Finishing #2: Become your own mixologist

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by TampaTom posted 02-09-2009 04:48 PM 1224 reads 5 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: I'm so finished Part 2 of Finishing series no next part

The coolest job in any restaurant belongs to the bartender. Sure, the chef gets the credit for the outstanding meal, the maître d’ for the ambiance of the place and the wait staff for the overall dining experience.

Mr. MixologyBut, when people want to have fun and strike up a conversation, they turn to the bartender. Think Isaac on the Love Boat. Tom Cruise in that stinkin’ movie about being a bartender.

“Yes, Mr. Bond would like his martini shaken, not stirred, Mr. Sinatra wants a highball, and Evel Knievel wants two fingers of Wild Turkey before he tries to jump the fountain in the parking lot on his Harley.”

While no one may be hanging out in your wood shop, you can be just as cool by mixing your own wiping finish. Why mix your own? Instead of just relying on what a manufacturer thinks is the best mix, you can adjust your formula to fit your own needs – faster drying time, more film build, etc. Also, if you have cans and bottles of the components, you can use them in your finish instead of throwing them out.

Mixing your own finish is very easy. There are dozens of formulas out there to suit individual needs, but this is my formula I have used very successfully through the years.

The ingredients can be found in any hardware store and start with boiled linseed oil (BLO). This natural oil helps the figure in wood ‘pop’ and gives it a rich, deep finish. The next ingredient is polyurethane or some other type of varnish. It offers a great deal of protection from water, abrasion and other hazards. Finally, you have to add a thinner to the mix. I like turpentine, but paint thinner or naptha will work as well. It makes the finish flow nicely and level without brush marks and runs.

Now, here comes the hard part – mixing it together. The ’standard’ mix that a lot of people refer to is 1/3 varnish, 1/3 BLO, 1/3 thinner. While this does make a nice mix, I have found that I can mix it 1/2 varnish, 1/4 BLO and 1/4 thinner. It gives me a little faster build on the finish while still making for an easy wipe on.

My scientific method for mixing involves an old pickle jar. I measured up from the bottom in one inch increments, and poured the ingredients up to the lines. No, you are not trying to send people to the Moon or split the atom, close enough will work…

After sanding the piece, I again prefer to wipe on a coat of 1# cut dewaxed shellac and sand it down to 400 grit after letting it cure. Then, I wipe on the finish with a rag. Don’t be bashful, the wood will soak up a lot of the finish – especially in end grain. Let it sit for about five minutes, then wipe off any excess with a dry cloth.

I love how easy the mix is to use, and I have yet to be let down.

Now, after all that hard work, I think I’ll take one of those fancy martinis to celebrate.

-- Tom's Workbench -

3 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3816 days

#1 posted 02-09-2009 05:22 PM

Tom, thanks for the info. To many finishing is a part of the project that they approach with dread and reluctance. If possible they would sooner farm this out rather than deal with the “butterflies” that starting the finishing routine brings. But the recipe that you have described is one that goes on easily, flattens out quickly and dries quickly into a hard protective top coat with a nice sheen. I use a similar process but the only difference is that I just “measure” by eye. As you say this is not exactly rocket science.

Nice post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View mmh's profile


3676 posts in 3716 days

#2 posted 02-09-2009 06:42 PM

Gee I was hoping to launch my rocket with your secret formula . . .

Thanks for the info. It beats buying all those formulas that are unlabled with the % as they are “Proprietary Information” and finding out they don’t quite work for you.

Now I have to go make some of that Kickapoo-stuff for my rocket.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View SteveKorz's profile


2134 posts in 3708 days

#3 posted 02-09-2009 08:17 PM

LOL.. Great post… Good information, too!

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics