basket
Store Locations (Mon - Sat: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm)
Outside Arizona: 800-423-2450    |   Phoenix: 602-504-1931    |   Tempe: 480-355-5090   |   Tucson: 520-745-8301
email newsletter


Posts Tagged ‘finishing’

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

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

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.

Basic Wood Finishes Are Fine, But . . .

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.

So what is wood grain filler, where do you buy it, and how do you apply it? Well, filler can be as simple as the wood dust itself, and the video above shows you how do to that. There are also several kinds of solvent and water based fillers you can buy from a store. In all of these cases they’re pretty easy to apply but they do add more time to your finishing process. 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

 

 

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.

6 Easy & Fantastic Finishing Techniques for Ash Lumber

Monday, April 14th, 2014


It’s so easy to stain and dye ash to create the color you want because it’s so pale in color and because it doesn’t blotch. Sure, you could finish this wood with a totally clear finish no problem. But that’s not what we’re going to share today. Instead, let’s look at how you can get dramatic and amazing finishes with a very simple 3-step finishing technique: color, sealer, contrast. Take a look:

Finish #1 Basic Stained Ash

ash cabinet door stained with maple stain

Ash stained with a Maple colored oil stain. Notice how well ash takes the stain. But there’s still a lot more you can do with ash.

You might not find a wood that stains as well as ash does. Its natural pale color allows it to agree with just about any color you can imagine, and basic oil stains take to it evenly without the need for a conditioner or a washcoat.

Products used: Old Masters Maple Wiping Stain

A successful stain job starts with a well prepared surface. Ash should be sanded to 220 or perhaps 320 grit, but no finer. A general rule about staining is that there’s a sweet spot at which a wood is sanded to a just-right grit. If you’ve sanded to a too-coarse grit the stain highlights scratches, and if you’ve sanded too fine the wood won’t accept the stain very well. Ash is forgiving and easy to sand, so a 220 to 320 grit window is a safe bet.

Like most oil stains, the stain pigment gets delivered into the large open pores in ash and create a darker color in the grain. With a little imagination and knowledge of how other finishing products work, you can create some exciting and dramatic finishes in ash with a little bit of stain.

Finish #2 Basic Stained Ash with Added Dark Contrast for “Tiger Fur” Appearance

Believe it or not, this door is stained with the same maple oil stain. The difference is in the two steps that followed the stain.

Believe it or not, this door is stained with the same maple oil stain. The difference is in the two steps that followed the stain.

Building on the concept of using a basic oil stain to color ash, you can also add extra contrast for a unique look. This door at right is stained with the exact same stain as the door above. The difference is that we applied another darker stain on top of the first color.

Products used: Old Masters Maple Wiping Stain, Zinsser SealCoat, Old Masters Spanish Oak Wiping Stain.

  1. Prepare the wood by sanding to 220 grit.
  2. Apply the first stain color of your choice; this one is Old Masters Maple Wiping Stain.
  3. After that stain dries, apply a coat of clear sealer (ie Zinsser SealCoat) to create a barrier.
  4. After it dries, apply a black oil stain; this one is Old Masters Spanish Oak Wiping Stain (contrary to what the name may suggest, it’s a nearly black oil stain). Scrape it off in the direction of the grain with something like a putty knife while the stain is still wet. You may need to also use a lint-free rag to wipe off the surface. Evaluate as you work.
  5. Protect the project with your top coat of choice.

Here’s what’s happening in the process. The first stain color establishes the basic overall color you want. The sealer puts a clear barrier between the two stain colors. The second stain then won’t color the wood, instead it to only deposits color into the open pores. Simply wipe it on and wipe it off while it’s still wet.

The wood takes on a darker yellow color while the pores are darkened virtually black, creating a look that’s not too unlike the coloring of a tiger’s coat of fur.

Finish #3 & #4 Dyeing Ash with Vibrant Color and Filling the Grain with Black

You can do some very wild things with dye and woodgrain filler on ash. Bright colors, solid black, and high contrast.

You can do some very wild things with dye and woodgrain filler on ash. Bright colors, solid black, and high contrast.

Why color the wood if you don’t want to? Here’s a way to improve the natural contrast in ash while keeping its main pale color.

Products used: Solar-Lux Brown Maple Dye, Solar-Lux Jet Black Dye, Zinsser SealCoat, Old Masters Woodgrain Filler, Old Masters Spanish Oak Wiping Stain.

Steps used on the panel:

  1. Prepare the wood as normal, sanding to 220 grit or so
  2. Dilute your dye by 25%, apply one coat. Let it dry. Repeat until you’ve dyed the wood to your desired color
  3. Apply 2 coats of Zinsser SealCoat. Allow it to dry
  4. Mix the woodgrain filler with the Spanish Oak stain, 2-to-1 ratio (filler to stain). Use a putty knife,  scraper, rag or brush to work it into the grain
  5. While it is wet, scrape off the surface. The grain filler should remain in the pores. Then gently wipe off the surface with a rag, being careful not to pull filler out of the pores. Allow it to dry.
  6. Protect it with your favorite clear top coat finish.

Steps used to make the frame jet black:

  1. Prepare the wood as normal, sanding to 220 grit or so
  2. Apply Solar Lux Jet Black aniline dye. You may need to apply 2 coats for even coverage. Allow the dye to dry.
  3. Dye won’t reach down deep into the pores, so you might still see tiny spots of white showing through. Apply Old Masters Spanish Oak Wiping Stain. Wipe it on, wipe it off. Allow it to dry.
  4. Protect it with your favorite clear top coat finish.

Finish #5 Enhancing the Natural Contrast with a Black Wood Grain Filler

Ash likes to take wood grain filler, too. Here we left the natural color of the wood but applied a black grain filler to demonstrate the contrast.

Ash likes to take wood grain filler, too. Here we left the natural color of the wood but applied a black grain filler to demonstrate the contrast.

Why color the wood if you don’t want to? Here’s a way to improve the natural contrast in ash while keeping its main pale color.

Products used: Zinsser SealCoat, Old Masters Woodgrain Filler, Old Masters Spanish Oak Wiping Stain.

  1. Prepare the wood as normal, sanding to 220 grit or so
  2. Apply 1 or 2 coats of a clear sealer like Zinsser SealCoat. Spray if possible, otherwise use a cotton pad to briskly wipe it on and being careful not to overlap the sealer while it’s tacky
  3. Allow it to dry
  4. Mix Woodgrain Filler with the Spanish Oak stain in a 2-to-1 ratio, filler to stain.
  5. Apply the tinted filler with a scraper, putty knife or cotton rag and work it into the grain
  6. After about 5 minutes, scrape off the surface. The darkened filler should stay in the pores and mostly come off the wood. The dark color will not come off 100% at this time, but do not worry.
  7. Allow it to dry, then sand with a 220-grit sanding sponge. Sand until the dark color comes off of the surface wood completely. It will take some effort. However, the color will come off of the surface wood long before you happen to sand the filler right out of the pores, so do not worry if you feel like you’re sanding too much.
  8. If you want to fill the grain more, repeat the entire process starting with the sealer.
  9. Apply your protective top coat of choice, like lacquer, polyurethane, varnish or shellac.

Finish #6 Dyeing Ash Black and Adding White Contrast to the Pores

Replicate old reclaimed barnwood or a weathered wine barrel with this dying and staining technique.

Replicate old reclaimed barnwood or a weathered wine barrel with this dying and staining technique.

Here’s a slightly different approach. You can also dye ash solid black – or build on the solid black color by making this pores white. Here’s how.

Products used: Solar-Lux Jet Black aniline dye, Zinsser SealCoat, Old Masters Pickling White Gel Stain.

  1. Prepare the wood as normal, sanding to 220 grit or so
  2. Apply the jet black dye. You may need to do this in 2 full-strength coats. Allow it to dry.
  3. Apply a coat of Zinsser SealCoat, allow it to dry.
  4. Apply the Old Masters Picklinig white Gel Stain and wipe it off right away.
  5. Wiping off the gel stain will take some effort to lift the white completely off of the surface wood.
  6. If your final color doesn’t have as much contrast as you want, apply another coat of the gel stain.