How should you finish "old" wood

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Forum topic by bygrace posted 11-21-2013 03:46 AM 980 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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180 posts in 1998 days

11-21-2013 03:46 AM

I have a friend who asked me how to refinish a small bookcase he has made out of 1×12’s pulled from an old house his grandfather(?) lived in. He wants to keep the rustic look of the wood, its grayish in color and a little rough to the touch. My experience with finishes is very limited so I was hoping for some help from you guys and gals. I thought maybe a few coats of Watco natural oil would help but wasn’t sure what to seal it with.
Any thoughts?

-- Andy, Waxahachie, Tx.

8 replies so far

View CharlesNeil's profile (online now)


2412 posts in 3899 days

#1 posted 11-23-2013 03:43 PM

Unfortunately , there is not much you can use that will not alter the color , a Water base finish will change it the least, out side of that , Formbys tung oil in a low gloss sheen would be next, but anything is going to darken the color, you will just have to do a test and see if its acceptable .

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Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2879 days

#2 posted 11-23-2013 03:50 PM

The gray is the finish. Anything on top of that will take it right into the “What the heck?” category. You might find a similar piece of material and add a few brush strokes of various surface finishes and show it to your friend. I think he’ll want the piece back immediately.



-- " 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"

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Bill White

4950 posts in 3989 days

#3 posted 11-23-2013 05:38 PM

I might just skip sand to knock off any “roughies”, then the natural Watco.


View CharlesNeil's profile (online now)


2412 posts in 3899 days

#4 posted 11-23-2013 06:34 PM


Watco oil, as with any oil is going to darken it more, because the oil will react with the wood, Water base is non- reactive , the Formbys is thin and dries fast, thus less reaction .

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 1878 days

#5 posted 11-23-2013 08:37 PM

Waterborne finishes would be a good choice, for the reasons mentioned above. Blonde shellac might be another viable option for antique lumber. It won’t change the colour as much as an oil based finish would, and it’s more period appropriate.

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180 posts in 1998 days

#6 posted 11-24-2013 12:36 AM

Thanks everyone for your input. I think I’ll try some water based finishes on the underside of the bottom shelf as you suggested Charles, maybe even some tung oil just to see if he likes it. But thank you all so much.

-- Andy, Waxahachie, Tx.

View CharlesNeil's profile (online now)


2412 posts in 3899 days

#7 posted 11-24-2013 05:33 PM

Formbys is not tung oil its a varnish oil, and dries fast, thats important, a pure tung oil will take forever to dry and change the color as will any slow dring oil

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2998 days

#8 posted 11-24-2013 05:40 PM

Osmo Polyx hardwax oil for light woods would be my choice. That’s the stuff they put on countertops, the clearest finish I ever saw.

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