Finish for Curly Maple

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Forum topic by Sgt_Lobo posted 04-29-2008 03:41 PM 9389 views 1 time favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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87 posts in 3822 days

04-29-2008 03:41 PM

Topic tags/keywords: curly maple curly maple finish walnut

Hi everyone! I know it has been a long time since I have posted here regularly and I apologize for that. The good ‘ol Air Force has seen fit to keep me on my toes allot lately and also since I have started selling my woodwork, well it’s been crazy…

Anyhow, on to my question! I am currently making a pistol box out of Curly Maple with Walnut inlays. I have made a few things out of curly maple and have tried the following finishes: Waterlox, BLO, Tung oil, wipe on poly.

Many of these finishes look great, others, not so much. I even followed the wood whisperer’s method for “popping” the grain. The problem that I have, and especially with this box, is that most of these finishes darken the curly maple substantially.

On this current box, I am looking for a finish that will accentuate the curls, yet keep the maple as close to “white” as possible. I appreciate any suggestions! Hope to post some new projects here soon. —Jim

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

9 replies so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3952 days

#1 posted 04-29-2008 03:51 PM

Nothing is going to keep it “white”.

If you like the look of the drawer faces of this:

Click for details

Then read it and see how I did it.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 4058 days

#2 posted 04-29-2008 04:00 PM

If you are willing to read some good advice (other than the brilliant advise you will get here), you might try Bob Flexner’s book. He just did a new edition. The book is great as you don’t have to read it front to back. He wrote it with the intent that the woodworker could use the index (which is well organized) to get just the information needed. The cross-referencing is good and it’s written from a no-nonsense standpoint in my IHMO.

This is the newest edition (cover has a pic of a hand touching up the edge of a table with shellac flakes in the background).

I know you want to stay as close to the natural color of the maple as possible but you might consider some very lightly toned dye which you can control since you mix it yourself. From my reading, dye really pops figure because it doesn’t lay on top of the wood and accentuates the irridescent nature of such woods. This said, I haven’t tried it on maple. Just rambling now.

Good luck!

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View Ryan Shervill's profile

Ryan Shervill

278 posts in 3777 days

#3 posted 04-29-2008 05:47 PM

I can help you with this.

First, sand to 180, then apply an amber or light brown water-based dye (or use strong tea). Flood the surface, then immediately wipe off and allow it to dry. Sand lightly with 220 to remove the stained long-grain, but leave the stripes.

Heres the important part: Finish with water-based Poly. The water based poly will keep the colour very close to the original, but it won’t “pop” the grain (thats what the tea is for)

Ryan Shervill

-- Want to see me completely transform a house? Look here:

View Sgt_Lobo's profile


87 posts in 3822 days

#4 posted 04-29-2008 08:06 PM

Great suggestion Ryan. I will test this on some scrap and see if the effect works for my current project. Now I just need to head up to the HD or Lowes and see if they carry some water-based poly. Thanks again for the advice…

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

View matter's profile


210 posts in 3733 days

#5 posted 04-30-2008 12:32 AM

I buy my water based poly at Benjamin Moore’s- superior product, and if you’re a pro, the discount brings it down to HD prices

-- The only easy wood project is a fire

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3731 days

#6 posted 04-30-2008 01:36 AM

I agree that a water based poly will change the color the least. Just be sure not to use steel wool. The water based product will cause any left over residue to rust.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 3870 days

#7 posted 04-30-2008 01:49 AM

Sand to 400 and use pure Tung oil and a wax. Here are 2 examples of the result. They look a mile deep but still natural colored.

View Al Killian's profile

Al Killian

273 posts in 3717 days

#8 posted 05-03-2008 01:35 AM

I like the look of a few coats of waterborne poly. It seems to leave a nice clean look and shows of the grain.

-- Owner of custom millwork shop

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4365 days

#9 posted 05-03-2008 06:54 PM

Daren: Your finish looks about as close to natural you can get. Looks great, but then that is some superior maple.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

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