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 ‘tips’

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.

 

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

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

You have dozens, maybe hundreds, of ways to finish mahogany for your woodworking projects. That’s part of the beauty of the wood; you can apply nearly any finish 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

This deep red mahogany finish might look like a far cry from the light orange or light brown color you’ll find in natural, unfinished mahogany. But don’t worry, achieving this color isn’t as hard as it may seem.

 

Products Used:

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.

  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 Right 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 there are legitimate reasons for staining mahogany, such as making the color of a whole project look even and homogenous. The results, of course, are far less dramatic and less nuanced than the first method (above), but stains can 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. You’ll know this kind of a stain by how thin and watery they are. Because of that, they only just kiss the wood with a bit of color. The pigment builds up in the pores, darkening them more than the surface wood which highlights the character in the wood rather than obscuring it. And some stain colors look very natural on mahogany like Old Masters “Dark Mahogany” color.

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 film 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.

 

Want a Few More Ideas?

If none of these suit your tastes, don’t worry. We’ve got three more recipes for you, too.

See our post “3 More Easy & Exquisite Finishes for Mahogany” with step-by-step instructions.