How to Finish a Cherry and Maple Step Stool

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Forum topic by Zahnarzt posted 04-06-2013 06:02 PM 1723 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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29 posts in 2353 days

04-06-2013 06:02 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cherry maple finish step stool shellac danish oil

I am in the process of making a step stool with vertical cherry and horizontal maple parts. My plan for finishing was to do a washcoat with 1lb cut of shellac, scuff sand, Watco cherry tinted danish oil and then sun-darken for a few hours. My question is, what are peoples thought on this method and would it be possible/beneficial to add a poly or lacquer topcoat as this will be a childs step stool for use in toothbrushing or helping in the kitchen. It will be getting kicked and wet repeatedly.

Thanks in advance and I apologize if I start a ‘cherry finishing’ flame war.

-- That hoopy frood really knows where his towel is.

8 replies so far

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3155 days

#1 posted 04-06-2013 07:09 PM

Putting the Danish oil over the shellac washcoat won’t accomplish much. Putting nothing over the Danish oil will not provide durability or water-resistance.

I’d just spray it with water-borne poly or lacquer. Apply the washcoat of shellac if you want to pop the figure a bit beforehand. Apply Danish oil first if you want to change the color.

-- jay,

View kdc68's profile


2657 posts in 2274 days

#2 posted 04-06-2013 07:45 PM

wax free shellac if your intent is it as a washcoat and to put another finish over top of it

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4985 posts in 2490 days

#3 posted 04-06-2013 07:51 PM

I’d probably skip the danish oil, and top coat the shellac with a good varnish like P&L 38. The shellac (especially garnet) really makes cherry look good, and will give the maple a little pop. If you use a non poly varnish like P&L 38 you don’t need to worry about the shellac being dewaxed.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 1889 days

#4 posted 04-06-2013 08:17 PM

Do you have a spray booth and spray equipment? If not, lacquer from a spray can will never be as durable as polyurethane or as hard as catalyzed lacquer spray, and the finish will cloud from water and alcohol spills vs poly. Lacquer is great for very gently used items or show items requiring a very clear, non-yellowing finish.

Shops spray lacquer because it’s super clear and dries very fast (time is money) – it’s not about the end user getting the most durable finish. Just my opinion.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View Zahnarzt's profile


29 posts in 2353 days

#5 posted 04-06-2013 08:29 PM

I don’t have spray facilities or equipment. The feeling I’m getting is that the shellac should be enough to give it a little color. Is keeping in the sun enough to at least darken it a bit or would a dye or tint in the shellac move this forward? I’m not looking to immediately give it the aged look, but I’d like to give it a bump as their kitchen is all cherry which is quite dark andid like it to match somewhat and improve over time.

-- That hoopy frood really knows where his towel is.

View Fettler's profile


200 posts in 1994 days

#6 posted 04-06-2013 09:01 PM

I took a finishing class from Tom Henscheid earlier this week and he emphasized that finishing is all about experimentation. I have some cherry veneered plywood i’m working with and i’m going to test an ebonized rust/vingar finish. I also have some Garnet and Ruby shellac i want to experiment with.

Do you have a picture of the stool? I imagine the biggest problem with wipe/brush shellac would be applying an even coat. I recently did a brush on Amber Shellac on a coat rack and had problems with built up around joints in difficult to sand areas. I was using a 2lbs cut so that could be why.

For a top coat you might want to consider a marine varnish top coat like Epifanes. Tom spoke highly about Epifanes and the Pratt and Lamber 38 varnish but i haven’t tried either yet. Wipe on Poly is definitely easy to put on but IMO has a filmy look to it. Lacquer is too thin and not very resistent.

-- --Rob, Seattle, WA

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2687 days

#7 posted 04-07-2013 01:57 AM

Personally, I would use Spar urethane/mineral spirit (2:1) as a wipe on finish and do several coats. The oil in the Spar adds a warm amber color and the wipe on is an easy finish. Try it on some scrap!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3685 days

#8 posted 04-07-2013 02:42 AM

The Cherry will darken very quickly on it’s own. The first time I tried the Watco Danish Cherry , was the last time. It was no where close to what real Cherry looks like . I went with their Natural and was much happier with the results. Oils are meant to soak into the wood , so I can’t see that happening if you try to put it on AFTER the Shellac is applied. What ever you use for a topcoat , you won’t want it to be too slippery for the little one to use.

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

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