What's your favorite shop mix clear finish?

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Forum topic by Robert Tutsky posted 06-21-2013 02:36 PM 1223 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Robert Tutsky

58 posts in 2051 days

06-21-2013 02:36 PM

Topic tags/keywords: shop mixed finish finish preference clear finish wipe on finish

Lately I have been using General Finishes Arm-R-Seal (gloss) wipe on finish and overall I like it. My problem is I build small things (mostly boxes) and find that the finish gets real thick and starts to solidify in the can before I have a chance to use it all. So now I am thinking of mixing up my own wipe on finish. In the past I tried boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits but found that it dries slowly and not very durable or clear. I hear that Sam Maloof used a concoction of 1/3 varnish, 1/3 blo and 1/3 mineral spirits with some wax mixed in. I may try that but figured I would ask the experts here to see what their recommendations offer. What do you say?


8 replies so far

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2111 days

#1 posted 06-21-2013 03:40 PM

I’d get some Bloxygen or Wine Saver for the Arm-D-Seal and skip the home brews. Adding glass marbles or assorted nuts and bolts rinsed in mineral spirits can also work. The goal is to displace as much air space as possible as you use the finish.

You could also decant a brand new quart into (4) 8 oz. canning jars. Fill each jar as full as possible, and the finish should be as good as new when you open each new jar. If your finish isn’t gloss, stir the flatting agent throughly into the entire can before decanting, or each jar will have a different sheen.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2362 days

#2 posted 06-21-2013 05:18 PM

Change to a better finish that has no shelf life issues. Namely, waterborne poly; or better yet if you can spray, solvent lacquer.

-- 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 Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4987 posts in 2494 days

#3 posted 06-21-2013 05:45 PM

The mixture you mentioned is pretty much a standard danish oil, at least that’s the way I always mix it, sans any wax. Anyway, any oil based varnish/mixture is going to start curing once you open the can. I’ve tried all sorts of gas “toppings” (propane, homemade CO2, exhale into the can) and none of them help significantly…though they did seem to help a little. I also tried to evacuate all the air in the can, also a failure. What works better (IMHO) is the marbles/rocks whatever into the can to raise the level of the liquid to the top. It also helps to refrigerate the can…I have a small fridge in my shop I store the opened finishes in. When I’m mixing my own I try not to mix too much, but if I do it goes into a canning jar, and then the fridge.

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

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3649 days

#4 posted 06-21-2013 05:50 PM

FYI, BLO+mineral spirits is nothing more than diluted BLO – which is a penetrating oil , and not a film finish. as you mentioned it does take a long time to dry, and as a penetrating oil , it does not create any protective film so it’s not as “durable” nor protective. it IS a good conditioner for wood to protect from moisture changes and adds a nice warm tone to it.

What I do with finishes is use a 2nd cup – I open the can of finish, pour enough finish to a plastic disposable cup for the project I’m working on and immediately close the finish can and put back in the cabinet. that way the finish in the can is minimally exposed to open air and as such will last longer on the shelf.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5664 posts in 2814 days

#5 posted 06-21-2013 05:54 PM

Sprayed pre-cat lacquer. Like shellac, it burns into previous coats so adhesion is always excellent. More durable than shellac. Sprays nicer than shellac. Dries quicker than poly.

With lacquer I only need 2 coats, which can be completed in 1 day.

Best of luck.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2486 days

#6 posted 06-21-2013 07:41 PM

I don’t have a spray rig, so I tried spray lacquer in a can (Minwax semi-gloss) and it works like a charm. A mere 10 minutes after spraying, it’s dry enough to scuff sand and spray again.

It may not have the same warmth as shellac or a rubbed out tung oil finish, but for quick projects that stuff is magic, I tell ya.

-- Brian Timmons -

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2691 days

#7 posted 06-22-2013 12:49 AM

Look at Black Cherry’s blog on his version of shellac application. I’ve use poly, BLO/MS/Poly, etc and I much prefer this shellac method for boxes. Quick, easy, foolproof.

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

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2111 days

#8 posted 06-22-2013 05:13 PM


All gas blankets and home-brew oxygen displacement methods are not created equal. Bloxygen and Wine Saver are Argon Gas. Argon is a heavier than air gas blanket widely used in industry. Folks who weld already have it on hand in bulk.

I’ve also tried CO2, breathing in the can, and propane, and the results were not even close to argon. Our breath still contains a decent amount of oxygen, and the other gasses aren’t heavy enough to push the air out of the can. I’ve had cans of high-end, very expensive varnishes that are 5+ years old perform as good as new when stored under argon.

Some water based finishes, such as the ML Campbell products I use, do have a shelf life, usually around 3 years. The lid of the can will develop hanging drips. In my experience, when this happens the finish may not be dependable. For some reason, the argon blanketing method isn’t compatible with water based finishes.

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