A finish that won't darken wood

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by OldWrangler posted 05-29-2014 05:35 PM 7651 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View OldWrangler's profile


731 posts in 1559 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!

16 replies so far

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3333 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

View Earlextech's profile


1160 posts in 2655 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

28919 posts in 2303 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


5620 posts in 2778 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


3870 posts in 1732 days

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

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


View Ripthorn's profile


1454 posts in 2950 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 2078 days

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

General Finishes Poly is pretty darn clear.

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2073 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 1559 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 2541 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


3027 posts in 2222 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 2655 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

View Shocky's profile


1 post in 189 days

#13 posted 10-15-2017 01:03 AM

yeah. I’d like to know too. I have a group of Stag-horns in my back yard. 30’ers. I’ve heard you gotta move sort of fast on them to keep the colors. They darken and rot because the iodine. These have red, blonde, and olive streaks in them. That white is to die for. I’m glad I found this site.

View jonah's profile


1659 posts in 3263 days

#14 posted 10-15-2017 03:29 AM

General Finishes water based poly would be my choice. Failing that, some lesser brand of the same stuff.

View hairy's profile


2655 posts in 3497 days

#15 posted 10-15-2017 01:34 PM

I’ve used this on several projects. It’s almost like nothing is there, but has the protection of lacquer. Multiple coats will show up, 1 or 2 don’t. I buy it locally for half that price.

-- My reality check bounced...

showing 1 through 15 of 16 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics