finish for butternut / poplar w/ carving..?

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Forum topic by joshtank posted 10-10-2012 04:49 PM 5177 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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224 posts in 2968 days

10-10-2012 04:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: butternut carving poplar

so i carved this butternut box. very simple stuff. just practicing. i’m not sure what good options are for the finish. not too shiny. and not changing the color much.

the top is not done. changes to come. but it’s poplar. i like the spalting and color. i know it stains BAD. again no funny changes to color..

boiled linseed oil? tung oil? any way to give a little luster (steel wool?) without ‘plastic’ look..?


-- Josh - Jacksonville, FL -

4 replies so far

View Tennessee's profile


2872 posts in 2509 days

#1 posted 10-10-2012 04:56 PM

Jeez, I hate working with butternut when it comes to finishing…Know a guitar guy that makes his bodies out of butternut, doggone nearly bondos them to fill the grain prior to painting.
If you don’t mind the grain coming through the finish, I’d put on Minwax Natural, which is basically a clear grain enhancer, mostly oil.
When that dries, you can go with spray poly or lacquer. You can buff either to the satin gloss you desire, and the grain will simply POP with the Minwax Natural.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2281 days

#2 posted 10-10-2012 06:09 PM

I use a lot of pure tung oil. PURE Tung oil… REAL tung oil, not the big box “tung oil” that doesn’t really have any tung oil in it Thinned with Citrus solvent about 50/50 for first coat. Then 75/25 for a couple more coats. Then straight (you might have to make sure it’s warm…. gets kinda thick when cold) for a couple more coats. When it’s dry, buff it good with fleece or flannel. If you want more lustre, get some beeswax on it and buff that. If it gets too shiney, get a new cloth and buff it or just take it back down a little with some clean burlap.

I kinda like natural finishes myself. I know they aren’t as durable as some of the modern stuff (which DOES have a place in my cabinet), but I like the warmth.

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3280 days

#3 posted 10-11-2012 02:22 PM


Beautiful carving on your box. Personally I love Butternut and funny as it may sound, for all the reason most people don’t like it. I’ve built a number of projects with butternut and had terrible results with the first couple. The first mistake I made was staining butternut. I realized the real beauty of butternut is it’s natural color. You can’t duplicate it, so why try to change it. The second mistake I made was trying to get that perfect finish to it. By the time you get all the grain filled, it looked like a funny colored plastic.

A nice oil finish that leaves the wood looking like natural wood with just a little luster gives a really nice warm, soft look and feel. The first application of finish on Butternut, you may experience a fuzzy look or feel. The fibers in the wood really like to fuzz up, but will sand or block down very easy. The second coast usually does a lot better, but still may have a place or two that wants to fuzz a little, but that too will sand or block very easy.

one more coat should give you a beautiful finish without too much build. The more build, the more it begins to look like plastic.

Good luck and can’t wait to see it when finished.

-- John @

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Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2356 days

#4 posted 10-11-2012 02:40 PM

Butternut looks just fine under plain lacquer or poly. I’d use rattlecan lacquer or poly on your project. This chest was finished with NC lacquer. Keep it simple.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

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