Beginner's Help!! Finishing Mahogany

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Forum topic by jayflo posted 05-04-2011 06:25 AM 1293 views 0 times favorited 1 reply Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 2607 days

05-04-2011 06:25 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing mahogany outdoor mahogany spar varnish epifanes mahogany question finishing rustic

I have never worked with wood in my life but have recently started a project building and “old school pack” for hiking. The wood I have chosen to make this pack is Mahogany. After browsing around on the internet for a while, it seems that I am not exactly sure how I should finish the wood. It will be used outdoors in the elements, semi-knocked around and bent (but not bent much, only from weight being put on the pack). Here are the points that I know of and/or am looking for:

1) It seems a spar varnish might be best served for this purpose since it has great protection and flexibility. Epifanes seems to have great varnishes of this type.
2) I would like to bring out the deep/dark red color of the wood.
3) The wood being perfectly nice and smooth is not so important like for a piece of furniture due to the nature of it being a hiking pack. I am more concerned with finishing the wood to maximize it protection and bring out the nice color without looking very unnatural. I want it to have a rustic feel.

Now, that being said, can anyone tell me if this spar varnish idea is the way I would like to go and if so, should I also use a stain? Which varnish of Epifanes should I use? (Epifanes website) What is the procedure for applying it? How many coats? Do I need to sand? Is anything else involved? Any information you have for me would be great. Thanks so much!

1 reply so far

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4152 days

#1 posted 05-05-2011 01:13 AM

I like mahogany with just the spar varnish!

What I’ve been doing with mahogany, which I use for my kitchen door panels (among other things), is start by sanding it to 220. Give it a coat of thinned dewaxed shellac (aka “Sanding Sealer”), to keep the pore filler from staining the wood. Then I get some Behlen’s pore filler, mix in enough burnt umber oil paint (with other colors as necessary, depending on the actual color of your wood) to match the color of the wood, work that into the wood with a scraper, wipe it off roughly, leave it for an hour, then take off the remainder with a folded cotton rag working against the grain.

Then I start with spar varnish, sanding at 220, spar varnish, ‘til I get absolutely sick of new thin layers.

You don’t mind the slightly porous feel of raw mahogany, so you can skip the pore filler and initial shellac. The thing I would be wary of is that even though you want the slightly rugged look, a smooth surface keeps the water off better. So a bunch of coats, ‘cause at each layer what you’re doing is putting a little more spar varnish in the pores, sanding it off the ridges, and so forth, ‘til you end up with a smooth surface.

But, yeah I’ve used spar varnish for both my kitchen cabinets and my maple countertop and it’s flexible (got some dings in the top where I dropped stuff) and waterproof and is working great!

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

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