Is this overkill?

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Forum topic by Tim posted 10-05-2009 08:11 PM 1244 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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43 posts in 2600 days

10-05-2009 08:11 PM

Topic tags/keywords: pine finishing

I just finished building my first real piece of furniture (small applause); NYW’s Planter’s Desk. It is all in pine and I’m ready to finish it. Considering I’m a complete rookie, I went to my local Woodcraft store and he recommeded this for a very-slightly darker than natural finish: First, a wax-free shellac (Bulls Eye SealCoat). Second, a pre-conditioner (General Finishes). Third, the stain (Honey Maple by GF). Last, poly. I ended up spending ~$55. An ouch, but not a big one if this is what has to be done for it to be nice.

In your not-so-humble opinions, do I need both the shellac and the conditioner?

Also, I sanded everything up to 220 and was planning on sanding the endgrain parts w/400. Is this good/bad/or indifferent?

Thanks for your help!

8 replies so far

View HokieMojo's profile


2103 posts in 3148 days

#1 posted 10-05-2009 08:24 PM

as i was reading it, i was thinking why would you need both?. I don’t think you do. I’d also stay away from the stain. I doubt you will get the look of cherry. Why not just embrace the pine as it is?. Less work, and no splotching.

View Tim's profile


43 posts in 2600 days

#2 posted 10-05-2009 08:27 PM

I was hoping for just a little darker, not nearly as dark as cherry. I’ll do some testing, but you think just a good sanding and a coat of poly? What about the shellac and poly?

View a1Jim's profile


115172 posts in 2997 days

#3 posted 10-05-2009 08:38 PM

Hey Tim
You don’t need Shellac and pre-conditioner. I think Charles Neil uses GF Honey Maple to help get a cherry color. BTW check out the article by Charles in Fine Woodworking this month. It’s a good one. Sanding the end grain to 600 is a great idea to help minimise the color difference between end grain and the rest of the piece. Can’t wait to see photos.

-- Custom furniture

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3068 days

#4 posted 10-05-2009 08:46 PM

I’d just stick with the poly… it’s already a varnish blend, and will both penetrate, seal, and coat your table.

on another note – do not sand the endgrain with 400 – it’ll block the wood grain from absorbing the finish. remember – you want the end piece to be smooth, not necessarily the wood itself- what you’ll feel as “smooth” is actually the finish that you put on the wood, not the wood itself.

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

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 3242 days

#5 posted 10-05-2009 08:56 PM

Tim, as far as pine or any other wood that blotches easily goes, you should use a preconditioner or a 1 lb cut of shellac to help prevent blotching. The finishing order should be sand to 150, if you are going to stain, or 180 if you are going to put a natural finish on the wood. Sanding to higher levels closes the pores of the wood and works against the staining process. Following sanding precondition the wood with either a preconditioner or shellac. Let it cure, in the case of the preconditioner this would be overnight. The manufacturers directions call for staining within a two hour period but this should be ignored and let the conditioner cure out before staining. Once the stain has been applied let it cure out- usually overnight. Then apply a 2 lb cut of shellac as a sealer. It should cure out in less than an hour and then lightly sand with 320 and begin applying your poly.

For a poly topcoat I would recommend using a wipe-on poly. This is commercially available but you can make your own by diluting oil base poly 50:50 with mineral spirits. Simply wipe a layer on with a clean paper towel or cotton cloth. Let cure (4-6 hours or overnight depending on your shop temp). Lightly sand with 400 grit and apply another coat. Keep building the finish in this manner until such time as you get the finish you want.

As far as the finishing routine goes I generally recommed developing a “story stick” for your finishing routine by using a piece a scrap and sanding it to the same level as your project. Apply your finishing routine on marked areas of the it showing the contribution of the individual finishing steps.

By the way sanding the end grain to a higher grit is a good idea since end grain will absorb finish/stain more readily. If you were to magnify the end grain of the wood it would appear as a packet of straws so it is going to absorb more finish than the rest of the wood.

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

View a1Jim's profile


115172 posts in 2997 days

#6 posted 10-05-2009 09:12 PM

Scott has a good aproach I agree that sanding the end grain to 400-600 blocking part of the stain is the whole Idea other wise The end grain will be much darker than the main body of your desk when you stain it.

-- Custom furniture

View Tim's profile


43 posts in 2600 days

#7 posted 10-06-2009 03:20 PM

Oh boy, am I a rookie. Seems as though purchasing the moulding to save time and tool $ has proven to be otherwise. I think the moulding I bought is Poplar, not pine. The pics below show the test pieces of moulding and pine with the first wax-free shellac coat only.

I only put shellac on most of the piece and that can be seen in the top pic. But the bottom one really accentuates the color differences in the two. So…. now what? I was planning on just keeping the shellac color and sealing with poly from there. Can I color match just the moulding? Some amber Shellac on the moulding only? Or is it best to stain the whole thing and try and stain the moulding darker?

Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope!

View gizmodyne's profile


1768 posts in 3510 days

#8 posted 10-06-2009 03:27 PM

Search this site for staining soft woods. I have several blog entries on using a washcoat for staining fir or pine. Basics: washcoat = 90% mineral spirits and 10% boiled linseed oil. Apply it liberally and then use a gel stain on top of that. I have had much better results avoiding splotching with this. Second coat of stain does not need washcoat Clear coat of your choice on top. You may be able to even out the color differences with a stain.

Also my advice to new woodworkers. Make several finish samples before starting the project. Then write down the finish schedule. This saves all of this pain and reduces the temptation to practice on your actual project. Good luck.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

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