finishing a carved chest

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Forum topic by jdh122 posted 12-09-2015 07:17 PM 620 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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878 posts in 2238 days

12-09-2015 07:17 PM

I’m working on a small carved chest using a fairly simple, repetitive pattern that fills most of the surface. I’m looking for advice on how to finish it. I’d like to use traditional finishes, since this is a 17-th century kind of chest, but am a bit worried about using BLO or tung oil because it may be difficult to wipe all of the excess off from a carved surface. I also have (and like using) shellac but don’t want it pooling in the grooves.
Any thoughts? I realize that for carving sprayed finishes are probably simplest. I’m not set up for spraying, although I suppose I could figure out how to set up for a rattle can of lacquer. But mostly it doesn’t seem appropriate for the type of project.
Any suggestions either for what type of finish to use or concerning technique would be appreciated.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

5 replies so far

View rwe2156's profile


2116 posts in 901 days

#1 posted 12-10-2015 12:07 PM

Limited experience, but I’ve actually had pretty decent luck using spray cans on small carvings.
Not had a problem with pooling if I’m patient with the thickness of the coat.
Key is the quality of the spray nozzle. Some sputter horribly.
Deft has the best spray pattern of the one’s I’ve used.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View toddbeaulieu's profile


779 posts in 2425 days

#2 posted 12-10-2015 03:12 PM

I’d think you should be able to use whatever finish you want and simply lightly dab out the carving with a dryish brush to remove the excess.

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878 posts in 2238 days

#3 posted 12-10-2015 03:35 PM

Thanks for the suggestions. You’re probably right that I’m overthinking it…

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View mpounders's profile


821 posts in 2316 days

#4 posted 12-17-2015 03:11 PM

I finish all of my carvings with Minwax satin polyurethane. I buy a new small can, because the contents are fresh and haven’t thickened from being opened and exposed to air. This thinner finish soaks into the wood quite easily. I use a paint brush to flood the entire carving with the finish, letting it soak in for maybe 30 seconds and then immediately start blotting off the excess with clean white paper towels. Doing this provides a matte protective finish. Do not repeat the process or you will start to build up a plastic looking finish that is on top of the wood, rather than soaked in. Spray finishes can run or build up in crevices if applied too thickly. Tung oil is a good wipe on finish also, but i have had some bad results with boiled linseed oil. My methods with that finish don’t look so great after several years passed.

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

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878 posts in 2238 days

#5 posted 12-18-2015 05:13 PM

Thanks for the advice, Mike. This carving is kid’s stuff compared to yours, but I appreciate the help. I definitely want to avoid a plastic looking finish.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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