Finishing mahogany with holly inlay

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Forum topic by jonsprague0000 posted 12-27-2014 12:15 AM 2270 views 1 time favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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104 posts in 1829 days

12-27-2014 12:15 AM

Topic tags/keywords: federal period holly finishing inlay bell flowers mahogany shellac blo boiled linseed

I’m working on a federal period card table following a guide from Steve Latta and wanted to get your opinions on finishes for the piece. Here are a couple of options. Please let me know what you think or if you have any better ideas. One concern I have is the apron is crotch mahogany and I know it will be a lot darker than the legs. I wonder how I can blend them.

1. Latta suggests doing a golden stain so that holly doesn’t stand out so much. Followed by shellac and then a orange shellac. I’m a bit worried that the holly might become too golden unless I find a good stain I can cut.
2. I tested some scrap doing boiled linseed and then shellac over. It worked out well but only barely colored the holly. I’m worried that maybe I need to blend the holly more.
3. I tested some scrap with arm-r-seal and it is almost comparible to the BLO. I’m wondering if this would be a good base finish followed by shellac since it will pop the grain more and provide a better finish.
4. Put a base coat of potassium dichromate followed by shellac. Please don’t go into the dangers of this. I am aware.
5. Any other ideas are welcome as I want to make this look like a period piece.

11 replies so far

View Aj2's profile


1953 posts in 2038 days

#1 posted 12-27-2014 07:26 AM

Hi Mr jones,The legs are looking great,Why not tint your shellac build it slowly.There just not going to be any short cuts to a great finish right.Plus oils take so long to dry.
I think the shellac shack has the best flakes and buttons.Aj

-- Aj

View CharlesNeil's profile


2470 posts in 4111 days

#2 posted 12-27-2014 08:58 PM

I have not tried this on holly, however using 1 table spoon of baking soda to a pint of water, makes a nice oxidizer for mahogany, it will give you a natural aged color . I have used it with maple inlays and so forth and it also will age the maple. Holly just not sure, but you can adjust the strength of the soda, you will get a moderate grain raise but nothing a quick 600 grit wipe will not remove . I use this all the time to age cherry and mahogany .

Again you will need to do a test, for the holly and it may not be enough to suit, but worth a shot .

View BacktotheWood's profile


125 posts in 3262 days

#3 posted 12-28-2014 03:23 PM

I haven’t done this as I am just getting started using dyes instead of stains, but with dyes you can cut to control the intensity of the color and you can mix colors to control the shade. It will undoubtedly take a bit of trial and error on scrap to get the color and darkness you are looking for.

This is a good place to start to understand how to use dyes.

-- Bob, --Silence & smile are two powerful tools. Smile is the way to solve many problems & Silence is the way to avoid many problems.

View jonsprague0000's profile


104 posts in 1829 days

#4 posted 12-28-2014 07:54 PM

Thanks Charles, I’m looking forward to giving it a shot. Also thanks for all the great tutorials on the internet. I’ve watched a bunch of them.

BacktotheWood, transtints work great. I’ve used them with great success on Mahogany in the past. The reason I chose not to do it on this project was I didn’t want to mess up the holly. I highly recommend you give them a shot on your future projects.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5819 posts in 3053 days

#5 posted 12-28-2014 08:43 PM

I like the amount of contrast your project has. I vote for a shellac finish.
Ultimately your finish samples and a few days pondering it will lead you to a decision.

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

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 3194 days

#6 posted 12-28-2014 08:58 PM

I think your inclinations and Charles’s suggestion are right on track. Can’t wait to see the finished project! Great to see someone else interested in Federal period furniture.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1169 posts in 2771 days

#7 posted 12-29-2014 02:47 AM

Potassium dichromate won’t achieve the effect you are looking for. It will darken the mahogany but will not have a noticeable effect on the holly. So strike that one off your list.

BTW, I really like what potassium dichromate does to the mahoganies.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View jonsprague0000's profile


104 posts in 1829 days

#8 posted 12-30-2014 05:38 PM

After testing on some scrap I decided to only use BLO and Amber Shellac. Everything is turning out perfect. The mix of BLO and shellac perfectly tinted the inlay so it blends in perfectly.

View ColonelTravis's profile


1955 posts in 2134 days

#9 posted 12-30-2014 06:04 PM

Por favor – post pics of this when you’re done. The inlay job looks great, I’d like to see how you did it. Glad the finish is working out.

View ChefHDAN's profile


1231 posts in 3090 days

#10 posted 12-30-2014 08:44 PM

I’ve got nothing to add but …DAUMN, that is some awesome work, you’ve got some serious skill & I can’t wait to see the finished piece too

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View jonsprague0000's profile


104 posts in 1829 days

#11 posted 02-23-2015 12:59 AM

I finally finished the project and posted it. Check it out. Thanks for all the help.

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