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Questions for Finish on nightstands

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Forum topic by Eric_S posted 09-02-2010 02:24 PM 1614 views 1 time favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Eric_S

1521 posts in 1850 days


09-02-2010 02:24 PM

I’m really looking forward to the three day weekend coming up :) My wife has to work during the days all weekend too so I’ll be doing a ton of work on these stands. If all goes as planned, I hope to finish resawing and glueing up the veneered tops, sanding all the parts to prepare for finishing….and thats where I’m stuck.
Here are pics of the dry fit to help with ideas on finish.

How much of the finishing process should I do before the glue up?

I’m hoping all the expert LJ’s here can help with what would be the best finishing method for these nightstands? The stands are Cherry with Hard Maple legs. I was thinking Tung oil with some kind of top coat, but I heard that may darken the maple and such too much??? I dont want the stands to be too shiny like a piano, only the tops will be like that. I’ve never done any finishing besides basic BLO and pre bought stains that I used on pine for small projects.

I’ve heard not to use BLO on these stands as they will never dry. I’ve also heard not to apply an oil finish to the inside as it will smell nasty. But every nightstand I’ve seen has a finish on the inside walls of them, so what should I use? Do I use one finish for the outside and a seperate for the inside? The more details you guys can give the better as I’m clueless. I’ve watched some finish videos from The Wood Whispere and Charles Neil, but still I’m not sure what to do.

Also, I bought Charles Neil’s Pre Color Conditioner, but from what it sounds like I dont really need to use it unless I’m staining or dying??? I’m guessing I’d probably still want to use it. So, any thoughts? Detailed suggestions?

Thank you all of your help with my first real fine woodworking project. I’m super excited and proud that I’ve made it this far with them.

-- - Eric Indianapolis, IN


22 replies so far

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1397 posts in 2119 days


#1 posted 09-02-2010 03:15 PM

gotta run, but I’ll reply in a couple hours with my 2 cents (i.e. “don’t do what I did”) :-)

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15696 posts in 2873 days


#2 posted 09-02-2010 03:21 PM

Eric, finishing is a whole world in itself. I’m sure you’l get lots of advice and suggestions. Some of these will be complicated multi-stage processes.

For my money though, the best combination of good looks and so-simple-you-can’t-screw-it-up is oil-based wipe-on polyurethane. It’s easy to apply and hard to mess up. Use satin for the bodies, and if you want the tops glossy, use gloss on them. (It’s the final coat that determines the gloss level, so you can do satin first as long as you end up with gloss.) On the first coat, use a foam brush for getting into corners. Steel wool lightly between coats. You’ll probably want to do three or four coats, but they go on very easy. On the insides, one or two coats will do.

Check out this table. If the finish looks anything like what you are going for, that’s all I did.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

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Eric_S

1521 posts in 1850 days


#3 posted 09-02-2010 03:42 PM

Thanks aaron, no rush. I wont be actually finishing this week. I’m just starting to think about it for a week or two from now.

Charlie, that sounds too simple lol. I actually was expecting the multi-stage processes. Is it really that easy? Thanks for this suggestion it sounds like a very good possibility. I take it you would recommend doing all the coats before glue up then?

-- - Eric Indianapolis, IN

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 2476 days


#4 posted 09-02-2010 03:55 PM

Eric, I use blo on nearly all my projects. It does “tone” the wood by adding a slight color. You probably won’t notice it at all on the cherry, as it simply look as if the cherry has aged slightly, but the maple will have a slight yellowish tint to it. Blo will dry fairly quickly, usually within 72 hours at current temps. Raw linseed oil is a different matter, though. It takes quite a while to cure out. If you are going to use blo simply wipe on a thin coat and then wipe off what you can with a clean cloth and let it dry for a few days.

I agree with Charlie’s suggestion on using wipe on poly. I like to combine maple and cherry in most of my projects and this is the finish that I go to on a regular basis. But, by all means, finish all surfaces of your night stand. The only exception would be the drawers. I will finish these out as well but an equal number of folks will just leave them unfinished.

As far as the smell goes, try some poly on scrap pieces and decide for yourself. I know there are complaints about the odor but I have used oil base poly for years and it does not bother me or my family at all. I think this is an individual decision that should be based on one’s personal sensitivities. If the odor does present a problem then shellac would be a good alternative. It is a little more difficult to apply when compared with wipe on poly but the only odor it has comes from the alcohol which evaporates quickly. Its biggest drawback is that shellac does not handle water or alcohol. Just keep the drinks and nail polish away from them if you decide to go this route.

Af far as the timing for finishing, I will generally save finishing for last. I have found that if I prefinish I will invariably get scratches in the finish from handling the pieces. It does help with glue residue but I have not really had any problems with removing glue from unfinished wood so I just save it for last.

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

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15696 posts in 2873 days


#5 posted 09-02-2010 04:05 PM

I second everything Scott said, including finishing last.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Eric_S's profile

Eric_S

1521 posts in 1850 days


#6 posted 09-02-2010 04:06 PM

Thanks Scott for the suggestion. I keep hearing that I’ll ruin my finish with the glue-up , but I also hear that the finish will look worse after glue up. At the very least I’d finish my panels so that when they contract you wont see unfinished surfaces. Not sure if I should finish first or after. You have given me doubts into finishing before hand. The last thing I want to do after spending so long on these is to ruin them during the finish and glue up process.

-- - Eric Indianapolis, IN

View Eric_S's profile

Eric_S

1521 posts in 1850 days


#7 posted 09-02-2010 04:07 PM

Would it make sense to do a few coats of finish before the glue up to make sure I get all the areas, and then after glue up do a few more to cover any messups that may have happened during the glue up?

-- - Eric Indianapolis, IN

View dfdye's profile

dfdye

372 posts in 1691 days


#8 posted 09-02-2010 04:29 PM

I personally love Watco’s Danish Oil Finish for stuff like this. If you aren’t familiar with this product, it is an oil varnish blend, as are most products that refer to themselves as an “oil finish,” rather than just “oil.”

Here are the pros:
—super simple application: it applies just like BLO that you are used to
—builds up a nice sheen with ~3 coats (allow 24hrs to dry between coats, btw)
—the oils in the finish give a great depth to the grain of the wood
—no risk of blotching!!!
—doesn’t get too glossy to detract from the wood beneath it
—the varnish provides some additional protection vs. pure oil finishes
—dust nibs are easily buffed out when you burnish the final coat with a paper bag (more on this later)
—did I mention it was easy???

The cons:
—long dry time between coats (this has never really mattered to me)
—poly provides MUCH better protection
—it may have a lingering smell, but honestly I don’t mind it

OK, so let’s get to brass tax: if I were finishing this piece, I would probably use 3 coats of danish oil. I typically dump a gloop (yes, that’s a technical measurement!) out in the middle of the work piece and rub the oil in with a plain old cotton rag, making sure all of the surfaces are good and “wet.” After about 5 minutes I come back and wipe off any excess and walk away for a day. At this point, I go by feel in determining the next step, but I typically apply a “lighter” coat, this time soaking a rag with the finish and making sure all the surfaces are “wet,” again wiping off excess after 5 minutes. If the wood looks like it didn’t get a good, thorough, soaking, or if there are some light spots, I may flood the surface again to make sure everything is nice and even. If I feel some roughness in the surface of the wood, I may apply the finish with 0000 steel wool (again, wipe off excess after 5 minutes), but I don’t typically have to do this if I got the wood surface prepped properly before I started finishing the project. Also, this tends to trap some of the sanding dust in the surface of the finish, which is great if you are trying to fill grain in oak or ash, but I don’t really like it with tight grained woods like maple. For a final coat, I make sure to have a “light” coat applied with a rag (wipe off excess after 5 min). After the final coat has had time to dry, I smooth out any dust nibs and “burnish” (not sure if this is the right term) the surface by “sanding” the surface with a paper grocery sack.

The greatest part about this process? If you decide you need more protection, in a week you can apply a poly top-coat over this finish with zero problems! Be sure to wait at least a week, though, to let the oil finish fully cure. In my opinion, the oil under poly looks much better than poly by itself.

If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

-- David from Indiana --

View Eric_S's profile

Eric_S

1521 posts in 1850 days


#9 posted 09-02-2010 04:36 PM

Thanks David. That sounds pretty simple as well. Too many options with finishing lol. Will using Danish Oil Finish cause the maple or cherry to get a yellow tint?

-- - Eric Indianapolis, IN

View NBeener's profile

NBeener

4806 posts in 1828 days


#10 posted 09-02-2010 04:45 PM

Eric: I always hesitate to chime in on things like this … where my experience is next to nil, but … since Watco Danish has been my primary finish … I’d think it worth your while to do a test scrap or two.

I’ve loved the results with it, on A.Mahogany, Padauk, and Maple (so far).

That would answer your question about discoloration, AND give you an idea of the final product.

I find the dry time to be about 30min for the first (flood) coat, and then about 15min between subsequent coats … where I use 320g wet/dry sandpaper to apply it, creating a “slurry” that helps seal the pores. I wait about 24h, after the final coat, before applying wax.

A good quality paste wax over it, and … a night getting fresh air in the garage … with the door cracked open … IME … knocks the smell down to ‘barely noticeable.’ The wax I’m using now is a citrus based product, and actually smells quite good !

I also think you could poly over the Watco, for additional protection, if you wanted to.

Again: I do not have vast experience with an array of products, but … DO like the Watco + wax combo.

The stand looks GREAT, by the way :-)

-- -- Neil

View Huckleberry's profile

Huckleberry

213 posts in 2507 days


#11 posted 09-02-2010 04:46 PM

On certain woods I really like to use lacquer, now not everyone has a hvlp. But recently at Lowe’s I did find what is called brushing lacquer. I bought it and gave it a whirl and I also used a Purdy brush and I must say that I am impressed. No brush marks and once I got three coats I hit it 600 grit sand paper what a beautiful thing it was.

-- I cut it twice and the damn thing is still too short!@#$%

View NBeener's profile

NBeener

4806 posts in 1828 days


#12 posted 09-02-2010 04:49 PM

Also, Eric ….

I’m referred to these sites quite a few times:

http://www.craftsman-style.info/finishing/

http://samallen.com/woodchar.html

HTH.

-- -- Neil

View Eric_S's profile

Eric_S

1521 posts in 1850 days


#13 posted 09-02-2010 06:29 PM

Neil, thanks for your suggestion and those links are helpful. I definintely will be doing scrap tests for any finish before I decide to use it on the stands.

Huckleberry, I don’t own any spray system so my finish would have to be wipe ons/brushs type of finish. I need to buy a really good brush though from everything I’ve read if I decide to do a brush on.

-- - Eric Indianapolis, IN

View CharlesNeil's profile

CharlesNeil

1127 posts in 2525 days


#14 posted 09-02-2010 06:50 PM

Eric, if it were me i would simply do a good nice oil finish and call it a day, I would use some general Finishes Arm R Seal , it adds very little color, and is super tough, I have it on some my floors, its a urethane based oil, you can use the prestain if you want to seal the wood and prevent any blotching, however the arm r seal is pretty clear, you will see some blotching on the cherry when first applied but as the cherry darkens naturally it will go away, the inital look is simply the concentration of oil in the soft grains, but the pre stain will prevent that as well, My preference for this is a satin sheen, simply be sure the prestain is lightly scuff sanded with some 600 after the second coat and is nice and smooth, and apply the armr seal , wiping on a good wet coat, let it dry , overnight , then a very light scuff with some 600 , and then apply 2 more coats , using thin wet wiped smooth coats , and call it a day.

View dfdye's profile

dfdye

372 posts in 1691 days


#15 posted 09-02-2010 06:53 PM

Eric, short answer is yes, in my experience any oil based finish you use will give a yellow tint, though some products definitely show more of a color change than others. Whether this is enough to dissuade you from using the Danish Oil finish, only you can tell!

My guess is that it will noticeably warm the tint of the maple (maybe more than you would like), but I can’t imagine the effect it gives cherry would be objectionable to you. I would second Eric’s suggestion that you try the finish on some cutoffs and see what you think.

If you really do want a crystal clear finish, there really isn’t a good option that I know of besides water-based poly. Every oil-based poly you use will produce the same warming of the wood tones that Danish oil will. I know there are a few wipe-on water based polys around, but I have never used them. I have used the full strength water based polyurethanes with good success, but their quick dry times make it really easy to get bubbles and brush marks stuck in the finish. The next time I use water based poly, I am going to experiment with Floetrol since I really like the extended drying time it adds to the latex paints I have use with it (especially enamel trim paints!)—it lets the brush marks level out and produces a smoother surface. Honestly, though, I have no idea what effect this will have on poly.

Using water-based poly on a piece like this can cause a few problems, though. First off, it will definitely raise the grain after the first coat! To prep pieces for water-based poly, I never sand past 120 grit, because I know that the finish will make any work past that point meaningless. After the first coat, I sand to 180 to try and get any dust nibs or raised grain back down, taking care not to sand too much and cut through the first coat. If you do, then all of the raised grain issues come right back up again. The second coat usually produces a much nicer finish, but I frequently still get raised grain in parts of the workpiece (I do still have bubble and brush mark problems, though). Coats after that are typically pretty good, assuming you sand pretty evenly between coats. Remember, too, that subsequent coats do not re-dissolve the coat below, so there needs to be a good “bite” to the surface before adding a new coat. Otherwise, the next coat won’t stick as well as it should.

Unfortunately, I have never actually used this finish on any “fine” pieces since I haven’t quite mastered applying it yet. All the projects I have used water-based poly on have been bookshelves or pieces that needed durability over looks, and they have all had finishing blemishes that I would consider unacceptable on a high end piece. Spraying will probably get you a long way toward a better finish with full strength water-based poly (though you would need a reliable gun capable of spraying pretty heavy finishes), and I am guessing that the wiping poly probably solves many of my brush mark issues.

Anyway, I have probably rambled on for too long. Whatever you decide to use, please post some pics of the final finish. I would love to see how things turn out!

-- David from Indiana --

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