Time honored finish.... or horrible newbie mistake - now with photos - finished project

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Forum topic by Brobab posted 02-05-2013 02:49 AM 1774 views 0 times favorited 30 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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13 posts in 2157 days

02-05-2013 02:49 AM

I am finishing a mahogany table top. First time for mahogany with me. Sanded progressively up to 220 with a random orbit sander. Soaked with distilled water to raise grain. Scuff sanded with 220. Dyed with water base aniline dye to get to a dark Cuban red. Waited 24 hours and then applied a Bartley jet mahogany gel stain. Completed the stain and then immediately followed with a second application incorporating rotten stone. Made a thick past with the stain, rubbed it in with small circular motion followed by diagonal strokes. Just before it tacked up, buffed off with a clean rag. Basically a partial french polish. My goal was to fill the pores and possibly eliminate needing a pore filler. I think I have succeeded. Grain and figure really popped nicely and overall the table has a nice even satin finish. Plan on a coat of shellac and then a hand rubbed poly for finish. I will let this dry for two to three days, before the shellac.

So…. will this work, or am I headed for trouble. I had read everything I could get my hands on and could not figure out why this would not work. I was not excited about sanding down the pore filler, (would have used crystalac) because I did not want to sand through the finish.

30 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3777 days

#1 posted 02-05-2013 06:48 AM

I normally sand to 180 max, There is no need to soak the wood only wiping it with a damp sponge ,that’s enough to raise the grain .Dye should give you the color you need without having to add gel stain. I never feel the need to use rotten stone,just using fine sand paper will work fine.It seems you would save yourself a lot of work by just using grain filler rather than trying to avoid the use of it,sanding grain filler is relatively quick and easy.. sealing with dewaxed shellac is fine and poly will make a good durable table top.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4093 days

#2 posted 02-05-2013 07:08 AM

pretending your skill levels resemble that of an expert, might b your first mistake ?

buying expensive mahogany to learn on, might b your second mistake

what a fun hobby lol

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3152 days

#3 posted 02-05-2013 12:18 PM

Brobab, can’t help you out on your finishing technique. But did want to welcome you to the site and let you know that not everyone here is a flaming a-hole who contribute nothing more than the effed up comment left for you here as seen above mine. a1Jim is always good for knowledge and encouragement. Others (although a small minority), not so much.

Good Luck and welcome!

-- Mike

View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2714 days

#4 posted 02-05-2013 12:33 PM

Jim is correct in saying that although you should get what you want with the process you did, there were extra steps you took that could have been eliminated – same results. It’s a “how many times have I done this” type of thing, where you learn that some things are dressing, some things are necessary. Jim and I both sell some of our work, and over time you learn what will get you home quicker, with the same results. In any case, I agree with Jim on the poly, but I would use two coats of poly (one matte, one gloss), instead of the dewaxed shellac then poly. Just an opinion…both ways will work.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Brobab's profile


13 posts in 2157 days

#5 posted 02-05-2013 06:27 PM

Thanks for the replies. I did just dampen and not soak the wood prior to dye. The reason for the gel stain was to try and accetuate the grain – that is also why I stained prior to any pore sealer. The dye was not giving me much color differentiation – didn’t want just a drak reb slab of wood.

Looking it over this morning, I think the wood has a luster and depth that I might not have not have gotten with pore filler. My convern with going straight to poly was that the poly might soften and dilute the gel stain? – I thougtthe shellac would seal it off and give me a first read on any finish flaws that need more attention.

I take all the comments in stride – but – how will one ever get to be an expert if one does not try new things? If I didn’t want to learn from and enjoy the process, I would just go buy furniture at a store.

View Woodknack's profile


12430 posts in 2580 days

#6 posted 02-05-2013 06:38 PM

Post a pic, let’s see what it looks like.

-- Rick M,

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5124 posts in 4160 days

#7 posted 02-05-2013 06:51 PM

Welcome aboard, and I’m waitin’ for pics.
Hope ya used dewaxed shellac.


View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4418 days

#8 posted 02-05-2013 08:10 PM

You’ve got me very curious, as you’ve incorporated some techniques I’m not familiar with. How exactly did you incorporate rottenstone with the gel stain? I’m assuming the rottenstone is what is actually acts as a pore filler in this scenario?

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2561 days

#9 posted 02-05-2013 08:33 PM

What a complicated waste of time. If you don’t have spray equipment, strip it, and lay down several coats of waterborne poly, rub it out, and be done with it in a couple days.

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

View Manitario's profile


2681 posts in 3083 days

#10 posted 02-05-2013 09:07 PM

no pics = didn’t happen! I’ve seen a number of other LJ’s use aniline dye and then a gel stain in order to “pop” the figure in the wood. In my very limited experience, often just one or the other has left me with a dull, uniform colour. Sounds good so far; I’ll echo what others have said though, make sure you use dewaxed shellac!

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Brobab's profile


13 posts in 2157 days

#11 posted 02-06-2013 03:51 AM

Pics to come – just cant do it till later this week.

Who knew this would be such a polarizing question.

Bill – haven’t done the shellac yet, but yes, what I have is de-waxed Zinsser

CharlieM – The idea came from a Jeff Jewitt article in FWW #164 where he used dye followed by BLO and rottenstone for a filler – figured I would try it with the gel stain. First stain was wipe on, wipe off with a rag. Then I dabbed on “puddles” with the same rag and sprinkled an unscientific amount of rottenstone until it was a bit thicker than toothpaste. Rubbed it in with tight circles with the rag. worked in small sections and rubbed off excess diagonally across the grain, like pulling off tile grout. probably could have used a credit card as a scraper, but I wanted to shoot for a “burnished” look, which I got.

Clint – I have exactly two afternoons in the finish process so far, (sand and dye day 1, gel stain and rub in day two) – add a day for shellac and poly and it seems pretty quick to me. At the most, I could have cut out the gel stain – but that would likely have meant adding two days at least for the pore filler, (everything I have seen says allow at least 48 hours dry time for a water based pore filler if you are using a poly final finish). Poly alone would have given no color and not a smooth finish – not the look I was after.

The one thing I have learned for sure is that there are many different approaches.

I’ll post pictures later this week when I can.

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3777 days

#12 posted 02-06-2013 04:41 AM

I’m always puzzled why people post what appears to be a question in this case (“or horrible newbie mistake?”)
and then proceed to defend the approach the’re taking even though they seem to question what they are doing.
I think we are all entitled to take what ever approach we want when finishing ,but why ask if it’s the correct way to do what your doing?
You seem to be happy with your results so that’s great. Please understand I don’t say these things as a personal attack. I’m just puzzled why folks take this kind of approach.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4418 days

#13 posted 02-06-2013 04:50 AM

Thanks for the details. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Brobab's profile


13 posts in 2157 days

#14 posted 02-06-2013 05:12 AM

No offense taken whatsoever. I do appreciate the feedback you gave. On the other hand, I am not sure that the feedback about pretending to be an expert, or creating a complicated waste of time really qualify as constructive input. My other comments were intended as a response to someone who asked how I did it, though I recognize this may have come across as being defensive. There is no question that what I have done would never be efficient in a production shop, and many others would apparently not be inclined to do it this way even as a hobby.

If I had gotten, (or get) comments like, “I tried that once, and it didn’t work out at all,” – then I could try and reverse my “horrible newbie” mistake. My take so far, is that there is not anything glaringly, fundamentally wrong with what I did, (which is what I was trying to find out). I appreciate hearing the other approaches and will likely incorporate parts of them in the next project. Who knows, someone may incorporate some of this in one of their future projects – although per some of the comments above, some will most definitely not ;)

View Brobab's profile


13 posts in 2157 days

#15 posted 02-07-2013 01:28 AM

Photos. There is no finish coat, (shellac and poly) on this yet other than the gel stain rub in. It is sitting on the base to which it will ultimately be attached. I tried to get some of the grain depth, but my photo skills are not too good.


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