Dovetail Box #21: End Grain Finishing Issue

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Blog entry by Eric posted 07-11-2008 09:51 AM 1146 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 20: Finishing Fun Part 21 of Dovetail Box series Part 22: How I Fixed the End Grain »

Okay, so I’m just about done. I’ve put the “last coat” on, and buffed it out with 00000 steel wool. Not too sure if I like it as is, or if I’ll add one more coat. It’s easy enough to do, so it’s no big deal.

But there’s one thing I’m unhappy about, and that’s the exposed end grain on the pins and tails. The end grain looks all dried out and kinda nasty. Check it out (click to enlarge):

end grain issue

I’m not sure how it got this way. Maybe I didn’t notice something happening on the several coats previous. Maybe I didn’t sand the end grain enough before I started. I don’t know. I’m not really sure how to fix it, except maybe to use a small brush or cotton swab to apply something (BLO? straight varnish?) directly to the end grain and only the end grain, until it looks normal. But would I need to do some micro-sanding first?

What do you think?

-- Eric at

5 comments so far

View Jimthecarver's profile


1124 posts in 3779 days

#1 posted 07-11-2008 08:21 PM

I’m not sure but it looks to me as if the glue soaked into the end grain and a bit more sanding maybe needed to remove it….Good luck.

-- Can't never could do anything, to try is to advance.

View Woodhacker's profile


1139 posts in 3717 days

#2 posted 07-11-2008 11:54 PM

Keep at it Eric. In looking closely at your picture, I agree with the comments from Jack & Jim above. It also looks like the pins and tails are not cut quite deep enough…like they do not extend quite to the surface of the side to which they’re joined.

I think this is adding to your difficulty. Normally you want the pins and tails to be a little proud 1/32 inch or 1/61 inch when gluing up. That way when you do your finish sanding they’re on the same plane as the sides and this gives you a chance to sand off any glue, etc. It makes for a much cleaner joint.

As it looks in the picture, you’ll need to sand the entire sides down to the depth of the pins in order for them to look “cleaner”. That’s a lot more work than if you leave the pins and tails a little longer than needed. You can see what I’m referring to in the last two pictures of this blog – tails/pins

-- Martin, Kansas

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3890 days

#3 posted 07-12-2008 04:24 AM

Eric – seems to me someone mentioned putting some linseed oil on the end grain before finishing. As I recall the oiil provided a bit of sealing so that the final finish does not darken the end grain as much. I’ll see if I can find the link. (They did a whole lot better job explaining it.)

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3778 days

#4 posted 07-12-2008 05:07 AM

Thanks for your feedback, fellow jocks. Woodhacker, I think you’re right about the sanding. The areas on my box where the tails or pins end grain is flush with the rest, it looks just fine. The only problems are where the end grain is shy.

Betsy, sure would appreciate that link, whenever you can find it.

I think, though, that I don’t want to do a terrible whole lot more work on this thing. My wife doesn’t want me to, either. She sees this box – and rightly so – as a real educational process. End grain doesn’t look perfect? No problem. Years down the road, I’ll be able to look back at this project and think of all I’ve learned.

Of course, if there’s a quick(ish) fix, I’m game to try that. I could q-tip some mineral spirits on one pin or tail’s end grain, and try something to seal it first. Or maybe what Betsy’s suggesting. I’ll just see. But worst case scenario, I leave it as is. My wife loves it to death, despite its flaws.

-- Eric at

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3809 days

#5 posted 07-12-2008 07:27 AM

You sir are a lucky man.

-- Scott - Chico California

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