How to finish my finish with Watco satin wax... suggestions?

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Forum topic by gop1ayoutside posted 09-29-2013 12:26 AM 9539 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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11 posts in 1744 days

09-29-2013 12:26 AM

Gang, I am pretty new to finishing. I am going to be building an end table from red oak to go on one end of my couch in the living room. The wife has asked for it to be stained quite dark, because the rest of our furniture is also dark colored. I have been working on a scrap piece of the same wood to test finish schedules and I accomplished this and am now trying to get a nice soft satin feel.

Here is what I did so far:

1) stained w/ minwax penetrating stain (3 times, maybe overkill). I used a blend of the ebony and red mahogany colors I really like it.

2) sealed using minwax “tung oil finish” (if I understand correctly this would be classified as an “oil varnish blend”) with some stain mixed into it. I did 1 part ebony stain, 1 part red mahogany stain, and 6 parts of the finish. I did 3 coats, and between coats I rubbed it down with #000 steel wool. After the first 2 coats it was well sealed, I laid the 3rd coat on thick and let it self-level and dry. The result is that I have a dark, hard glossy finish. The grain is not completely filled, there is just a little bit of surface texture where the grain is. I am happy with the color. The finish has built up a bit thicker than I might have preferred but since the main purpose of the table will be to keep my can of traditional beverage in a convenient place while I sit on the couch, I am OK with the thicker finish (it will be very protective I think). The finish has a high-gloss look to it that I don’t particularly love.

3) I have some Watco satin wax in the dark color that I intend to apply to finish things up. As per some suggestions I’ve found other places I will likely do 2 coats and use #0000 steel wool to rub the finish in and then let it dry and buff it out to the sheen I want with a piece of old T-shirt.

My question is, before applying the wax, what should I do? I thought of hitting with steel wool again but am not sure if the #000 or #0000 would be best, and I also thought of wet-sanding it with some 320 grit wet dry sandpaper I have. I am not sure which of these things I should do (if any) or maybe something different, and If I go with the wet-sanding I am not sure what lubricant to use—vegetable oil? Liquid Wrench Lubricating oil? Water? Soapy water? I’ve seen many suggestions. Again, the last coat i did was Minwax Tung oil finish mixed with some stain.

I can test a few things out but If somebody can point me in the right direction it might save me some time. I appreciate your thoughts!

6 replies so far

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2655 days

#1 posted 09-29-2013 01:12 AM

I would just do the wax applied with the steel wool. You can always remove it with mineral spirits and a cloth if you don’t like it.

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

View tefinn's profile


1222 posts in 2402 days

#2 posted 09-29-2013 04:34 AM

+1 on just the wax. If it’s too glossy after waxing, use the mineral spirits to remove the wax, then knock the sheen down with 400 or 600 grit and rewax.

-- Tom Finnigan - Measures? We don't need no stinking measures! - Hmm, maybe thats why my project pieces don't fit.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5620 posts in 2779 days

#3 posted 09-29-2013 04:57 AM

I have experimented with this quite a bit. Sanding sponges vs. steel wool. Wax vs. lubricants etc.
What I discovered is if the finish is a bit too glossy, or has any dust nibs, you can apply the wax with #0000 steel wool. Only apply with the grain. Avoid circular motions. Let it haze up, and buff it off with a clean lint-free cloth. The key is to use dark colored wax for darker finishes. I like Howard’s walnut wax, but many brands will work.

Good luck!

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

View pintodeluxe's profile


5620 posts in 2779 days

#4 posted 09-29-2013 05:06 AM

FYI I haven’t had good luck with watco wax. It is liquid, and doesn’t haze over very well. Then feels too greasy when you try to buff it off.

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

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2816 days

#5 posted 09-29-2013 04:28 PM

I use Watco wax as a final finish on my instruments. I find the liquid far easier to use on complex, multisided objects. It does not haze over—the chemistry is different from the pastes.

I am conscious that the wipe-off rags have a short absorption life.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View gop1ayoutside's profile


11 posts in 1744 days

#6 posted 10-04-2013 05:12 PM

Thanks for the input, gentlemen!

What I did was scuff with #0000 steel wool, then apply the wax with #0000 steel wool rubbing it in with tiny circle motions, let it dry ten minutes, wipe off w/ a t-shirt rag, let dry about 1/2 hr (until no color comes off by touching it with a rag – as stated there will be no haze to tell you it is dry like with some other waxes) and then buff by hand using a t-shirt rag. I got a nice satin sheen with a very soft feel to it and am very satisfied with the Watco wax.

I think the most room for improvement with the finish is in getting the initial staining more even. Maybe using a pre-stain conditioner would help with this. Also it is clear that a lot of stain got pulled in from the end grain on my sample piece, making the edge significantly darker. I had sanded the end grain to 220 while leaving the face/edge grain at 180 to try and avoid this, but it looks like I need to hit the end grain with a thin coat of shellac or something to prevent this happening. I might also try some different types of stains, like an analine dye or a gel to see if i get an over-all more even look.

I am overall pleased with the way the finish came out and recommend the Watco wax to other beginning woodworkers—I found it easy to use and I am happy with the results.

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