Machinist Toolbox #8: Not Yet Finished, but It's Finished

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Blog entry by PurpLev posted 12-25-2010 06:36 AM 9013 reads 0 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Draw me a Draw Part 8 of Machinist Toolbox series Part 9: Pull My Finger... »

I mentioned it in the previous post and as I was working on the drawers I had the main carcass take the finish to make use of time.

Mahogany much like Oak has large open pores. My finishing goal was more for practice than necessity, but I was aiming for an antique polished look – shiny outside. I knew I would have to fill in those pores if I want an even polished surface. So my plan was to start with a filler coat which I tried to concoct using dewaxed shellac and mahogany sanding sawdust (from a 220 grit paper). It was suggested to me that this may not be fine enough dust to penetrate the pores, but I figured I’d give it a try and at least gain some hands on knowledge from experience.

So first coat was a concoction of the aforementioned shellac with sawdust. I was surprised how well the sawdust blended in with the shellac, but I think I should have used more sawdust (I didn’t want to sand too deep into the wood, and was somewhat displeased with the sanding degrading the polished look of the wood after it was planed and scraped earlier):

The Shellac gave the wood a real nice warm tone although I’m not sure if poly would not give similar results off hand.

Note to self – Shellac is much thinner than oil poly (which is what I have been used to brushing up till now) and should not be brushed too heavily as it WILL run (not too concerned as this is a toolbox, but still…).

I ended up doing 2 coats of shellac and sanded in between – I did not get the results I wanted. the pores were NOT filled as much as I had planned them to. If I ever need to finish a furniture piece of mahogany I’ll use proper pore filler, for now – not a biggy, I should however have wiped it on rather than brush it on. for some reason I thought it would be easier for me to reach into and between the dividers with a brush – it wasn’t.

Now My necessity goal was to protect the box from machining mess such as oily/greasy hands, so Poly was set for the top coat(s). I used General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Satin for those. I had previously always used minwax poly and had good results with it, but figured I’d give this one a try and see how they compare. look wise I don’t see much of a difference, but the ArmRSeal is thinner and probably comparable to minwax wipe-on poly (which I’ve never used – I always mixed my own with mineral spirits just for the last 2 coats to get them thin and even). I dropped the brushes (which were old and started to break down on me with the shellac) and just wiped on the poly. I was surprised how much easier it was for me to reach into tight spots with the wipe, so much more than it was with the (foam) brushes earlier – oh well, lesson learnt.

I put on 3 coats of poly on the carcass at which point I was done with the drawers construction at which point I did 2 coats of shellac on the drawer fronts, followed with 2 coats of poly on those as well. it was quite pleasing feeling the glass smooth surface of finished maple compared to the mahogany with it’s open pores.

Another thing I noticed was that I sanded between coats on the drawer fronts with 220 grit whereas I used 600 for the carcass which I think was way too high to really knock off any high spots on the finish and just ‘smoothed’ it out around it. This led me to think – I probably always used too fine sanding between coats using 400 grit (I ran out of that one so used 600 which was the only thing I had higher than 220) and should use 220-320 from now on to even out the finish. I noticed that the 600 didn’t really clean off the runs I had on the side of the carcass… oh well, lesson learnt.

I ended up sanding the carcass 3rd poly coat with 220 grit, and added one more coat of poly on it.

All in all, I’m pleased with the results. it has the antique ‘used’ distressed look that I was going for minus the polished top panel:




Here’s the before image of carcass with 3 coats of poly and unfinished draws:

And the After with it all finished, PLUS I patched the large drawer front which was previously blown through when I routed the drawer slide channels:

Not too shabby.

Conclusions – use proper pore filler, wipe on the shellac, sand between coats with a courses grit than 400.

Now to really finish this off I need drawers pulls, front panel to lock the drawers, and I want to add feet to protect the carcass bottom, BUT, there is no pressure on those as the toolbox is fully functional and already houses all my lathe tools as it should.

Thanks for reading,

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

21 comments so far

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6872 posts in 4897 days

#1 posted 12-25-2010 07:05 AM

Looks good Sharon.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

3560 posts in 4355 days

#2 posted 12-25-2010 07:07 AM

sweet. Looks great from these angles.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View littlecope's profile


3111 posts in 4419 days

#3 posted 12-25-2010 10:20 AM

You did a Great Job on this build Sharon, it looks excellent…
I thoroughly enjoyed the story of the making too!!
Well Done!!

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View mafe's profile


12685 posts in 4006 days

#4 posted 12-25-2010 01:35 PM

Thank you so much for the precise telling, think we who read has lerned from you.
Best thoughts, and a happy hollyday,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View SPalm's profile


5336 posts in 4799 days

#5 posted 12-25-2010 01:37 PM

“houses all my lathe tools as it should”.
Indeed. That would be a wonderful addition to any shop. What a treat to have nice things to hold our tools.

Good job,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3773 days

#6 posted 12-25-2010 01:59 PM

Looking really nice, I think you have the right look.
Used but not abused.

Cant wait to see the final


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3784 days

#7 posted 12-25-2010 02:13 PM

This is a wonderful toolbox, Sharon, and a great presentation of what you have done. I’ve been totally covered up and haven’t had the time to read it all but I definitely am planning to go back over the whole thing carefully because I want to build me a chest similar to this and feel like I can learn a lot from what you have done. Your toolbox is a beautiful thing. :)

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View patron's profile


13712 posts in 4258 days

#8 posted 12-25-2010 02:32 PM

thanks for the ‘finishing’ journey

never to late to learn

great build

merry to you and yours

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Karson's profile


35229 posts in 5318 days

#9 posted 12-25-2010 04:31 PM

Sharon: It looks great. What I’ve done on filling pores is to use danish oil and use a ROS with paper without holes and sanded it while it was still wet. The sanding /oil slurry is somewhat compacted into the pores. I let it dry and then use a putty knife and try to cut the excess off the surface with a sliding motion. I find that if I’m careful I don’t pull the mix out of the pores of the wood.

The blog that has the walnut is here

I didn’t want to point out the big holes in the front of your drawers. I hope you have something that can cover them up without some noticing.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 4208 days

#10 posted 12-25-2010 04:39 PM

Nice. I’m still amazed when someone says, “I think I’ll build myself a <blank>”, then builds it.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View AaronK's profile


1512 posts in 4381 days

#11 posted 12-25-2010 06:50 PM

nice work – and so quickly too!

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3953 days

#12 posted 12-25-2010 07:30 PM

A journey well worth travelling. Well done, Sharon.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View PurpLev's profile


8601 posts in 4566 days

#13 posted 12-25-2010 08:05 PM

Thanks everyone.

Karson – Thanks for the link with the extra detail. I tried doing something similar using the shellac, and wet sanded it – alas with 600 grit paper. I should have used a coarser sand paper, and probably the ROS to really generate some sawdust. I’ll try that one next time around.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View wchips's profile


314 posts in 4005 days

#14 posted 12-25-2010 08:44 PM

Looking good Sharon Happey Holidays

-- wchips

View moonls's profile


412 posts in 3903 days

#15 posted 12-27-2010 04:53 PM

Thanks for your insight all along the way to making this fine tool box! I think your finishing tips will help me on my future projects.

-- Lorna, Cape Cod

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