurethane, lacquer, shellac, or water-based top coat and there’s a good chance you’ll be happy. The wood darkens nicely and you’ll see a bit of the natural contrast pop out a bit. But you can improve both of these by filling the wood grain first.

Of course, you’re the builder and it’s your project. You get to choose what you like best, and the glass-smooth finish you get with a well-filled grain isn’t always the look you want. But it’s a good idea to fill grain for projects like table tops and desk tops, or in any finish in which you’re going for a glossy sheen. Grain filler also adds a little bit of dark color to the wood pores, and that results in slightly greater contrast and visual depth in the wood.

Fill the grain one of two ways:

  1. Apply a drying oil using a technique called wet sanding. This method mixes the wood dust with the oil to create a paste that fills in the pores. See a demonstration in the video above.
  2. Buy a grain filler in a can. Numerous types exist, but all are either solvent- or water-based and require slightly different techniques for applying them. Oil based grain filler is demonstrated in the video above.

In all of these cases they’re pretty easy to apply but they do add more time to your finishing process. Of course, good things come to those who put in the time. Take a look.

Click the images to zoom in.

tropical walnut finishes

Simple wood finishes look great on Tropical Walnut – frankly they all provide just about the same look, there’s no single best choice. Left to right: wipe-on gel polyurethane, satin lacquer, waterbased acrylic. The horizontal board on top is unfinished so you can see the comparison.

With a little side light, you can see how these basic finishes don't fill the grain. The dark spots you see are wood pores. Sometimes this kind of finish is just fine. Sometimes it's not.

Yes, there’s glare but that’s on purpose. With a little side light, you can see how these basic finishes don’t fill the grain. The dark spots you see are wood pores. Sometimes this kind of finish is just fine. Other times it’s not and filling the grain helps you achieve a very smooth finish.

Now compare. Both boards have 3 coats of satin lacquer. The difference should be obvious. The board on the left has not had the grain filled, whereas the grain in the board on the right was filled before the lacquer was applied.

Now compare. Both boards have 3 coats of satin lacquer. The difference should be obvious. The board on the left has not had the grain filled, whereas the grain in the board on the right was filled before the lacquer was applied.

This is Tropical Walnut with a nicely filled wood grain and a top finish of 3 coats of spray lacquer. But any film-forming finish can go on top. Shellac, wax, polyurethane, varnish, etc

This is Tropical Walnut with a nicely filled wood grain and a top finish of 3 coats of spray lacquer. But any film-forming finish can go on top. Shellac, wax, polyurethane, varnish, etc

 

 

3 More Easy & Exquisite Finishes for Mahogany Woodworking Projects

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015
exquisite-mahogany-finishes

Each of these finished samples is 8″x20″ and cut from the same board – yet, you can get vastly different (and beautiful) results with a very simple technique, demonstrated below.

 

If you’ve seen our other tutorial on three tips for finishing mahogany, you’ll start to notice a basic four-step formula I like to employ to arrive at certain colors and characteristics:

  1. Dye
  2. Sealer
  3. Glaze
  4. Clear finish

That’s it.

Does it seem like an arsenal of chemicals? Believe it or not, the steps go quickly, and it’s actually a watered down version of what many professional furniture finishers do. So, don’t worry – this is not an uncommon practice, plus the steps you see here can be pulled off by any hobbyist woodworker with supplies found at a retail woodworking store.

There’s nothing especially proprietary with the brands and products I’ve used in the tutorial below. You can use similar colors by other brands. These just happen to be my choice because they work well and I’m accustomed to them.

I’ve performed these finishes on genuine Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) from Belize. But they’ll work on other types of wood such as African mahogany.

1. Classic Aged Mahogany

It’s one of the certainties when working with mahogany that once you cut it, plane it or sand it, the freshly revealed wood is disappointingly light. Mahogany needs to oxidize to its naturally coppery bronze color. Or you do this instead. Age it with a little bit of dye and a soothing, yet light, glaze of brown. The result is a wonderful and consistent warm mahogany color that very few would believe .

Products used:

  • Behlen Solar-Lux NGR Dye “Golden Fruitwood”
  • Zinsser SealCoat (dewaxed shellac)
  • Old Masters Dark Walnut gel stain

How to do it:

 

2. Cognac Mahogany (Greene and Greene Style)

If you want less gold and more brown in your mahogany, try this. It’s a variation on the Greene and Greene style recipe by Darrel Peart that begins by mixing 7 parts orange to 4 parts medium brown dye, then diluting the mixture and applying it in a series of coats. (Applying dye in several diluted coats is a good practice). Instead, this mix is 5 parts orange to 4 parts brown. The only difference between this finish and the “Classic Aged Mahogany” above is the addition of the brown dye.

Products used:

  • Behlen Solar-Lux NGR Dye “Golden Fruitwood”
  • Behlen Solar-Lux NGR Dye “Brown Maple”
  • Zinsser SealCoat (dewaxed shellac)
  • Old Masters Dark Walnut gel stain

How to do it

Start by mixing a batch of dye in a mixing cup. Try a 5:4 ratio of Golden Fruitwood to Brown Maple. Then move on to these steps, which are essentially the same as above.

 

3. Burgundy Red Mahogany

Going further, you can take that same mix of dye that’s used in the cognac color above and just add a little bit of reddish purple to arrive at a starkly different color.

Products used:

  • Behlen Solar-Lux NGR Dye “Golden Fruitwood”
  • Behlen Solar-Lux NGR Dye “Brown Maple”
  • Belen Solar-Lux NGR Dye “Medium Red Mahogany”
  • Zinsser SealCoat (dewaxed shellac)
  • Old Masters Dark Walnut gel stain

How to do it

Start by mixing a batch of dye in a mixing cup. Use 5:4:2 ratio of the dyes in this order Golden Fruitwood:Brown Maple:Medium Red Mahogany  Then do the same application process.