finishing lacewood

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Forum topic by HokieMojo posted 09-13-2008 06:37 PM 9790 views 1 time favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2104 posts in 3778 days

09-13-2008 06:37 PM

Topic tags/keywords: lacewood finishing lacewood finishes

Hey everyone,
I was hoping some people could give me a little bit of guidance on how to finish lacewood. I’ve seen some projects on here and read about what others have done, but I’m not getting anything close to good results on my test pieces.

Lacewood has some really great features, but when I apply BLO, Danish Oil, or Formby Tung Finish, it really seems to block out the contrast within the wood. I was planning to topcoat with Zinser Amber Shellac and when I put this over the top of these three finishes, it didn’t get much better. Today I’m going to try a scrap with no oil and just shellac, and i might try one with a spit coat of shellac, sand, apply oil, and recoat with shellac too. I’m just getting desperate for some ideas on how to get the best out of this material.

Any guidance would be appreciated. I’m heading down to the shop and will check back later. Please help me! (-:

6 replies so far

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3818 days

#1 posted 09-13-2008 06:59 PM

i do have some lacewood but haven’t tried finishing it much. oil looks good but i would try shellac. lacewood does have a bit of an oil content. nothing crazy but its there. can’t wait to see what everyone else says.

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3778 days

#2 posted 09-13-2008 08:33 PM

Well, I’m still open for suggestions, but here is what I’ve found in my experiments thus far. Maybe this will benefit TWW and others down the road.

Sanding seems to be a key. I was originally cleaning my test pieces thinking a cabinet scraper would do even better than sandpaper, but maybe lacewood shouldn’t really be considered “figured” wood. It seems the scraper pulls some of the soft material out leaving the harder material a little higher. Maybe some of the scraper/planer experts will disagree, but this seems to be an instance where the sandpaper wins out.

Shellac seems to work well. I’m pretty adamant about using this as my protective finish so I’m not wasting my test pieces/opening cans of other finishes to test much else. when I applied the shellac to two test pieces, the contrast didn’t disappear. I used a VERY light coat. I then LIGHTLY sanded both pieces with 220 paper (the same grade I worked up to on the raw wood). I put some danish oil on one piece and another very light coat of shellac on the other. both still look good but the danish oil is slightly darker. I’m going to let it cure for a few more hrs (maybe a full day) and then rub on one more coat of shellac. I’ll let you know which one I think turns out the best.

TWW, I think you are right. you can kind of feel the oil in the saw dust and even when you are just handling the board for a while. I’m wondering if this oil content causes the oil finishes to seep deeper into the wood and cause the wood to darken and the contrast to fade.

Based on the fact that I’ve only got 18 views in 2 hrs, I hope everyone is out getting some projects built. Its really hot here, but I am determined to make some progress on my projects.

View jcees's profile


1060 posts in 3849 days

#3 posted 09-13-2008 08:49 PM

You’re already on your way, mon ami. Keep making samples on scraps. Try as many processes as you like. Keep notes on the opposite side of the sample so you can repeat if wanted. Knowing that oil of any sort will darken the material and get even darker with age you might want to use it sparingly. Also, Zinsser’s Amber Shellac is not the best choice for a final finish. It contains too much wax which might lead to adherence problems over the oil. If I used shellac it would be the Seal Coat as it is dewaxed. I use it plain and tinted with TransTint dyes. It’s already a 2# cut so it doesn’t take much added alcohol to make a spit coat. I haven’t pressed any of the lacewood I have into service yet but I will probably try a schedule that looks something like this…

Sand to 220 grit or scrape.
Spit coat of Seal-Coat let dry fully
Scuff sand with 320 grit by hand, vacuum surface clean />Dye with favorite water based colorant let dry
Scuff sand with 400 grit wet/dry to cut back on color where the lacewood is more resinous, vacuum clean
At this point you can approximate the look of a clear coat by wetting the wood with mineral spirits, if that’s where you want to go then allow it to dry fully then proceed with your favorite topcoat. If not, then…
This is where you could experiment further with layering on color and cutting it back each time to maintain the ”pop” in the lacewood’s grain. Glazing is another approach and would involve pigmented stains and that will get you into another kettle of fish. Oh, the joys of finishing.

You didn’t say what the end use of the lacewood will be. Cabinet front? Tabletop? Cigar box? Que? Knowing that will lead you to an appropriate finishing schedule. Good luck.


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3778 days

#4 posted 09-14-2008 05:39 AM

Thanks for the great info. I thought I was so smart by picking up the zinsser shellac because I read somewhere that all there shellacs were dewaxed. Sure enough, I read the can after your comment and it doesn’t say it anywhere. Guess I might be going back to the store.

As for your proposed schedule, I may give something like that a try. Not the glazing (baby steps, right?). I think the dye idea could be cool. I’m going to see what I can find, but maybe a nice walnut dye so it will match better with the rest of the project. I’ll have to see. Thanks again for your help.

I’ll be posting pics with my blog when I get to it so at least people can see what I did (if interested). I haven’t started the true construction yet though.

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 3787 days

#5 posted 09-14-2008 05:56 AM

I use the clearest polyurethane I can find. I put on a sealer and then multiple coats of poly. I will post a photo( in the projects section) of a door bell chime I made for a kitchen I built last year.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3778 days

#6 posted 09-14-2008 04:02 PM

That sounds way too simple! Lol. I’m quickly realizing that getting lacewood to soak up anything will be a bit of a challenge if it imparts any color. It seems so porous, that it acts like a sponge. I guess that’s why it needs to be sealed before adding color. It looks like I may end up with plain shellac (tinting or dyeing), but I think I still want to give it a shot first to be certain.

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