Advice finishing quartersawn sycamore

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Forum topic by DetroitReds posted 11-26-2013 06:52 PM 1785 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View DetroitReds's profile


14 posts in 2274 days

11-26-2013 06:52 PM

Hi all,
I’m near completion a sofa table but haven’t figured out my finishing strategy and am hoping for some advice. The base is cherry and the top is quartersawn sycamore, which has fabulous grain but is giving me severe tear-out issues. My garage sale #4 smoother isn’t doing the job, nor the Veritas bevel up smoother. I haven’t experimented with higher pitch blades, but was thinking this is the time to attack. Do the hand toolers have any suggestions on increasing the primary blade angle v. honing a back bevel?
For the finish- I’d like to pop the grain but am ambivalent about committing to a dye. It’s hard to shell out $20 just to get a sample board! Wondering if an oil-based finish will be sufficient. I’ve liked Vermont Natural Coatings’ PolyWhey as a topcoat for other projects but question its durability against scratches, hot drinks, alcohol, etc. I don’t have a sprayer nor plan to invest for this project. Also contemplating Waterlox, but can’t stand the VOCs. Any suggestions?

5 replies so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


4827 posts in 2237 days

#1 posted 11-26-2013 07:45 PM

I like Rodda, Varathane, and Cabot brand stains. They have a relatively high solids content, and just enough dye to highlight figured wood.
Here is a discussion on stains and dyes…
Since you don’t want to spray the finish, you could try a wipe on poly. I really prefer lacquer, but it is best applied by spray gun. Shellac brushes okay if you don’t mind rubbing out the final coat.

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

View chrisstef's profile


15487 posts in 2430 days

#2 posted 11-26-2013 07:55 PM

For the tear out id probably swap over to card scrapers or a #12 / #80 / #112. As for the finish I cant really help out too much but I do think that Waterlox has changed their product line and have included a VOC compliant finish.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 3509 days

#3 posted 11-26-2013 08:03 PM

I did angel wings in sycamore a few years ago, with a Watco Danish Oil (Natural) finish and wax:


View richardwootton's profile


1698 posts in 1379 days

#4 posted 11-27-2013 12:17 AM

DetroitReds, I’m a little curious as to how sharp your plane irons are. After sharpening my Stanley #4 (up to 2500 grit) I have worked with some crazy curly maple and highly figured walnut with out tear out. As long as I was planing in the right direction, taking super light passes and keeping the mouth really tight. Even with this method I have had somewhat of a difficult time working with Hickory, but everything else cuts really well.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View richardwootton's profile


1698 posts in 1379 days

#5 posted 11-27-2013 12:18 AM

I would like to see a picture of this QS Sycamore also, it’s one of my favorite domestic woods and it grows like weeds around here, but no one wants to mill it. I guess it’s because you pretty much have to quarter saw it for it to be very useful.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

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