Best Finish for 100 year old Mahogany Desk: Waterlox vs Forby's vs Other

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Forum topic by rolfeskj posted 03-15-2016 07:30 PM 1303 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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22 posts in 1856 days

03-15-2016 07:30 PM

I am in the process of refinishing a 100 year old Mahogany Desk. I took the top down to bare wood as it was too rough to just recoat. The rest of the desk is in good shape and I am just lightly sanding the top coat off to take the new finish. I am going to stain the whole desk the same dark color it originally was to have it fairly uniform.

I need to know the best finish for this desk. I am okay at finishing but something easier is always better. On other projects I used poly tends to run/drip on me and I had good luck with lacquer but by the third coat on a cherry project it thickened and I had some brush stroke issues.

I have looked a lot and cant decide between Waterlox and Formby’s Tung oil finish.

1. Is one better than the other?
2. Is Forby’s too thin and or strong enough for a functioning desk?
3. Is Waterlox too tough to work with due to the vapors and extra finish in the can gelling up?
4. Is Waterlox really worth the very high cost vs other finishes?
5. is there a finish I am missing that would work better?


5 replies so far

View AlaskaGuy's profile


4208 posts in 2335 days

#1 posted 03-15-2016 07:47 PM

Formby’s is nothing more than a 50/50 mix of varnish and mineral spirits (wiping varnish). Despite it’s name Formby’s contains no tung oil.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View Aj2's profile (online now)


1438 posts in 1824 days

#2 posted 03-15-2016 07:55 PM

Shellac,Look up the shellac shack buy some fresh button Lac.If your confused talk to Malcome.
Oil finishes offer very little

-- Aj

View rolfeskj's profile


22 posts in 1856 days

#3 posted 03-16-2016 12:18 AM

I know Formbys is not real tung oil but it seems to rate well. Is there a better option?

Will premixed shellac work as well as flakes? I have never mixed my own.


View Aj2's profile (online now)


1438 posts in 1824 days

#4 posted 03-16-2016 03:34 AM

No premixed shellac is not the same.If it were i would have said just buy the stuff they sell in the can at the borg.
If you have never used shellac you might be dissapointed with it.It take many thin coats to build a finish thats hardly noticeable.
Maybe your better off used a oil finish.Theres not much you can do wrong with a oil finish.
Good Luck.

-- Aj

View OSU55's profile


1700 posts in 2015 days

#5 posted 03-16-2016 07:55 PM

If you want a thin close to the grain finish like waterlox & formbys will provide, just use ob poly thinned 50% with ms, and apply it the same. Same look, same protection, much lower cost.

For a desk, you really need to spray shellac. It sets too quickly to brush large surfaces, and is not a great finish for something that will see much use – great to look at but only fair to poor abrasion, water, and chemical resistance.

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