I am pretty much done with the construction of the box itself. I had left the pins extra long and needed to trim them off, which is better then leaving them extra short and um… oh shoot. After some trimming and cleaning up the joints today I drilled and installed the hinges for the doors. I used SOSS model 100 hinges, 2 on each door which is good for material 1/2” thickness. I like those hinges, easy to install, fit well, and completely hidden for a nice clean look.
You’ll notice that I do some finishing work during my project progress, and not necessarily at the end and that is because I can do the finishing at night time, so whenever I get some part of the project ready for finishing I can go ahead with it while still constructing and building the rest later on (drawers in this case are still not cut). Just trying to keep busy and make good use of time and not having to finish all the parts at the end.
I had recently attempted to create a glass smooth finish on mahogany in my Machinist Toolbox project but was not as successful as I had hoped to be. Mahogany like some other species has large open pores that on the surface of the boards seems like trenches. when you apply finish to the board, the finish covers the board evenly except in the trenches where the finish drops into the trench leaving low spots/lines on the face of the finish. Now this is in no way a deal breaker, and the finish will protect the wood just the same, but it will not have a glass smooth look or feel to it thats all. In order to get a glass smooth surface you need to fill in those pores.
Filling the pores
My previous attempt was to use some mahogany sawdust from my ROS (using 220 grit paper) mixed with dewaxed shellac. The reason it did not work so well is because I think I simply did not have enough sawdust and the filling compound was too thin to do any good. This time around, I had more sawdust in the mixture and it was quite apparent – the finish mixture looked a bit like mud.
I applied the compound liberally to the box surfaces with the grain and across the grain. As an after thought I should have avoided going with the grain as this would pull the compound out of the pores/trenches while going across the grain would probably fill them better. the box looked very dirty and gritty (which was a GOOD thing):
I then let this dry for about an hour and tried sanding it down with a ROS and 220 grit paper. It didn’t quite cut it (pun intended). there was quite a bit of buildup on the box (again – a good thing, and just what I was hoping for). I reverted to using a scraper and scraped the entire box inside and out on all surfaces. Needless to say that was a LOT OF WORK, but proved some good results. the shavings that came off where of the finish which cleaned off nicely from the box:
Theoretically and what I was trying to achieve was to remove the gritty finish from the surface of the box leaving behind somewhat bare wood, with the low spots of the pores still filled with the unscraped filler finish in them as the scraper would not reach inside the pores.
I then lightly sanded the box with a ROS and 220 grit to clean off any left over marks and smooth things out, and applied a 2nd coat of a thinned down mixture (basically whatever was left from the 1st coat with some added dewaxed shellac) and after 45 min sanded it down with ROS and 220 grit. The results were exciting! the surface was glass smooth with no bumps in it (from the pores). to test it I used my fingernail and passed it along the board. Before it would bump in all the pores, but now it just went smoothly across the box – FABULOUS! :
I added 1 more coat of dewaxed shellac, let it dry for 45 min, and then added 2 more coats using the french polish method (cheese cloth with old CLEAN sock inside and force rub the shellac on the surface of the box) with 30-45 min between coats. The surface is just what I was trying to achieve. glass smooth to the eye and to the touch:
(pardon the image quality, but the reflection off of the dry finish can still be seen which is the purpose of this photo)
Mission Accomplished! I had been planning to have this finish on this box from the first moment I designed the box (over 2 years ago), and am glad it came to fruition.
Special Thanks to Karson who gave me some ideas RE filling in the pores (scraping it off). Karson used a similar approach but generated the sawdust using wet sanding with the finish, while I prepared the sawdust in advance. FYI Karson, the Shellac filler came off fairly easily with the scraper.
Conclusion, dewaxed shellac + fine sawdust in the right amount will do a good job filling in pores and will be a perfect match in color to the project at hand. That said – it does require some effort to get it done and might be easier to do as a prefinishing operation before gluing the project together.
By the way, All of this was done in a matter of ~5 hours from start to finish (literally).
I wonder if putting a couple of coats of poly on top of this would damage the shine (as an extra step to protect the box) any thoughts?
Now for the drawers…
-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.