Wiping Varnish

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Forum topic by smartlikestick posted 05-20-2009 07:19 AM 6470 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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54 posts in 2996 days

05-20-2009 07:19 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question finishing walnut oak

I’m looking to apply a wiping varnish to a project I am completing. Unfortunately, here in Canada we seem to have an abundance of moose and ice, but I can’t seem to find a varnish that can be thinned to a wiping consistency. The closest I’ve come is at home

Is the spar varnish the same as Arm R Seal? Can I dilute this and use it as a wiping varnish. If not, I am open to other finishes but I want something relatively durable, wipable and fairly quick to complete as I’m in a time crunch.

Does moose boil down into a workable finish?

-- -- Mike Beauvais

16 replies so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


17573 posts in 3094 days

#1 posted 05-20-2009 09:41 AM

Why not just use wiping poly?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 3240 days

#2 posted 05-20-2009 12:26 PM

I don’t know about moose as a finish but it might be something to try. The moose might not appreciate this, of course.

You can use any oil based varnish to make your own wiping varnish. Stir the concentrate well and just dilute it with an equal amount of mineral spirits or other suitable solvent. Use a clean cotton cloth or paper towel to apply. Arm-R-Seal and spar varnish are predominately composed of mineral spirits already (at least 50 percent). So I would not thin them as much. Try some on test material and thin, if necessary, to a wiping consistency that you are comfortable with.

With a thinned product more coats will have to be applied to build a finish to the desired level (and subsequent sanding between coats, as well) but the speed and ease of application more than compensate for the time necessary to apply the additional coats.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

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Douglas Bordner

4010 posts in 3481 days

#3 posted 05-20-2009 03:05 PM

You can also use VM&P (varnish makers and painters) Naptha for a thinner, with a resultant wiping varnish that drys faster than using MS. The reason that it says do not thin on the label, is because the VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) numbers on the label will have changed with you changing of the formulation. No big deal if you aren’t reselling it in the original container. I wouldn’t use spar necessarily unless you are after slightly more UV protection and a slightly more flexible finish. For interior use any poly, urethane or alkyd varnish will work.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View HeirloomWoodworking's profile


238 posts in 3158 days

#4 posted 05-20-2009 03:15 PM

While admitedly I am no expert on creating a wipe-on varnish, to do my part I would be willing to trade a couple of opened cans of wiping poly from my shop, for a Canadian Moose hunt.

-- Trevor Premer Head Termite and Servant to the Queen - Heirloom Woodworking

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 2944 days

#5 posted 05-20-2009 03:54 PM

I suppose I am too new at finishes but I use Helmsman spar varish and some others and wipe it on right out of the can. Seems to work just fine.

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View kimball's profile


323 posts in 2715 days

#6 posted 05-23-2009 07:32 PM

I like water based wiping poly. My wife gets headaches around oil based products and the washer and dryer are in the garage so….....

View Andy's profile


1630 posts in 3326 days

#7 posted 06-03-2009 01:46 PM

I agree with the others,use a wipe on poly right out of the can.I prefer Minwax brand,which also took first place in Fine Woodworking Magazines extensive test they did a couple of years ago.It was rated the easiest and cheapest,but also one of the fastest to dry.I used it on a few of the recent projects I have posted,like the Arts and Crafts table,propeller.I use a folded square of cotton tee shirt and flood the entire project and go back and wipe the exess off,last thing to do is wipe with the grain in even strokes.Dont worry about uneven sheen,it will dry more evenly.I do three coats,allowing about 12 hours between in a warm room,I dont sand between coats.I knock down any nibs with a brown paper sack wadded up after its thoroughly dry.

-- If I can do it, so can you.

View James's profile


162 posts in 2699 days

#8 posted 06-04-2009 04:09 AM

I like watco danish oil right out of the can. Leaves a nice “touch me” feel and dries pretty quick

-- James, Bluffton, IN

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3292 posts in 3241 days

#9 posted 06-04-2009 04:56 AM

Hackman is on top of it Watco danish oil has been around alot long than ploy. Watco danish oil is the precursor to polyurethane. It was mainly used on hardwood floors and in my book it the best wipe on oil on the market…but note rags are extremely combustible, let them air dry completely before discarding… Blkcherry

View LesB's profile


1228 posts in 2861 days

#10 posted 06-04-2009 08:08 AM

Watco oil is a good one but if you want a built up finish it will take several coats and possibly some burnishing with 0000 steel wool in between to get a nice finish coat. About 4 coats is needed on most to achieve a built up satin finish. After it dries for a couple of weeks finish it with a coat of paste wax worked in with a “white” 3M pad and buffed to a nice polished look. I think the wax is a necessary step to protect the wood and accentuate the finish.
A wipe on poly will be easier and quicker.

-- Les B, Oregon

View David's profile


110 posts in 2765 days

#11 posted 06-05-2009 09:02 PM

I use a home concoction that is very simple to make and has worked great for me: 1/3rd pure tung oil, 1/3rd polyurethane (Miniwax) and 1/3rd paint thinner. I bought the Tung Oil on-line at I put 3-4 coats on followed by paste wax if you’re looking for a nice shine. After applying each coat of the wiping varnish, I wipe it off about 15 minutes later and continue to buff it out for another hour or so. I really like to buff it out to get a smooth finish. If its still rough then you can use a 0000 steel wool or some fine sand paper a day later before the next coat. Its basically idiot proof, which is huge for me since I really don’t know what I’m doing.

-- dcutter

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Joe Lyddon

9325 posts in 3470 days

#12 posted 06-06-2009 08:52 PM


That sounds like Sam Maloof’s method as well…

I’ve used some, from Rockler, and it works good…

This link may also help you:

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View abie's profile


812 posts in 3189 days

#13 posted 02-27-2011 05:09 AM

The latest issue of fine woodworking (today)2/26/2011 at Barnes and Noble has an article about using a wiping varnish
check it out.

-- Bruce. a mind is like a book it is only useful when open.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


17573 posts in 3094 days

#14 posted 02-27-2011 10:11 AM

I just read it online. I think even I could do that !! :-)) I can hardly wait to make something to try it out on.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Domer's profile


252 posts in 2784 days

#15 posted 02-28-2011 10:31 PM

I use General Finishing’s Armour Seal. It is a wipe on combination of oil and poly. It is very good looking and very tough. I have used it on top of Watco and has excellent results.


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