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Archive for the ‘Wood Finishing’ Category

3 Spectacular Curly Maple Wood Finishes That’ll Blow ‘Em Away

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Curly maple, tiger maple, fiddleback maple and quilted maple (various names for different types of figure found in maple lumber) have to be some of the more interesting woods to finish because you can take a board from mild to wild with the simplest of techniques. Here are just a few of them. You can see a full demonstration in the video above, or get the highlights below.

1. Use Dewaxed Shellac for Your Best “Clear” Finish On Curly Maple

Finish 3Beforecurly maple board sanded to 220 grit, just before being finished with dewaxed shellac Finish 3After - with 3 coats of dewaxed shellac
Of all the basic clear topcoats you can choose from, dewaxed shellac provides a surprising chatoyance that you just don’t get with other finishes. That’s not to say your favorite solvent based varnish, polyurethane or lacquer does a poor job – they’re just fine. But the shellac has a touch of magic that’s virtually water white in color and yet brings out curly figure you couldn’t see before while also giving the figure a three-dimensional appearance.

Zinseer SealCoat is the dewaxed shellac I used in this tutorial.

Zinseer SealCoat is the dewaxed shellac I used in this tutorial.

So why dewaxed shellac? First, it’s crystal clear in color – for you purists who disapprove of adding color to wood, this is the product for you. Second, since it’s dewaxed, it’s also a universal sealer. Therefore you have the option of applying a more durable topcoat after the shellac dries. For example, if you need the protection that a polyurethane provides, you can apply that on top of dewaxed shellac and get the best of both worlds – the figure pop and the protection.

Shellac is also a very safe finish that’s easy to apply by hand or by spraying. Plus, any rags you use do not pose the same fire danger that oil-soaked rags do.

How to Apply Dewaxed Shellac:

  1. Prep your material by sanding to 220 grit, clean off the dust
  2. Using a brush or a lint-free rag, apply the shellac. It dries fast, so work quickly and try not to overlap any areas that are already tacky
  3. After the coat dries (10 to 15 minutes is often adequate), sand it with fine sandpaper or a synthetic finishing pad
  4. Apply another one or two coats to your satisfaction
  5. Once the last coat is dry and sanded, you can apply a paste wax and buff it to a glassy-smooth surface

2. Try Oil for Popping the Grain and Giving Curly Maple an Aged Amber Color

Beforecurly maple board sanded to 220 grit, just before application of tung oil After - with 1 coat of tung oil varnish
Tung Oil Varnish blend is what I used in this tutorial.

Tung Oil Varnish blend is what I used in this tutorial.

While oil finishes do a wonderful job at highlighting the figure in curly maple, they also add a gentle amber color. An oil such as tung oil or boiled linseed oil will also reveal and add punch to figure that may have been difficult to see in the raw board. You can apply numerous coats of these oils to build up a sheen, but that’s a process that takes a long time because it takes 12 hours or more for each coat to dry.

My technique, when using oils, is to apply just one coat, let it dry, hit it with a coat or two of dewaxed shellac, then either wax and buff it, or spray two or three coats of lacquer then wax/buff (depends on the application). The point here is you get the effect of an oil with the first coat; to build a protective coating with a satin, semi-gloss or gloss sheen, it’s quicker to seal it with dewaxed shellac and move on to lacquer rather than build up multiple coats of a drying oil. Of course . . . opinions vary.

How to Apply Tung Oil or Boiled Linseed Oil:

  1. Prep your material by sanding to 220 grit, clean off the dust
  2. Read the directions on your can of oil. You most likely need to thin the oil with mineral spirits, the directions will tell you the ratio.
  3. Work in a well-ventilated area. Use a clean lint-free cotton rag to wipe the oil on your work piece, just apply a thin coating
  4. Allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then wipe it off with a clean rag.
  5. Let your work dry, then make a choice: 1). add another coat, 2). wax/buff, or 3). apply a sealer, then topcoat and wax/buff

3. Use Dye for Bold and Stunning Figure Pop

Finish 4Beforecurly maple board sanded to 220 grit, just before application of brown dye Finish 4After – 3 coats of Solar-Lux Maple Brown dye (each coat sanded off before the next coat), 1 coat of tung oil
Behlen Solar-Lux Dye doesn't raise the grain like water based dye does, and it comes in a wide variety of colors.

Behlen Solar-Lux Dye doesn’t raise the grain like water based dye does, and it comes in a wide variety of colors.

You won’t find a better way to make the figure pop from across a ballroom than you will with aniline dye. Dye is different from your usual oil stains, and it’s just the thing for figured woods like curly maple. While you can just hit curly maple with a single coat of dye and move on to your clear topcoat, I like to do three diluted coats of dye and sand it off between each coat. It might seem counterintuitive to apply it and then sand it off, but if you watch the video above you’ll see why.

The color I used in the sample above (and in the video) is Maple Brown by Behlen Solar-Lux.

How to Apply Alcohol Based Dye on Curly Maple

  1. Prep your material by sanding to 220 grit, clean off the dust
  2. Dilute the dye by 25% to 50% with denatured alcohol
  3. Use a cotton rag or a sponge to apply the dye. It dries fast, so work quickly
  4. Let the coat of dye sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then sand the work piece until the color comes off the surface of the wood. You’ll see that the curls remain colored. That’s perfect
  5. Apply two more coats of dye, sanding it off between each. Do not sand off the last coat.
  6. Soon after applying the last coat, dampen a rag with denatured alcohol and wipe the work piece to even out the color and blend in any lap marks you created

Optional: after the last coat of dye has dried, apply a light coat of tung oil or boiled linseed oil. This will add another small boost to the figure.

Dyes give you a whole rainbow of colors to work with, plus you can make them as diluted or as vivid as you like. Here are some other examples:

 

 

 

3 Wonderful Sapele Wood Finishes for Better Woodworking Projects

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Sapele lumber with finish

Sapele is a versatile and beautiful wood that can take many kinds of finish. Here it’s shown, top to bottom: raw, dyed & stained, clear sealer/lacquer, and Danish oil with lacquer

It’s easy to love sapele lumber, especially for furniture and cabinetry. The wood is well-mannered when it comes to machining and working it with hand tools, making it a pleasure to use in woodworking projects. But it’s also downright beautiful with flowing ribbons of stripy figure trailing from end to end of the boards. Plus, the boards tend to be big, and utterly consistent.

Somewhat like mahogany in appearance – both the color and grain can make it tough to tell a difference – but it’s a bit harder and has more golden bronze color than mahogany. And sapele is best when it’s quarter sawn because of the ribbon grain that appears.

See all sapele lumber on sale >>>

So how do you make the ribbon stripe figure look its best? There are a few ways, and in the video above we show you three pretty good methods.

  1. A simple clear finish of SealCoat and spray lacquer.
  2. A coloring method using light dye, some sealer, a quick stain, then also spray lacquer
  3. A natural Danish oil also topped off with spray lacquer

Each method gives a different look, but as far as making the ribbons jump out the most, I think it’s with the Danish oil and lacquer.

Check out the video, and decide what’s best for you. Read more about these finishing processes below.

 

***

Finishing Method #1: Clear Sealer and Lacquer

clear finish on sapele

One of our favorite sealers around here is Zinsser SealCoat. It’s a dewaxed shellac that’s crystal clear. The reasons for this sealer are varied, but the best of SealCoat is that it’s a universal sealer. Any protective topcoat can go on top of it, solvent based or water based. SealCoat in particular dries exceptionally fast, which means you can sand it as quick as 10 minutes after applying it, working up 3 or 4 coats between pulling in the driveway after work and sitting down for dinner. SealCoat also sands smooth with just a couple of easy strokes, and the combination of quick-drying and fast-sanding helps you get to a baby-bottom smooth surface rather quickly. In turn, your varnish or lacquer finish that you apply on top of SealCoat has a much easier time going on smoothly. Using sealer helps you achieve a glassy finish with the least amount of elbow grease as possible. To do a simple clear or natural finish on sapele, you’ll be well served to do 3 coats of SealCoat first, sand between each coat, then shoot the final 3 coats with lacquer. You’ll get a beautiful and natural finish.

Finishing Method #2: Dye, Sealer, Stain, Lacquer

sapele with dye and stain

To add color to sapele with a stain, you don’t want to apply an oil pigment stain straight to the raw wood. The stain will actually reduce the shimmer in the ribbon figure, making it dull because it mainly stays on top of the wood. Instead, if you want to color the wood, use this simple process. Using an amber colored dye, thin it to about 20% dye and apply a coat. Once that dries, apply a washcoat of dewaxed shellac. A washcoat is a very thin application of sealer, in this example we thinned the sealer by 25% (1:4 ratio of denatured alcohol to SealCoat). Once the sealer has dried, use an oil stain, the shade you choose depends on the result you’re after. This sample, above, has Zar Merlot #140. Simply wipe the stain on, then wipe it off. Once the stain dries in 12 hours or so, you can then apply a protective top coat. In this case, it’s spray lacquer. But polyurethane or another varnish will work too.

Finishing Method #3: Danish Oil, Lacquer

Danish oil on Sapele

Oil finishes like Danish oil or boiled linseed oil frequently intensify the beauty in certain woods yet offer very little protection from scratches, drink rings, and other hazards around the house. Fortunately, you can apply any good, hard finish on top of these oils once they’re dry—getting the best of both worlds, beauty and protection. That’s certainly the case with ribbon stripe sapele, too. You can see how intense the contrast gets with this recipe. It’s simple to pull it off. Prepare your wood surface as you normally would by sanding to 220 grit or so, then apply the Danish oil just as it says to do on the can. Wipe it onto the surface liberally, wait 30 minutes then wipe off the oil. Unfortunately sapele is a wood that will soak it up unevenly and send little dots and eyes of oil rising back to the wood’s surface. So you’ll need to keep your eye on the oiled wood for a couple of hours and wipe off the dots of oil. Once the oil dries, apply a couple of coats of sanding sealer to get to a glassy smooth surface, then spray 2 or 3 coats of lacquer. The results are stunning.

 

6 Rustic, Reclaimed, Weathered, Distressed Alder Wood Finishes You Can Do

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
You can achieve numerous colors and rustic, charred, weathered, or distressed looks on your alder woodworking project. Here are 6 easy and dramatic methods.

You can achieve numerous colors and rustic, charred, weathered, or distressed looks on your alder woodworking projects. Here are 6 easy and dramatic methods.

If there’s one thing to understand about creating a rustic or distressed finish in alder woodworking projects, it’s this: there is no wrong answer. But still, maybe you want a handful of ideas to get your creative gears greased up. Indeed, of all wood finishes, rustic/aged techniques are probably the most fun to do – perhaps because they’re more art than skill. You’ll have a good time with these techniques, and you’ll have even more fun as you modify them to suit your taste. If you have questions or comments, just share down at the bottom.

Working from left to right in the picture above, I’ll walk you through how to do each one. Click on any picture to zoom in for a closer look.

1. Clear Lacquer, Epoxy-Filled Knots & Cracks

knotty alder with clear finish, black epoxy in knots cracks

The most straightforward way to finish knotty alder is to emphasize the knots. Using two-part epoxy and black pigment, you can fill in the cracks of the knots with high-contrast black.

See the how-to process for filling cracks with black epoxy here.

To protect alder with a clear finish, try this out:

  1. Sand your work to 180 or 220 grit.
  2. Apply dewaxed shellac for a sealer. Sand it smooth with a fine grit sand paper or finishing pad. Apply 2 or 3 coats to your satisfaction. The purpose of the shellac is to give you a good, smooth surface to apply the lacquer, ultimately making it much easier to get a glass-smooth sheen.
  3. Spray lacquer, sanding between coats. Apply 2 or 3 coats.
  4. After the final coat has dried, give it a light sanding with a finish pad or abrasive sponge. Polish the lacquer with a buffers polish or wax.

2. Dark Even Color, Epoxy-Filled Knots & Cracks

knotty-alder-even-stain-dye

Alder is a wood that doesn’t accept stains very well, resulting in blotchy color. Even though we’re going for a rustic or distressed appearance, a blotchy stain can still look downright ugly. Perhaps try this finishing method to get nice, even color. For greater effect, fill the cracks with black epoxy before applying this finish.

  1. Apply a light colored dye. In this sample, that’s Golden Fruitwood, and it makes a light reddish to pink color.
  2. Apply a sealer. Zinsser SealCoat is a fine choice because it’s universal. One coat is all you need, let it dry, then if it feels like it needs it, do a quick and light scuff sand to remove dust nibs in the sealer.
  3. Apply a gel stain to glaze the color. For this sample we used Old Masters Dark Walnut Gel Stain, which is a very dark brown. Wipe it on to the surface, then wipe it off. Be careful to be gentle enough that the gel leaves a good, even coat of color on the board.

***
The next four samples employ a weathering technique that creates a textured wood surface. Using an angle grinder or a drill with a wire wheel, the process is quick and effective. The looks you can get by adding a little bit of gel stain to the textured wood are fantastically diverse. Tips for how to texture alder with an angle grinder are at the bottom.
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3. Dark Weathered Alder

To get a nice dark and weathered appearance in alder, try this:

  1. Using a wire wheel in an angle grinder, texture the alder (details at bottom).
  2. Lightly sand with a fine grit (150 or 220 grit perhaps) sanding sponge. Don’t try to level the ridges and produced during the texture process, just knock down fuzzy grain.
  3. Apply a sealer. Spraying is easiest due to the texturing – brushing or wiping is more laborious. Lacquer sanding sealer comes in aerosol cans if you do not have HVLP spray equipment.
  4. After the sealer dries, use a dark brown gel stain — Old Masters Dark Walnut Gel Stain is shown here. Wipe it on and wipe it off. The gel will collect in the valleys you created during the texturing process.
  5. Allow the stain to dry, then apply 2 or 3 coats of spray lacquer to seal and protect.

4. Country Pickled Alder

Perhaps you want a pleasant light country look? Same process, just a different gel stain color.

  1. Using a wire wheel in an angle grinder, texture the alder (details at bottom).
  2. Lightly sand with a fine grit (150 or 220 grit perhaps) sanding sponge. Don’t try to level the ridges and produced during the texture process, just knock down fuzzy grain.
  3. Apply a sealer. Spraying is easiest due to the texturing – brushing or wiping is more laborious. Lacquer sanding sealer comes in aerosol cans if you do not have HVLP spray equipment.
  4. After the sealer dries, use a white gel stain — Old Masters Pickling White Gel Stain is shown here. Wipe it on and wipe it off. The gel will collect in the valleys you created during the texturing process.
  5. Allow the stain to dry, then apply 2 or 3 coats of spray lacquer to seal and protect.

5. Charred Wood Finish

Here’s a unique look that resembles charred or burnt wood, and it’s easy to pull off.

  1. Using a wire wheel in an angle grinder, texture the alder (details at bottom).
  2. Lightly sand with a fine grit (150 or 220 grit perhaps) sanding sponge. Don’t try to level the ridges and produced during the texture process, just knock down fuzzy grain.
  3. Apply a black gel stain. Old Masters Spanish Oak is used in this sample. Wipe it on, then wipe it off. Allow the stain to dry. There’s a chance that the wipe-off procedure will reveal enough of the wood that you’re pleased with the look. If so, skip to step 5.
  4. Use a sanding block with 220-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the workpiece.
  5. Seal and protect your project with any topcoat finish you want. Most likely polyurethane or lacquer. Due to the texture of the wood, spraying is easiest. Brushing or wiping is more difficult.

6. Reclaimed Red Barn Wood

Similarly, you can use a reddish stain that just might spark memories of summers at the farm and the scent of Grampa’s tractor shed:

  1. Using a wire wheel in an angle grinder, texture the alder (details at bottom).
  2. Lightly sand with a fine grit (150 or 220 grit perhaps) sanding sponge. Don’t try to level the ridges and produced during the texture process, just knock down fuzzy grain.
  3. Apply a reddish brown gel stain. Old Masters Cherry is used in this sample. Wipe it on, then wipe it off. Allow the stain to dry.
  4. Use a sanding block with 220-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the workpiece.
  5. Seal and protect your project with any topcoat finish you want. Most likely polyurethane or lacquer. Due to the texture of the wood, spraying is easiest. Brushing or wiping is more difficult.

 

How To Create a Weathered Texture on Wood

 Click the images to enlarge, use your arrow keys to scroll through each one.