first piece of furniture. have finishing question

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Forum topic by framerpunk77 posted 06-07-2010 05:40 PM 1135 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 2327 days

06-07-2010 05:40 PM

ok so im super new to fine wood working. i have been a framer for almost a decade, so i have some concepts of wood working (i can trim out doors,windows and run base board etc) . so here is my question. i made a bookshelf for my girlfriend. its soft maple and im using 100% tung oil cut 50/50 with turpentine to finish it. i have read on here and several other sites that people also add varnish to the tung oil to make a varnish wipe. what benefits would i gain from adding varnish? i have a friend who builds furniture and he suggested to rub my bookshelf with tung oil and then use beeswax. should i just go with tung/beeswax or tung/varnish with beeswax?

thanks and cheers

-- Novak

8 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


115166 posts in 2993 days

#1 posted 06-07-2010 05:43 PM

sorry I use modern finishes

-- Custom furniture

View uffitze's profile


199 posts in 2371 days

#2 posted 06-07-2010 06:58 PM

It’s been a while since I’ve used it/looked at it, but I seem to recall that tung oil is a wiping varnish. Meaning that it includes varnish and the namesake tung oil along with a thinner. This provides some penetrative as well as surface protection. Personally, I like to make my own finish with boiled linseed oil, varnish and thinner. Similar, but cheaper. I also like to either add wax to the mix or put a coat of wax on at the end.

Long story short … listen to your friend.

View Dchip's profile


270 posts in 2668 days

#3 posted 06-07-2010 07:27 PM

Varnish would offer protection (i.e. from physical wear, water, alcohol) but at a cost of creating a film that some find objectionable (and is also difficult to repair in the case of poly). Mixing varnish, oil, and thinner in thirds creates danish oil, which is a stand-by of mine, though it ultimately comes down to personal preference and use. Oil alone (if it is 100% pure, not “Tung Oil Varnish”) just penetrates into the wood and hardens, offering some protection that is easily renewed. Waxing can also offer added protection, though nowhere near that of varnish.

-- Dan Chiappetta, NYC,

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2402 days

#4 posted 06-07-2010 08:32 PM

I would feel uncomfortable with a varnish finish on a bookcase. (At least, if I was particularly concerned about the books) Or maybe I’ve just had back luck with that film?

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View framerpunk77's profile


2 posts in 2327 days

#5 posted 06-07-2010 10:02 PM

i think im going to just stick to the tung oil thanks everyone for your help


-- Novak

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 3107 days

#6 posted 06-07-2010 10:11 PM

Tung and Beeswax for me

-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 2467 days

#7 posted 06-08-2010 12:25 AM

A old, reliable finish is 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 polyurethane varnish, and 1/3 turpentine,OR mineral spirits. Be sure to use BOILED LINSEED OIL, not tung oil, as the linseed oil will dry more quickly. The advantage of mixing polyurethane varnish is that it will build a film on the surface that will haarden and provide protection from liquids, etc.

After removing all sanding dust, rag it on, let ot soak in for a few minutes, wipe it off and let it dry for a day or two. Then repeat. 2 coats should be enough. For a super slick finish, rub it in with 320 wet-or-dry sandpaper in a circular motion while it’s soaKING. kEEP IT WET, THEN WIPE OFF. Use beeswax or paste wax later to bring up the shine, or use wax with 0000 steel wool to flaten it out—as you wish. Good luck.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View gerrym526's profile


266 posts in 3225 days

#8 posted 06-14-2010 11:40 PM

My recommendation for determining a finish is that you start with how the piece will be used. For bookcases for example-what room will they be in? Furniture in a dedicated den or home office is going to take a lot less abuse than something in the family room/rec room/great room. In the latter, expect people to put wet drinks without coasters, kids toys with metal bottoms, etc.
A tung oil/turpentine finish may be a classic, as is a wiping oil, but provides little if any protection against water, acids, scratching, etc. However, I wouldn’t argue with the guys who use it religiously as it makes the wood look great-if it’s not subject to normal wear and tear.
There’s a reason why urethane has become popular-it’s a modern finish with durability.
To Tyskkvinna’s concern-a fully cured varnish or urethane will not harm books-it has become molecularly inert-ie. plastic (in the case of varnish alkyd resins, in the case of urethanes pure plastic).
Hope this helps.

PS-There are a huge number of myths surrounding finishing. My advice is to get a copy of Bob Flexner’s Understanding Wood Finishing as a start. He de-mystifies the entire process of choosing, applying, and repairing finishes

-- Gerry

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