Curly Maple finishing advice

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by Willhartigan posted 08-08-2011 03:07 AM 11741 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Willhartigan's profile


7 posts in 2508 days

08-08-2011 03:07 AM

Hello guy, I’m about to embark on some custom furniture projects and wanted some advice about working with curly maple.

My plan is to do a staining process with water based aniline dyes to pop the grain as well as get my desired color.

My question at this step is to what grit should I sand pre dye, as well as in between dye coats (for instance when removing a black for grain pop then moving to an actual color)

And the next more confusing part is the finishing process. Firstly stated, my goal is to achieve the most 3d like popping affect possible on the curly maple with a super high gloss.

A common recombination seems to be BLO, with a shellac over the top, as well as maybe a lacquer over that? From my light reading BLO tung and shellac seem to be the best at really enchancing the wood? But putting something over shellac for added protection. I do want to hold onto a rich glossy glass like look. Not so much a plastic look.

What would u recommend? Perhaps a high gloss conversion varnish in place of lacquer? Or a completely different system all together?

As a side note, is sanding/buffing lacquer 2000grit + required for a super high gloss lacquer finish? I read many people doing that

Thank you!

11 replies so far

View schroeder's profile


702 posts in 4149 days

#1 posted 08-08-2011 03:25 AM

Arm R Seal really pops the maple!

2 coats Arm r Seal poly sealer
4 coats of wipe on Poly – Gloss if you want the shine. I believe in enhancing the wood not blending or covering it up. – this formula used on all my Maple projects, if you want to see what it finishes like.


-- The Gnarly Wood Shoppe

View dpwalker's profile


273 posts in 2855 days

#2 posted 08-08-2011 05:28 PM

I have had good results using BLO followed by Arm R Seal. Charles Niel has a great video on popping the grain. it is worth checking out.

-- You have not really lived until you do something for someone who can never repay you.

View GBVA's profile


17 posts in 2548 days

#3 posted 08-08-2011 05:53 PM

I second the notion to check out Charles Neil. This guy is a master finisher. I would steer clear of the BLO since it doesn’t ever really dry. This will cause issues and maybe even crack the finish later.

I would hit it with the black dye and sand it back with 80 grit. Hit it again with the dye and sand it back with 120. Remeber your objective here is to sand the dye off of the surface but leave it in the curl. You can dye it again and sand it back with 180 grit but remember the higher the grit the more you are sealing off the wood. This is monumental when it comes to popping the grain because you need the oil to penetrate deep into the wood to help with the holographic aspect. When you are ready go ahead and put your final color on. The only way to dye curly/tiger maple is to drown it with the dye and wipe it back.

I would recommend using General Finishes Seal-a-cell since it is thinner than the armor seal and will really penetrate deep into the wood. The most important thing is that you use a good quality oil that dries hard. BLO stays gummy forever. Once the seal coat has cured ( I would give it several days to a week if possible) you can top it with whatever you want. One caution is if you are going to use a water based top coat I would seal off the oil with a coat of shellac just to make sure there are no adhesion problems.

Enjoy and post some pictures when you are finished.

View CharlesNeil's profile


2410 posts in 3894 days

#4 posted 08-08-2011 06:25 PM

Greg, you nailed it,,, also here is what I wrote just several days ago here on LJ,, if you have more questions just ask

View Willhartigan's profile


7 posts in 2508 days

#5 posted 08-09-2011 05:56 AM

Figured id show some progress. Piece is a nothing special cut off a 4$ board foot curly maple stock. No crazy bookmatched figure. About a 6×6 sqaure off a bigger peice as im testing many squares.

Using General Finish premixed water dyes. Sanded to 150, raised grain with water and sanded again with 150. Hit with black dye, sanded 2 hours later (I sanded alot and tried hard to only leave the black in the curly grain instead of a darkened blanket color all over). Hit again with a Merlot (purple) dye and thats that. No finish, oil, anything. Curly figure popped out all over that I never even saw previously with a plain board. Its still very “holographic” looking. The black dye did not remove that effect at all. Im sure it will become considerably more pronounced with progressive clear coats.

Next step, im going to play with more colors. Sand the purple lightly and add red. probly do some peices mixing black and red for a brown. Try variations of colors and sanding layering. I also will be playing with the seal-a-cell i picked up on your recomendation, dewaxed shellac, and watco lacquer. Literally just try it in every finish and color combo I have enough wood for till i find what i like best.

Im putting my largest effort into the maple as its my favorite atm, but im also working on samples i picked up of African Mohagony, Jatoba, Bolivian Rosewood, Bubinga, Walnut, and Blood Wood. Well see who wins out in the end for my favorite but so far its the African Mohogany and Curly maple.

The mohagany is awesome, reflective holographic like large streeks in the grain very interesting.

View GBVA's profile


17 posts in 2548 days

#6 posted 08-09-2011 04:27 PM

Looks like you’ve got it figured out. Once you hit it with some oil or shellac it will really start to dance. The only other thing I would add about curly maple is that you have to be careful when you book match it. Due to the holographic effect the curl can visually disappear on one board while screaming on another (looking at them from the same vantage point) because you reversed the refraction of light by book matching. The safe play is to do a slip match just to be safe and keep the curl popping consistently as you move around the piece.

View Willhartigan's profile


7 posts in 2508 days

#7 posted 08-10-2011 03:46 AM

I understand what you mean with the book match, however, im unfamiliar with “slip match”?

Also, im trying to create a “brown” dye from what I have. I have purple, black, and red. Anyone have recomendations for a mix to get me to brown? Ive played with red/black/water and gotten some semi satisfactory results. If anyone has a formula that works decent lemme know and ill try it! In the form of X parts red, X parts black, X parts water, ect.

So far ive also been sanding layers of dye off with 150 and 220, ill try leaving it wide open with an 80 grit on my next peice to see if the penetration has a noticeable effect on the “holoogram” effect.

View GBVA's profile


17 posts in 2548 days

#8 posted 08-10-2011 04:51 PM

Will, bookmatching is like opening up a book and slip matching is like sliding the two pieces side by side. The result is a repeating image. Bookmatching results in two inside or two outside faces resulting in a mirror image, but slip matching results in one outside face and one inside face. Google “slip match woodworking” and you will see some examples of the result. This is a perfect example of a picture is worth a thousand words.

View blackivory69's profile


84 posts in 3041 days

#9 posted 08-11-2011 04:57 AM

Ok. I’m kinda confused on that piece of maple. Is that curly or tiger maple? Are they the same? Isn’t that TIGER?

-- blackivory69

View bigike's profile


4052 posts in 3312 days

#10 posted 08-11-2011 05:48 AM

Charles Neil beat me to it but here is a direct link, I followed this recipe and it works great!

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View Willhartigan's profile


7 posts in 2508 days

#11 posted 08-11-2011 07:11 AM

Black ivory, my impression is that curly maple and tigers maple are the same thing. From my experience it seems like “curly” is just the generic form most places use to refer to a figured maple. Lumber yards that is.

Highly figured prices get another step distinguished. My above piece being closer to that of a “flamed maple” . And another type being referee to as “quilted maple”. Both of which are very common as guitar tops.

I got 8 different maple samples made. Different variations of colors and sanded layers of color. Each is half covered in seal a sell oil. Will put shellac coat on the entire surface tomorrow. See if I can see any difference between oil + shellac or shellac alone. Will post pictures when the shellac dries! Overall I’m impressed with my results so far iI got some pieces to seriously pop off and created some killer figure contrast. All of witch with low grade common figure from some cheap boards. I’ll be excited for the real project when I piece through my local lumber yards stock for the best pieces

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