A finish that won't darken wood

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Forum topic by OldWrangler posted 05-29-2014 05:35 PM 4068 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View OldWrangler's profile


731 posts in 1199 days

05-29-2014 05:35 PM

I am doing a project with Staghorn Sumac wood. The wood is a very bright yellow almost like heart wood of Bois D’Arc. And it has some pretty contrasting dark lines in the grain. Problem is that with all the finishes I have tried, they all turn the yellow into an dead-looking olive color. The contrast is gone and the color sucks. What can I use to keep the wood from changing? Here’s a list of all the finishes I have on hand and tried…...polyurethane (spray and wipe), Shellac, Tung Oil, Carnuba Wax, Spar Varnish, Minwax clear stain, Minwax natural stain, Watco, clear Automotive Lacquer and cutting board oil. I am out of ideas and products.

The project is a loser if the color has to change. I guess I could paint it yellow, huh? Please help. Thanks

-- I am going to go stand outside so if anyone asks about me, tell them I'M OUTSTANDING!

12 replies so far

View papadan's profile


2301 posts in 2973 days

#1 posted 05-29-2014 05:37 PM

Water based poly will give it a wet look without darkening or changing the color at all

-- Carpenter assembles with hands, Designer builds with brains, Artist creates with heart!

View Earlextech's profile


1159 posts in 2295 days

#2 posted 05-29-2014 05:48 PM

+1 water bourne poly

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

23935 posts in 1943 days

#3 posted 05-29-2014 05:52 PM

+1 again for water based poly

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5172 posts in 2418 days

#4 posted 05-29-2014 05:52 PM

Depending on what the project is, Howard’s Butcher Block Conditioner can look nice.
I wouldn’t use it for a daily use tabletop, but it might offer enough water protection for occasional use.

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

View mahdee's profile


3667 posts in 1372 days

#5 posted 05-29-2014 06:11 PM

That is some pretty wood… Never thought sumac gets that big.


View Ripthorn's profile


1433 posts in 2590 days

#6 posted 05-29-2014 06:43 PM

What kind of shellac have you tried? If you used home store stuff, then forget it. If you get a good super blonde or lighter flake, it should go on with little coloration. I finished an ash guitar in shellac and it has kept its whitish appearance very nicely. Also, waterborne finishes will tend to have a very slight bluish hue to them, which could make your yellow look a little greenish in the right light, so make sure to test scrap if you have any.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View rrww's profile


263 posts in 1718 days

#7 posted 05-29-2014 06:46 PM

General Finishes Poly is pretty darn clear.

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 1713 days

#8 posted 05-29-2014 07:23 PM

Another vote for water-based poly over here.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View OldWrangler's profile


731 posts in 1199 days

#9 posted 05-29-2014 08:30 PM

Thanks a bunch. Y’all are great. Not only does someone have the answer but everyone seems to. I had no idea that Sumac grew into trees but the fellow who sold it says they don’t get fat but sometimes 30’ tall. Can you imagine what you could make with about 20-30 BF in 3/4×6”? I’d be on that with Band Saw Boxes like a goose on a grasshopper!
Today I actually started 2 tables for my daughter….something a little different but I also laid up the wood for a couple of ideas I want to try with BSB. Now it is time for my daily Sam Adams and some pickled herring. Maybe this is what causes the strange ideas for projects.

-- I am going to go stand outside so if anyone asks about me, tell them I'M OUTSTANDING!

View NiteWalker's profile


2736 posts in 2182 days

#10 posted 05-29-2014 09:20 PM

+1 more for water based poly. Make sure it’s one that is “water white”, which is a fancy way of saying crystal clear and non-yellowing. Crystalac super premium is one such finish, as is general finishes enduro clear poly (NOT enduro-var), which is my go-to clear coat now.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View AandCstyle's profile


2692 posts in 1862 days

#11 posted 05-30-2014 12:06 AM

The wood may darken on its own due to UV exposure. However, either super blonde shellac or a super clear WB poly (my personal preference) are your best bets.

-- Art

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2295 days

#12 posted 05-30-2014 12:29 AM

Never worked with any sumac but mulberry and hedge will darken with exposure to light regardless of finish. Sumac may be different but it does look a lot like the mulberry I have.

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

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