Natural finish without yellowing birch or maple woods

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Forum topic by woodworker33 posted 09-03-2014 02:44 PM 4790 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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22 posts in 1774 days

09-03-2014 02:44 PM

Topic tags/keywords: maple

I am working with some light woods and I want to coat them with some sort of finishing that keeps the natural color of the wood. I’ve tried using Danish oil (natural finish) but it makes the wood color really yellow. The pieces are going to be indoors. What finishing would you recommend?


13 replies so far

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2606 days

#1 posted 09-03-2014 02:52 PM

If you just want the wood to look like it is now, with a finish on top, try a water-based product. I’ve used PolyCrylic and had good results, but I’m pretty sure some others here have other good products they recommend.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View sawdust703's profile


270 posts in 1657 days

#2 posted 09-03-2014 02:57 PM

why don’t you just use a natural stain, with clear coat? I’ve used it many times, & had good luck with it.

-- Sawdust703

View woodworker33's profile


22 posts in 1774 days

#3 posted 09-03-2014 02:59 PM

I don’t want the product to darken the wood or accentuate the grain either. Would some sort of wax product be a better fit? I like the look of the unfinished (raw) state but I would like to protect it with something…

View mahdee's profile


4042 posts in 2004 days

#4 posted 09-03-2014 03:16 PM

You can melt some bees wax and mix it with mineral oil. Apply it hot, wipe and buff. If you leave too much of it on the wood, it will collect dust.


View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5234 posts in 2730 days

#5 posted 09-03-2014 03:33 PM

Your choices are limited, the yellow you see will get darker over time with oil based finishes. Most water borne finishes will dry water clear, and not yellow as they age. Shellac is also color fast, but a lot of it has some tint, there is a “platinum” shellac available that has almost zero color shift (see pic). NC lacquer is really clear on application, but the stuff I’ve seen does have a slight shift toward yellowing over time. I’d suggest a water borne is the surface will have a lot of wear and tear. Oh, yeah, the pic. The shellac is on the right side of the blue line, and this is maple. Pic was taken in the bright sun to better show the difference.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2598 days

#6 posted 09-03-2014 04:10 PM

A waterborne poly or lacquer or solvent CAB lacquer.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3367 posts in 3346 days

#7 posted 09-08-2014 08:22 PM

My neighbor used an automotive lacquer clear coat on some of his projects. Look nice and shiny. It can be purchased as gloss or satin. I like the yellow that nitrocellulose lacquer turns to with age, myself.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View bob101's profile


333 posts in 3687 days

#8 posted 09-20-2014 12:47 PM

I build with birch alot and for the last couple of years I have been using acrylic water based clear coats and have no yellowing at all ! goes on milky looking but dries crystal clear, I have it applied on a birch cabinet humidor, and another on black ash in my projects page if you want to look.

-- rob, ont,canada

View OSU55's profile


2026 posts in 2226 days

#9 posted 09-21-2014 01:14 AM

Target Coatings has several waterborne coatings that may meet your needs.

View firefighterontheside's profile


19603 posts in 2093 days

#10 posted 09-21-2014 01:23 AM

I’ll vote for waterborne product and specifically polycrylic. It will look darker at first, don’t be alarmed. Once the water dries up, it will be clear and not yellow.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3884 days

#11 posted 09-21-2014 02:13 AM

Paste wax or soap flakes (used in Danish furniture) cause
little color shift. These finishes are unimpressive in some
ways but it really depends on how the furniture piece
will be used and maintained. James Krenov used wax
alone sometimes to retain pale colors.

If you don’t have kids running around touching the
furniture and you aren’t setting drinks on it wax
can hold up pretty well. It deflects glancing blows
so waxing a piece can help prevent surface damage
and things like vacuum cleaner bump marks.

Waterbased poly is pretty “white” on pale woods. Wax
is nearly invisible except it can be buffed up to a
sheen. Some wood turners use wax buffed out on
things like turned burls and the sheen is real even and
deep if buffed well. You’ll find paste wax a useful top
coat for protecting finishes and maintaining tools so you
may as well get a can and do a test.

View woodworker33's profile


22 posts in 1774 days

#12 posted 09-27-2014 12:04 AM

Loren, do you have a paste wax you would recommend on unfinished birch wood? I have used Bri-Wax (natural) but it made the wood somewhat blotchy.

I tried the water based poly (Varathane) and it raised the grain quite a bit. Even with light and fine sanding, the polyurethaned surface became rough. I can feel the grain and every little pore. It was smoother to the touch with the piece was unfinished.

View OSU55's profile


2026 posts in 2226 days

#13 posted 09-27-2014 01:19 PM

If the piece needs any durability a wax will not provide it. While the 1st coat of waterborne finish will raise the grain, sand it smooth. Since you have no color on the wood you could use 220 if it is really rough, you don’t have to worry about sanding through. Additional coats will smooth it right up and provide a durable finish. It’s possible the finish was put on too thick and not allowed to dry long enough before sanding. If you want a fully filled finish a lot of coats will be required, with sanding back in between, or you could try some of the clear filler products.

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