How to reveal the "true" colour of the wood before finishing?

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Forum topic by KnickKnack posted 06-19-2012 03:53 PM 1328 views 1 time favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View KnickKnack's profile


1092 posts in 3687 days

06-19-2012 03:53 PM

Wood generally changes colour when the finish is applied – something dull and lifeless suddenly springs to life to reveal all its glory.
But I find while I’m working on a piece I like to, once in a while, get a glimpse at how it’s going to turn out – for example is that ash going to contrast with jatoba nicely or nastily?
Obviously experience helps a lot here, but I do resort to a quick wipe of white spirit once in a while to get some idea.

My question – aside from white spirit, are there any other ways, tips or tricks to get an idea of how something is likely to finish without actually applying finish?

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

10 replies so far

View DamnYankee's profile


3302 posts in 2683 days

#1 posted 06-19-2012 04:03 PM

The only thing I’ve ever used is mineral spirits (what you call white spirits?). Water works too, but doesn’t dry as fast and is more likely to raise grain.

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 3106 days

#2 posted 06-19-2012 04:05 PM

I like Naphtha because it dries faster, but then you have less time to stand back and look at it.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View rance's profile


4262 posts in 3281 days

#3 posted 06-19-2012 04:08 PM

I typically use DNA. Dries extremely quick and does not affect the finish.

If I have no DNA around, I just spit on it. Really.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View TrBlu's profile


386 posts in 2746 days

#4 posted 06-19-2012 04:08 PM

I like mineral spirits. I have used water, but it can raise the grain on some woods. I have also used denatured alcohol, but it evaporates quickly and also has a tendency to raise the grain.

-- The more I work with wood the more I recognize only God can make something as beautiful as a tree. I hope my humble attempts at this craft do justice by His masterpiece. -- Tim

View waho6o9's profile


8363 posts in 2698 days

#5 posted 06-19-2012 04:09 PM

take scraps and finish them with different techniques until you find one that you like.

View woodchucker29's profile


6 posts in 2352 days

#6 posted 06-20-2012 01:59 PM

i’ve always used mineral spirits. waho’s idea to finish a couple of scraps is great, i’ll be using this in the future


View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 2618 days

#7 posted 06-21-2012 01:00 AM

But you do need to apply finish. Wetting with anything will show colour but not proper depth or sheen which are important. I always take a longish finish sanded strip, separate into areas with masking tape and apply every finish at my disposal. When dry it’s easy to see which one is right and how the different woods look next to each other. Rather than being disappointed, it is worth the trouble.

-- gene@toronto.ontario.canada : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6862 posts in 4100 days

#8 posted 06-21-2012 01:06 AM

We use naptha, mineral spirits, and alcohol. Of the three the alcohol evaporates the fastest, so you have to look fast. LOL


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View BenI's profile


333 posts in 2299 days

#9 posted 06-21-2012 06:09 AM

I always just cut scrap pieces and stain/finish those and see how they turn out and decide how to proceed from there

-- Ben from IL

View KnickKnack's profile


1092 posts in 3687 days

#10 posted 06-22-2012 02:29 PM

Thanks to all.
I tried DNA (once I’d worked out that I didn’t need to be recreating a scene from Macbeth and boiling up my hair and toenail clippings), but that did raise the grain.
I think waho/Gene’s idea is a good one – I really ought to do that – I must get away from an “instant gratification” mindset.

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

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