What is the best finish for Mahogany?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by spaids posted 10-12-2010 09:17 PM 38724 views 2 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View spaids's profile


699 posts in 3890 days

10-12-2010 09:17 PM

I am working on an all Mahogany project and would like to hear advice on finishes. I think the best looking Mahogany finish I have ever seen is on Tommy MacDonalds Bombay but that was done by a highly skilled professional. I am neither highly skilled nor professional.

So.. What do ya got?

-- Wipe the blood stains from your blade before coming in.--

12 replies so far

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4325 days

#1 posted 10-12-2010 09:31 PM


-- 温故知新

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3846 days

#2 posted 10-12-2010 09:34 PM

it really depends what it’ll be used for. for looks – shellac would look great, but if it’s an end table that will see often use, then shellac may not be appropriate for it protection wise.

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

View CiscoKid's profile


343 posts in 3071 days

#3 posted 10-12-2010 09:57 PM

I work with a lot of mahogany. I love the way it works but I hate the open pores. If you don’t fill the pores you can’t get a very fine finish. Certainly not a French polish. I generally sand to 320 and apply a sealcoat of 1lb. cut shellac. The sealcoat keeps the pore filler from staining the surrounding wood. Once that cures I apply a dark brown pore filler (I use Behlens dark mahogany) with a plastic auto body putty knife. When that starts to dry I scrape off the excess with the blade of the knife being careful to not pull the filler out of the pores. Let that cure completely (until you cannot smell the solvent any more). Sand to 320 again and check for open pores carefully. Sometimes you have to repeat the filler step. Once the pores are filled to your satisfaction, start applying 2 lb. cuts of shellac with a fine bore’s bristle brush, sanding with 320 or 400 between coats. Two coats are sufficient for legs and aprons, but I like four or more coats for the top. Wet sand the top to 1,000 grit and buff with auto polish and a random orbit buffer. You could pretty much do the same thing with lacquer if you like that better.

-- Al, Culpeper VA

View spaids's profile


699 posts in 3890 days

#4 posted 10-13-2010 02:20 PM

Well this little table will not be used and abused so much. It will most likely be a plant stand and probably a fake plat at that so very little wear and tear. That being said it looks like Shellac is the way to go. What if I do not use any pore filler? I don’t mind a softer look. So far every thing I have done has just got an oil finish. Is pore filler a must with Shellac? Finally, doesn’t Shellac come colored? Like “Blonde” or amber or something? Lets pretend I’m very stupid. Ok ok so maybe we don’t have to pretend. What Shellac EXACTLY should I use? Do you think I should buy it in flakes so I can make different cuts for the multiples layers that I would apply?


-- Wipe the blood stains from your blade before coming in.--

View FredG's profile


139 posts in 3894 days

#5 posted 10-13-2010 03:14 PM

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6293 posts in 3391 days

#6 posted 10-13-2010 05:16 PM

spaids: They make 2 kinds of shellac…..clear and amber…..ready to use right out of the can…no muss…no fuss…..Personally I don’t like shellac myself all that much…I think there are better finishes you can put on, like a good wipe-on poly for what you’re using the table for…..I also prefer the oils. Shellac is good in the right palces. But like most wworkers, we all have opinions about what is best…

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....!!

View miserybob's profile


88 posts in 3241 days

#7 posted 10-13-2010 06:53 PM

If you look in my projects, I just did a Mahogany display pedestal…. The pictures aren’t the best, but I like the way the finish came out.

Schedule as follows:

2 coats (very dilute) Brown Mahogany Transfast Dye in water applied with a sponge
4 (or so) coats General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Satin rubbed on with a cloth
1 coat Liberon Victorian Mahogany Paste Wax rubbed on with a cloth

I didn’t fill the pores (although the paste wax fills them just a little bit)... I don’t think they’re quite as gaping as, say, Oak (which I generally will fill with Behlens Pore filler tinted with Mixol), so I didn’t bother – but it wasn’t a piece I wanted a mirror finish on anway.

View CiscoKid's profile


343 posts in 3071 days

#8 posted 10-14-2010 02:42 PM

You only have to fill the pores if you want a mirror finish.

-- Al, Culpeper VA

View spaids's profile


699 posts in 3890 days

#9 posted 10-14-2010 08:34 PM


I think I’m just gonna go ahead and try it just as you described. Seal it, fill it, shellac shellac shellac it.

Got any favorite Shellac flake suppliers?


-- Wipe the blood stains from your blade before coming in.--

View CiscoKid's profile


343 posts in 3071 days

#10 posted 10-14-2010 10:19 PM

I cheat and use the canned stuff. Sorry. If you go the canned route, the Seal-Coat is dewaxed. The others aren’t. You will get some clouding trying to French polish shellac with wax in it. Stick to Seal-Coat if you want crystal clear. All canned shellac is a two pound cut. Thin as necessary. Also – I have a buddy who did some amazing things using lacquer on mahogany guitar bodies. He filled the pores and used rattle cans to spray the lacquer before fine sanding and buffing. Looking at the final product you would have never guessed he used rattle cans.

-- Al, Culpeper VA

View PflugervilleSteve's profile


99 posts in 3239 days

#11 posted 10-15-2010 08:24 PM


Fine Woodworking has some decent info on shellac and in fact this month’s magazine issue has a great story on how shellac is made.

I’ve bought flakes from the guy who submitted the article. His site is I bought a sampler kit from him, and the stuff was GREAT and substantially cheaper than woodcraft and Rockler.

View kwhit190211's profile


44 posts in 3953 days

#12 posted 10-16-2010 07:00 AM

I don’t use shellac for my mahogany projects. I like like poly varnish. But I put on a usual 3 seal coats of 50/50 varnish & mineral spirits. Letting each coat dry complete before applying the other coat. Sanding with 220 grit in between coats. I’ve tried pore filler a few times but I don’t like using sand to fill the pores. Thats what the stuff is! I perfer to use the cut sealer. After the sealer is completely dry I usually put on 2 coats of un-cut poly varnish. Making sure each coat is well dry.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics