Under the Scope #2: Walnut! Liquid Poly, Waxed Poly and Raw

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Blog entry by YooperCasey posted 01-10-2008 11:07 PM 952 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Summary, first wood shots Part 2 of Under the Scope series no next part

I recently have been refinishing a small chair for my wife. The chair legs are solid walnut with the side panels a veneered walnut. (Which I learned after the fact… unfortunately) Before I just tossed some finish onto it I bought a piece of walnut veneer which we marked out into a grid and tested various colors of stain.

After choosing a stain (no stain or dyes at all) I decided to try out the new foolproof finishing method they listed in FWW. It starts with shellac, then three coats of polyurethane (and two doesn’t cut it!) and a final coat of polished furniture wax. I split the veneer into two, one side got the shellac and three coats of poly. The other side got the full treatment with the polished wax as well. The end product ends up looking pretty much identical, the feel is just silkier with the waxed surface. (Any other benefits anyone can list?)

To make this more interesting, I got the two pieces mixed up when I put them onto my desk. To the naked eye they both look identical, they are too small to get a good smoothness test too. Let’s see if we can guess which is which!

One finished piece at 40X.

The same piece at 100X.

Now for the other piece at 40X. Talk about a huge difference!

And at 100X.

The second set of pictures almost look wet, so they get my vote for the ones without wax.

This is the unfinished side at 40X. Almost reminds me of beef jerky.

The unfinished side at 100X. The fibers stick out and appear as the unfocused squiggles you see.

There it is folks, one more batch under the scope!

-- Casey, Engineer, Escanaba, MI

4 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4422 days

#1 posted 01-10-2008 11:36 PM

You are having fun aren’t you I keep trying to find one of the USB microscopes that will go to 100X I think the discovery store carries them, but you can also find them on Ebay.

Do you know anything about them. They are an Intel QX3 or something like that.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3960 days

#2 posted 01-11-2008 12:18 AM

It’s interesting that you would choose the second as the non-waxed sample. I would have said the second sample had the wax because the grain doesn’t look quite as deep and there seems to be a greater variety of light reflection. Of course, I have no idea what I’m talking about having never seen anything of this sort before, so if your trained eye says the first sample is waxed, I certainly won’t argue. Regardless, these pictures are fascinating.

-- Working at Woodworking

View YooperCasey's profile


58 posts in 3854 days

#3 posted 01-11-2008 01:49 AM

You bet I’m having fun Karson!

As for a microscope, one of the best pieces of advice I can give is to take the advice of a local community college or university. Most microscopes have to shine through a sample, so you need what is called an inspection, or boom microscope. They tend to be quite expensive as they aren’t usually in the hobby area.

I’ve found a few interesting articles on using the Intel QX3 to digitize images from a conventional microscope. For the price (~$20) on ebay I’d say you can’t go wrong. But ideally a local university may have some older units.

As to the grain I don’t have the slightest clue, just a guess. This trained eye normally looks at steel or super alloys under magnification, not exactly fine wood identification training. But Russel, your logic isn’t flawed, so you could be correct.

Glad you folks are enjoying them!

-- Casey, Engineer, Escanaba, MI

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4182 days

#4 posted 01-11-2008 06:58 PM

Keep having fun so the rest of us can benefit.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

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