Did you ever see some really beautiful woodworking done only to notice that it wasn’t really ‘finished’? I have been doing woodworking and scroll sawing for a long time and I must admit that finishing is one of my shortcomings. I have been to many shows, too where people have on display the most beautiful, intricate fretwork that must have taken them days to cut, only to have little or no finish on them – or worse yet – a poorly sprayed on finish which has drips and/or dust embedded in it.
Since joining this forum and seeing the level of projects, I really noticed how much I lack finishing skills. I also realize that finishing itself can be an entire career and it scares me to think of the scope of what I need to learn. I am hoping to learn a little at a time, project to project to improve the final appearance of my work.
Almost two years ago, I made a walnut bread basket for the magazine. It was one of the first things that I made that would come in direct contact with food. I have a picture of it below:
|From Album for Web Stuff|
I liked it because it was slotted together and didn’t need any glue. It was one of my simpler designs, yet it is one of my favorite and one of the few things that I make that I actually keep and use here at my own home. Walnut is one of my favorite woods. I have to limit what I make with it for the magazine though because they say it is difficult to photograph well because it sucks up so much light. Nonetheless, I chose it for this little basket because the design was airy enough that it wouldn’t be a solid mass of dark.
After doing much reading to choose the proper finish, I went with mineral oil. There are other ‘salad bowl’ type finishes that include olive oil and grape seed oil, but some of them turn rancid over a period of time. Living in a small town where finding products is not always easy (and having a deadline to meet) I decided to go with good ole’ mineral oil. It seemed to be one of the purest and safest choices available.
I applied several coats with a soft cloth, allowing the oil to penetrate the wood and absorb. I did this process over several days time. The last couple of coats I applied using 600 grit sandpaper, as it really seemed to work the oil into the pores of the wood and provided a beautiful sheen. There was no smell at all with the mineral oil and the basket looked just beautiful! I was really pleased. Now it is almost two years later, and the basket sits on my counter holding my bananas and kiwi fruit and looks every bit as nice as the day I finished it.
As some of you may have read, I used oil on the little dresser tray that I made about two weeks ago. The wood I used was bird’s eye maple and the grain was beautiful and I didn’t want to botch the finish by spraying it. It is nearly impossible to brush on a finish with fretwork of that type. Most of the poly’s dry too quickly and leave streaks and drips and it is so hard to get into all the fretwork holes. I was able to use a 1/2” paint brush and apply the oil into each hole, taking my time and not worrying about drying fast, and then went on to use the 600 grit again to work the oil into the face of the tray. I then applied a thin coat of paste wax. The results was really beautiful, but after a couple of days it began to lose its luster and look a bit dry. How would it look in several weeks or months, I wondered?
I did some reading and found that many people spray shellac over an oiled surface. When I went on my trip this weekend, I headed to the finishing sections of each appropriate store we visited and I was really disappointed at the lack of supplies they had. I was lucky to find ONE spray can of lacquer in all the places I looked. There were a couple of bottles of tung oil and maybe a danish oil or lemon oil but for the most part, Krylon clear poly. I went with the shellac.
So I am getting this stuff ready to go to my editors and last night I took the companion piece to the tray (the little picture frame with the butterfly, which had the same oil finish on it) and gave it a shot. It really looked nice. I sprayed very lightly and carefully because all I wanted was a thin, protective coat. I did that piece first because if the results were poopie, at least I wouldn’t have ruined the piece that had to be shipped. When I was sure it was dry and was satisfied, I moved onto the tray.
First results was beautiful, until I saw the 2” cat hair in the middle of the tray after it dried. I guess with having three cats, it is inevitable, but I did spray outside and I must have just missed it. I let it dry for an hour or so and gently sanded the middle section of the tray which is the flat part with no fretwork in it (the rim was fine). I resprayed a thin coat and let it dry. This time, there were a few spots on near the edges of the middle where it looks like I missed sanding, that appear to be just ever so slightly bubbled. Not blistered, mind you, but a low level of what could be.
My thoughts are that I shouldn’t have used the paste wax if I was going to spray on the shellac. I think where I sanded the hair out, it removed enough of the surface to get rid of what wax was there and the edge areas still had some on it, preventing bonding with the wood. Do you think I am right? Other than that, I am really pleased with the results. The fretwork rim is stunning, probably because I didn’t really wax that part much because I didn’t want to get the wax in the crevices. I think what I need to do is re-sand the center piece and give it one more shot. Any nays or yays on this theory are welcome – even after the fact. I am in the process of finishing the three fretwork frames I cut last week in the same way and I want them to look good.
I guess this is getting long (again, sigh!). I will probably continue this discussion in subsequent posts. As I said, I don’t want to be overwhelmed. But for now, maybe if you have an opinion on what your ‘favorite’ finish is you would like to share it with me. Remember I do project-type stuff that isn’t going to get a lot of handling. The items are pretty intricate because of the fretwork in them. I would, however like to find a nice, protective finish that would stand up to everyday ‘gentle’ handling. Do you think that this oil/shellac is OK? I never put anything but the oil on the Walnut basket and it still looks beautiful after 2 years. I imagine I need to hit it with another coat every now and then, but I am under the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality regarding it. Or am I breaking a Cardinal rule of finishing by assuming this?
One last thought, I also had the other oil types in my hand and wanted to try them, but I remembered that tung oil had a horrid odor and I am assuming that danish oil does also. Are they that much different than regular old mineral oil? What is the advantage to using them over it? Is it just that you don’t have to seal it? Any help or thoughts would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance for your thoughts. I hope you all have a wonderful day! :)
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"