Beads Box #7: Fill, File, Fo - The filling of Them Pores

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Blog entry by PurpLev posted 12-31-2010 09:51 AM 5666 reads 1 time favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Incra Style Box Joint Jig/Sled for the Table Saw (998SE) Part 7 of Beads Box series Part 8: Drawers Construction »

I am pretty much done with the construction of the box itself. I had left the pins extra long and needed to trim them off, which is better then leaving them extra short and um… oh shoot. After some trimming and cleaning up the joints today I drilled and installed the hinges for the doors. I used SOSS model 100 hinges, 2 on each door which is good for material 1/2” thickness. I like those hinges, easy to install, fit well, and completely hidden for a nice clean look.

You’ll notice that I do some finishing work during my project progress, and not necessarily at the end and that is because I can do the finishing at night time, so whenever I get some part of the project ready for finishing I can go ahead with it while still constructing and building the rest later on (drawers in this case are still not cut). Just trying to keep busy and make good use of time and not having to finish all the parts at the end.

I had recently attempted to create a glass smooth finish on mahogany in my Machinist Toolbox project but was not as successful as I had hoped to be. Mahogany like some other species has large open pores that on the surface of the boards seems like trenches. when you apply finish to the board, the finish covers the board evenly except in the trenches where the finish drops into the trench leaving low spots/lines on the face of the finish. Now this is in no way a deal breaker, and the finish will protect the wood just the same, but it will not have a glass smooth look or feel to it thats all. In order to get a glass smooth surface you need to fill in those pores.

Filling the pores

My previous attempt was to use some mahogany sawdust from my ROS (using 220 grit paper) mixed with dewaxed shellac. The reason it did not work so well is because I think I simply did not have enough sawdust and the filling compound was too thin to do any good. This time around, I had more sawdust in the mixture and it was quite apparent – the finish mixture looked a bit like mud.

I applied the compound liberally to the box surfaces with the grain and across the grain. As an after thought I should have avoided going with the grain as this would pull the compound out of the pores/trenches while going across the grain would probably fill them better. the box looked very dirty and gritty (which was a GOOD thing):

I then let this dry for about an hour and tried sanding it down with a ROS and 220 grit paper. It didn’t quite cut it (pun intended). there was quite a bit of buildup on the box (again – a good thing, and just what I was hoping for). I reverted to using a scraper and scraped the entire box inside and out on all surfaces. Needless to say that was a LOT OF WORK, but proved some good results. the shavings that came off where of the finish which cleaned off nicely from the box:

Theoretically and what I was trying to achieve was to remove the gritty finish from the surface of the box leaving behind somewhat bare wood, with the low spots of the pores still filled with the unscraped filler finish in them as the scraper would not reach inside the pores.

I then lightly sanded the box with a ROS and 220 grit to clean off any left over marks and smooth things out, and applied a 2nd coat of a thinned down mixture (basically whatever was left from the 1st coat with some added dewaxed shellac) and after 45 min sanded it down with ROS and 220 grit. The results were exciting! the surface was glass smooth with no bumps in it (from the pores). to test it I used my fingernail and passed it along the board. Before it would bump in all the pores, but now it just went smoothly across the box – FABULOUS! :

I added 1 more coat of dewaxed shellac, let it dry for 45 min, and then added 2 more coats using the french polish method (cheese cloth with old CLEAN sock inside and force rub the shellac on the surface of the box) with 30-45 min between coats. The surface is just what I was trying to achieve. glass smooth to the eye and to the touch:

(pardon the image quality, but the reflection off of the dry finish can still be seen which is the purpose of this photo)

Mission Accomplished! I had been planning to have this finish on this box from the first moment I designed the box (over 2 years ago), and am glad it came to fruition.

Special Thanks to Karson who gave me some ideas RE filling in the pores (scraping it off). Karson used a similar approach but generated the sawdust using wet sanding with the finish, while I prepared the sawdust in advance. FYI Karson, the Shellac filler came off fairly easily with the scraper.

Conclusion, dewaxed shellac + fine sawdust in the right amount will do a good job filling in pores and will be a perfect match in color to the project at hand. That said – it does require some effort to get it done and might be easier to do as a prefinishing operation before gluing the project together.

By the way, All of this was done in a matter of ~5 hours from start to finish (literally).

I wonder if putting a couple of coats of poly on top of this would damage the shine (as an extra step to protect the box) any thoughts?

Now for the drawers…

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

21 comments so far

View littlecope's profile


3073 posts in 4007 days

#1 posted 12-31-2010 11:26 AM

That Finish is to die for Sharon!! Super Job!!

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

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3361 days

#2 posted 12-31-2010 12:14 PM

That is a great finish. Well worth the effort.

I would go for a hard wax (caranuba mix) finish.

That box likes it’s shine. :)

-- 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 bigike's profile


4057 posts in 3793 days

#3 posted 12-31-2010 12:43 PM

very nice work, smooth looken finnish.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

View AaronK's profile


1508 posts in 3969 days

#4 posted 12-31-2010 02:46 PM

nice finish – glad it worked so well. It seems much easier this way than with poly. I’ve never tried shellac, but i think i might have to now.

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2545 posts in 4462 days

#5 posted 12-31-2010 03:26 PM

I was just going to say I never tried using filler on open grain woods…always thought it was unnecessary…but you have achieved great results. Definitely changed my mind about grain filling. This box is going to look too good for the shop…


View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4751 days

#6 posted 12-31-2010 03:42 PM


-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Karson's profile


35201 posts in 4905 days

#7 posted 12-31-2010 03:51 PM

Sharon: I’m glad that the tip worked for you. There are many different ways to get the job done and you came off with a successful solution.

Nice job. I’ve used glue and sawdust to fill a crack and a hole. so using finish and sawdust to fill a million small cracks seems like the thing to do.

Using a scraper was a great solution to removing the excess. I’m assuming that you scraped cross grain or at a 45 deg angle and not straight with the grain.

Glad I was able to assist in your effort.

-- 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 moonls's profile


412 posts in 3491 days

#8 posted 12-31-2010 04:34 PM

What a beautiful finish! I’m going to save this method (with hints from Karson) for future use. Where did you do this finishing work? I think you said your garage shop was unheated and I assume you need temps above 50 degrees for this process.

-- Lorna, Cape Cod

View PurpLev's profile


8551 posts in 4153 days

#9 posted 12-31-2010 05:14 PM

Thanks everyone.

Lorna- I do the glue ups and finishing in the basement not the garage. the basement is insulated and temperature controlled.

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

View sras's profile


5191 posts in 3634 days

#10 posted 12-31-2010 05:28 PM

I like these blogs that cover a couple years from start to finish. It gives me a chance to find out about stories that started long before I joined LJs! This is a really nice box and a good blog to go with it! Thanks for the update.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3491 days

#11 posted 12-31-2010 05:50 PM

I’ve done this same technique, it works impressively well!

I have finished all of my shellac-covered items with a few coats of poly. It stays just as shiny (though do apply with care, you don’t want the goopy part to arrive when you reach poly!) and protects the shellac. My experience with this method is when done, there is a noticeable depth to the finish.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View PurpLev's profile


8551 posts in 4153 days

#12 posted 12-31-2010 07:05 PM

Thanks Lis. thats good to know. I’m still on the fence on this one, but may put 3 coats of wipe on poly on the exposed parts when I’m done with it for some extra protection as this is a user box and will probably be handled often.

Karson – I actually scraped WITH the grain as I figured the shaving action in not likely to pull the fillings from the pores as it cuts the finish on the surface line but that’s a good point. I’ll keep it in mind next time around.

and I forgot – David, this is not a box for the shop, it’s for a (crystal) beads jewelry maker to organize the beads and jewelry tools in.

And thanks again for the comments everyone.

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

View stefang's profile


16722 posts in 3839 days

#13 posted 12-31-2010 10:50 PM

Hi Sharon, great job on the fill job and the box. I wouldn’t hesitate to use poly in your situation, but I would apply 3 coats sanding in between each coat with 240 grit wet/dry and I would polish out the last coat with rubbing compound. Car rubbing compound works very well. No disrespect to another comment here, but I wouldn’t use wax on it if it will be handled a lot because even Carnuba smudges from fingerprints and it doesn’t much like moisture either (from experience).

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View blackcherry's profile


3343 posts in 4328 days

#14 posted 01-01-2011 05:04 AM

Please forward for a closer look…lol Great work on this piece Sharon it been a pleasure as always to watch and read about your working projects. Kudos on the use of French polish, I know it take the project to the next’s level. I bet it hard to keep your hands off, also Happy New Years…BC

View PurpLev's profile


8551 posts in 4153 days

#15 posted 01-01-2011 05:23 AM

Thanks folks, BC I think you’d need to stop by for that closer look ;) (open invitation anytime you’re around).

Mike – thanks, I think that’s what I’ll do. I’ll have to look for a car rubbing compound, never used those before.

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

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