End grain won't seal

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Forum topic by RogerInColorado posted 01-31-2015 05:45 PM 698 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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321 posts in 1371 days

01-31-2015 05:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing maple question

I’m trying to help out a non-profit veteran support group. They had a volunteer who was having wooden nickels (wood disks) laser engraved, then he was applying finish to them and they were then given to veterans who completed a therapeutic program. Unfortunately he died. We found his material source (Hobby Lobby) and his engraver (a local trophy retailer who has a laser engraver) and thought we were good to go. Then I started to experiment with finish. I am convinced the finish is lacquer. I applied four coats of Deft rattle can lacquer, each coat was like pouring water into a sandbox trying to make a lake. It still isn’t sealed. I took another coin and applied four coats of rattle can shellac. Same thing, not sealed. I took it to a friend who lays down a lot of lacquer. He is also convinced the finish is lacquer. He sprayed from a gun three coats of M.L. Campbell pre-catalized lacquer. It was still sucking up finish like a sponge and so added a fourth. Looks the same. He mixed up a small batch of what he called conversion varnish, I presume a this is some sort of catalyst added to a different lacquer. Exactly the same result with four coats.

Before I started this process I had been looking for alternate sources for the blanks because bags of four at Hobby Lobby were going to be pretty expensive for the volumes this organization wants to do. One of the places I talked to said they once upon a time were a supplier to Hobby Lobby. He said it was Chinese Maple. I don’t know if that simply means it’s maple that grows in China or if it means it sort of looks like maple so it gets called that.

It looks like the disks are sliced from a log of the right diameter, in this case, two inches. Therefore the entire engraved surface is end grain. Finishing it so that it has a smooth satin finish is what has to happen. I am at a loss and I need your help. I have to believe someone else in LJ land has had this problem on knows the solution.

7 replies so far

View Patch2020's profile


97 posts in 658 days

#1 posted 01-31-2015 07:02 PM

Did you use sanding sealer under the lacquer or just the lacquer? Even the lacquers that say they act as their own sealer will not seal end grain as well as a good sanding sealer, at least in my own experiences.

-- Patch2020, Tennessee

View bigblockyeti's profile


3566 posts in 1138 days

#2 posted 01-31-2015 07:13 PM

Every time I’ve covered end grain with lacquer it usually takes close to 8 coats and that’s only if it’s sanded to 320 grit.

View bigblockyeti's profile


3566 posts in 1138 days

#3 posted 01-31-2015 07:23 PM

What species is the wood? Tighter grained wood will work better, more porous grained wood will act more like a sponge.

View finns's profile


99 posts in 2533 days

#4 posted 02-01-2015 09:10 PM

I would suggest to use Charles Niel Woodowrking sanding sealer. Follow the product instructions and then apply your finish. I’ve had really good results with it. Simple to apply and dries quick.

View firefighterontheside's profile


13054 posts in 1273 days

#5 posted 02-01-2015 09:35 PM

Try dipping them in a can of brushing lacquer which will be thicker. You’ll have to work out getting rid of the mark left from whatever holds on to them, but it will saturate.

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

View JAAune's profile


1614 posts in 1734 days

#6 posted 02-02-2015 12:47 AM

Casey' Wood Products is a possible supplier. I’ve had good results buying from them in the past. The 2” stock is imported but there are some other sizes that would be domestically-produced.

Sanding the discs to burnish the surface would probably reduce the absorption.

-- See my work at and

View Planeman40's profile (online now)


787 posts in 2178 days

#7 posted 02-02-2015 05:56 PM

I would try filling a sealable container with brushing lacquer and dump in a quantity of wood coins and let them soak over night. Do it on a few as a test. This will give the lacquer enough time to penetrate and soak up as much lacquer as needed to fill the wood. If it works, this would be a quick way to finish a large number of pieces.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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