Finishing Maghony

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Forum topic by Redford1947 posted 01-07-2011 07:14 PM 2912 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Redford1947's profile


35 posts in 2832 days

01-07-2011 07:14 PM

I am building a toy chest of fine maghony. What what would be the consesus of stain/poly versus tung oil? The basic furniture color in my daughter’s house is dark walnut/Pottery Barn. Want the chest to blend but don’t want to hide $45 an 8’ length of 1×8.

Any suggestions?


6 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3671 days

#1 posted 01-07-2011 07:24 PM

2 things:

1. Mahogany is definitely no walnut and vice versa – color/grain wise, unless stained to create a perfect match they will just not look the same (and not a bad thing)

which brings me to:

2. why Use mahogany if you want it to look like walnut ?!? such a waste. If you want to match the walnut, I’d use something like stained maple/birch/etc, but would let a mahogany be mahogany.

I have recently made a piece out of mahogany using walnut as the drawer pulls – you can clearly see the difference in tone and grain:
Click for details

Another thing to consider when finishing mahogany is the open pores. Depending on the finished look you are after, you may want to consider filling in those pores, I posted about it here:

or not. Anyways, just wanted to weigh in as I have just completed 2 projects made of mahogany and thought it might add some things to think about for you.

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

View childress's profile


841 posts in 3564 days

#2 posted 01-07-2011 08:13 PM

Pottery barn stuff is all usually made out of parawood (rubberwood) and stained to look like other woods. You could stain it to match and the grain would look very similar but like Purp said, such a waste. If you really want to go this route, I would save that nice mahogany for something else and try to get your hands on parawood. But that is almost impossible cause it’s not local to here and I’ve never seen anyone selling it. Next best thing is to use Cumala. Which is a very cheap substitute for mahogany and takes stain very well. This would be a very feasible match and the grain would look very similar too. Good luck.

-- Childress Woodworks

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2799 days

#3 posted 01-07-2011 08:37 PM

Get walnut and do the work in that, use the mahogony where you can show it off.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4147 days

#4 posted 01-07-2011 10:40 PM

The two finishes I’ve used are Penofin, which actually made really nice looking baseboards, and a much more complex finish that I’m using in my kitchen. That more complex finish is:
1. A layer of dewaxed shellac (“sealer”), to keep the dye in the next step from coloring all the wood.
2. A layer of pore filler colored with burnt umber oil paint (I tried various other mixes and settled on just burnt umber, although this may change based on how your mahogany looks). I used the Behlen’s stuff that’s mostly silica, apply it thinly with a spatula, working it into the pores, wait an hour, then wipe off with cotton across the grain. Wait a day, wipe off more vigorously with cotton rag and then sand gently with 320.
3. A couple of layers of Minwax wipe-on satin poly, roughing up the surface a bit in between. The instructions say 220, I like the look that 320 gives me, we’ll see long-term whether that finer sanding causes problems with adhesion.
4. A good rubbing with a cotton cloth after those layers have dried thoroughly.

It’s a satin finish, which is important to my wife, but it looks pretty good. Just did some drawer fronts (that I need to take pictures of) and really enjoyed how the layers of finish brought the wood from a fairly drab mostly even wood grain to really showing off the differentiation between pieces I didn’t think there was that much difference in, so that the grain continuity across the cabinet front really looks spectacular.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3073 days

#5 posted 01-07-2011 10:47 PM

If you’re trying to match potterybarn finish, use poplar and stain it as dark as you can. Finish with polyurethane and it will last a lifetime, look good, and not cost a arm and a leg. Doing that to mahagony, or walnut, or cherry would be a sin.

The other ting is tung oil takes a LONG time to dry.


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

View draaierjozef's profile


11 posts in 3007 days

#6 posted 01-07-2011 11:24 PM

The amount of time spent on the finish partially depends on 4 things:
(1) How closely you want to match the other item color and appearance?
(2) How quickly you want to be done with this?
(3) How durable do you need the finish to be? and
(4) who’s the customer.

(1) If you want to match the other finish exactly you’re going to have to create “a recipe” by trial and error to match the color and appearance…i.e. scraps of the wood you’re using combined by the things you want to try. I don’t much like polyurethane, but its rather fast.
(2) How quickly you want to be done with this? If you want to be done in a couple hours to a couple days, then take your best guess on the stain tint, follow the stain directions on the can, and coat the project with the poly after buffing with a Red scotch-brite pad to remove the rough spots and stain streaks. Use at least 2 coats of the poly. Let it dry a couple days, and you’re done.
(3) If you’re considering Tung oil, it takes a long time to dry, if it’s pure,...but it sure will bring out the character of the wood (figure, grain, oopses, all that). To speed up the drying, you may wish to mix it (2 parts pure Tung oil to 1 part Watco Danish oil) The drier in the Watco will speed up the curing of the tung-oil.
Each coat of tung oil will add a little luster, it will slightly darken the appearance, and will make the surface more water-repellent. try 3 coats minimum. Each coat will also take 1-2 days to dry. The Tung Danish oil mix is a little faster drying, but the mix will not keep very long if there’s much air in the bottle. Mix it and apply it with a (clean) ketchup or mustard bottle (those red or yellow plastic things): you’ll want to squirt it onto the surface and spread it with a small rag to assist it getting into all the pores, nooks and crannies.
(4) If the customer is a child, use less time get it done quickly, they’ll never appreciate the difference…; if the customer is an adult or a client who’s paying for it to match another piece, then take your time.

Good luck.

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