How much protection is needed?

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Forum topic by giser3546 posted 11-12-2014 10:09 PM 994 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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179 posts in 1501 days

11-12-2014 10:09 PM

I am new to finishing but have been doing a good bit of research recently. For whatever reason I prefer to start with the rawest materials I can get and do as much as I can myself. For example I just finished making my first batch of stain using walnut husks. I have read considerably about shellac and like the idea of buying the raw flakes and mixing the stuff myself but I’m not looking for a particularly glossy finish. I have researched some of Roubo’s methods using bees wax but that didn’t seem to offer much protection.

Is there another raw alternative I’m not thinking of that would bridge the gap? Although being less protective than the others would wax offer sufficient protection for wood that won’t be regularly directly exposed to water?

-- "If you wait for it to rain, It will"

10 replies so far

View Wildwood's profile


2322 posts in 2163 days

#1 posted 11-12-2014 10:33 PM

Wax is just a decoration and really no protection at all.

Penetrating finishes like pure Tung oil will offer more protection but require at least 4 to 6 coats rubbed on. Only problem is time to dry between coats. There are many products labeled Tung oil but merely oil varnish blends and may not even contain Tung oil.

Some will recommend boiled linseed oil (BLO) and even though most labels say 100% linseed oil you have other chemicals in it! Just smell the stuff and read warnings an precautions.

Shellac would be easier and very durable!

-- Bill

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 2633 days

#2 posted 11-13-2014 01:05 AM

There is a lot to be said for science. In the past 100 years we have developed chemical products that provide a truly superior level of protection with easier application then shellac.

I understand wanting to keep it natural. But also consider who will be using this product and how long they will be using it. You may want more protection.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1963 days

#3 posted 11-13-2014 01:18 AM

Plain old wax probably isn’t going to cut it. I hate to be so lame, but wipe on poly is really a pretty good option. If you follow the directions in Andrew Pitt’s youtube videos, you’ll get pretty solid protection with a close to the wood feel, similar to an oil+wax.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View giser3546's profile


179 posts in 1501 days

#4 posted 11-13-2014 03:20 AM

I had forgotten about BLO. Would that offer the protection that I need? Would I apply wax or shellac ontop of that?

-- "If you wait for it to rain, It will"

View Aj2's profile


1442 posts in 1826 days

#5 posted 11-13-2014 03:56 AM

I don’t think boiled linseed oil is as protective as Shellac,Shellac is one of my favorite film finishes,Check out the shellac shack,Malcom has some of the freshest flakes and buttons.
Also beware of Denatured Alcohol it’s really not that good for your health.

Here’s a box made from Swiss pear with many thin coats of blone shellac,The finish is hardly noticeable.

-- Aj

View pmayer's profile


1028 posts in 3093 days

#6 posted 11-13-2014 04:05 AM

Wax doesn’t offer much protection, nor do BLO or tung oil. Having said that, it all depends on what your objectives are in terms of protection and appearance. If you like the look and feel of these finishes and are not concerned about protecting against water, then go for it. These are all finishes that you might want to refresh periodically, but then again, you might not want to if you like the patina. About 16 years ago I built a blanket chest and I finished it by heating a can of Johnson’s paste wax in the hot summer sun, then brushed it on like paint. The next day I buffed out the finish, and without ever maintaining the finish, I love the look and particularly the feel of that piece to this day. It’s not something that I would do for every project (in fact, that was the only one) but it can work well is certain situations. I also use BLO and tung oil from time to time. You can top with shellac or poly if you want the additional protection/luster, or just leave it plain. You can also coat an oil finish with paste wax for a nice look and feel that is easy to repair. For projects where moisture protection is important, I use poly (typically wipe-on).

-- PaulMayer,

View Woodknack's profile


11825 posts in 2408 days

#7 posted 11-13-2014 04:38 AM

-Wax reduces friction and provides scuff resistance but not protection.

-Oil makes wood look good while adding a yellowish to amber tint but not much else. On very old and dry wood, I do like to saturate with oil to return some life. But I use oil on items that will not receive much handling, usually with a coat of wax. I also use oil on tool handles where a film finish is a bad thing.

-Shellac is my favorite finish. Color ranges from nearly neutral to reddish, it is very easy to apply and repair. Shellac can be used in conjunction with oil which lubricates the applicator and makes it easier to get a smooth finish. Oil does not diminish the durability of shellac as it does varnish. True that it is not the toughest finish but I only need a really tough finish on tabletops and floors. That said, I refinished my living room floor years ago with shellac. Putting down 2 coats took half a day, lasted about 7-8 years and I didn’t need to strip or sand. We used a varnish in our dining room that took a week and after 5 years needs to be sanded and refinished. My point being that shellac is better than cheap varnish but not tougher than quality varnish.

-Lacquer is a tougher than shellac and easy to apply. It dries fast and clear but the fumes are bad. Lacquer is good when you do not want to tint the wood. It’s also preferred for musical instruments (shellac is also acceptable).

-Varnish/Poly, a tough all purpose finish. I find polyurethane to be the most difficult to apply and get a nice finish but maybe that’s just lack of practice. Oil based varnish can be mixed with oil for a hand rubbed appearance, but the resulting finish will be less durable than varnish alone. Varnish smells and takes a long time to dry. Color ranges from yellowish for oil base to bluish for waterbase.

Get yourself one of the popular books on finishing and you’ll be up to speed in no time.

-- Rick M,

View OSU55's profile


1703 posts in 2018 days

#8 posted 11-13-2014 02:57 PM

Educate yourself. I highly recommend the book “Understanding Wood Finishing: How to Select and Apply the Right Finish” by Bob Flexner. While there are other books on the subject, unlike other authors Flexner is pretty objective. It provides a good foundation of what finishes are made of, how they work, how to select, and then apply them.

View giser3546's profile


179 posts in 1501 days

#9 posted 11-13-2014 07:12 PM

I have just finished the book “Fine Woodworking on Finishing and Refinishing” its from the 1970’s but gave me some general directions to go in. I’ll take a look at Understanding wood finishing. thanks.

AJ2 – I really like the look of that finish. I’m looking for something that wont take away from the natural look of the wood with glossiness. What application methods did you use (sprayer, brush, rag)? And did you put anything on the wood in addition to the shellac?

Very nice joinery by the way.

-- "If you wait for it to rain, It will"

View Aj2's profile


1442 posts in 1826 days

#10 posted 11-14-2014 04:35 AM

I use clean cotton folded and dipped into a small container with shellac.The applicator is only about inch and half wide.And the shellac is very thin.After the first couple coats I knock down any roughness with a old 3m sanding sponge.Denatured alcohol has some water in it.
I’m sure you can can find a way that works just as well it’s that friendly.Good luck.Aj

-- Aj

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