Dovetail Box #22: How I Fixed the End Grain

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Blog entry by Eric posted 07-16-2008 06:42 AM 1302 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 21: End Grain Finishing Issue Part 22 of Dovetail Box series Part 23: Reflections and Lessons Learned »

From all the feedback I got on my end grain finishing problem, Kaleo had the biggest word (oxidization) so I think he’s right. :^) However, I couldn’t bring myself to apply his solution, which was to sand the box down and then to put a finer grit on the end grain. Actually, my wife instantly vetoed any solution which involved removing the finish I already had on it. She loves the box, and isn’t concerned about the flaws.

But I had to do something. So here’s what I did. First, the before picture:

fix 1

First, I swabbed on some mineral spirits with a q-tip and then “scrubbed” it with the other end. I don’t know how effective this was at removing the varnish. By the way, I also did this on the tail on the top.

fix 2

Then I ripped some very narrow strips of sandpaper from 60 or 80 grit all the way up to 360. I numbered them so I wouldn’t screw up the order.

fix 3

After sanding all the way up to 360, here’s what it looked like. You can see that the one above it, to which I had applied mineral spirits (but didn’t sand), doesn’t look considerably better, if at all.

fix 4

Then, using the q-tip, I applied some straight BLO to the center one, the one above it, and also one test tail on the left middle (which hadn’t been sanded nor stripped with mineral spirits).

fix 5

It turned out that all three tails looked the same. It didn’t matter whether it had been sanded, stripped or anything. So I promptly q-tipped BLO on all of the end grain. And here’s how it turned out:

fix 6

All in all, I’m very pleased with the results. Sure, it’s not immaculate. But the color is much more uniform, and I think Amy will be very pleased. My last resort was going to be to use a black magic marker. Why not?

So now all that is left is to apply a single coat of BLO to the inside of the box. During my initial applications to the outside, I flooded it with my oil/varnish mixture to the extent that you can see it some on the inside. So a single coat of BLO on the inside should regulate the color of the wood. Should.

P.S. Amy does like the smell of BLO – I checked that before deciding what to do about the inside.

-- Eric at

7 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3790 days

#1 posted 07-16-2008 11:55 AM


This is a nice project and, if Amy is happy with the box, then that is really all that is important. But you actually did do a really nice job on it and the finish looks fine to me.

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

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3616 days

#2 posted 07-16-2008 03:29 PM

Hey Eric,
it does look like a much nicer tone to the end grain. I think that the sanding (correct me if I’m wrong) seemed to have minimized the open pores in the end grain- either sanded them flatter, or sealed them with fine dust, to give them a more solid look.

It’s important to keep the lady happy – but it’s best to have everyone happy.


-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3752 days

#3 posted 07-16-2008 03:33 PM

Thanks, Scott! And PurpLev, yes, you’re right. The sanding does seem to have closed up some of the pores and given the end grain a smoother look. It’s spotty though, but I can live with that (on THIS project). On my next one like this I think I’ll be a bit more careful along the way.

-- Eric at

View SteveKorz's profile


2134 posts in 3682 days

#4 posted 07-16-2008 04:56 PM

That looks terrific! You did a great job on the fix, it looks very consistent…

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

View lew's profile


12019 posts in 3723 days

#5 posted 07-16-2008 07:05 PM

Nice Job!

Please don’t overlook the the visual effects of the contrasts that can occur with the dark end grain. When the end grain stays dark, it can really draw your attention to the dovetail. And after all, you want to “show off” your abilities to make hand cut dovetails.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3722 days

#6 posted 07-16-2008 11:32 PM

Good work, the finish looks a lot more even now. Chalk it up as a lesson learned.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3864 days

#7 posted 07-17-2008 02:40 PM

Nice solution Eric.

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

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