My Secret Magic Mix :)

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Blog entry by Don Kondra posted 12-05-2007 03:12 AM 9967 reads 47 times favorited 32 comments Add to Favorites Watch

If you dread the finishing part of a project as I used to, perhaps I can persuade you to give this mix/technique a try.

The idea of using an oil combined with a film forming finish is not new; this is simply the one I have settled on after experimenting with a number of different products.

An ideal finish should be easy to apply, enhance the grain and figure of the wood and provide a reasonable level of protection from normal wear and tear.

The soft hand rubbed glow is a bonus. If you want a shinier finish, apply more coats.

While we are at it, wouldn’t it be nice to have an easily repairable surface that does not require stripping.

This is it. Just give the surface a good cleaning, scuff sand with a foam sanding pad and reapply.

The application method assures there is no danger of brush marks or sags in the finish.

It dries fairly quickly so dust settling on the finish is not an issue.

The ingredients are as follows -

25% pure tung oil (available at Lee Valley)
25% spar (exterior) varnish
50% paint thinner
Japan drier – one capful per Cup of mix

Roughly a cup of mix will do a coffee table sized project.

I use this finish often enough that I mix up a quart at a time, without the Japan drier. Then I pour off as much as I need and add the drier.

Only mix up as much as you expect to use in two or three days, the drier will cause it to gel after that even in a closed container.

For the first coat I place an 8” square of T-shirt right in the container of mix.

Squeeze it out enough so it isn’t dripping all over the floor and apply to the wood, keep going over any thirsty spots for ten minutes or so.

Then firmly wring out the rag and use it to wipe the project off.

All other coats are simply wiped on and wiped off, again with the same rag.

The idea is to build up thin coats.

I have applied three coats in one day but I recommend one in the morning and one in the late afternoon.

I apply three to four coats on legs, etc. and at least six coats on tops. This may sound like a lot of work but a coat only takes minutes, it is similar to applying a coat of oil.

I sand lightly with fine foam sanding pads after the first coat and again before the last coat. A rag slightly dampened with paint thinner makes a good tack cloth or you can just use the air compressor to clean the surface.

After three days or so I will rub down the surface with white scotchbrite pads, always with the grain.

If the finish scratches you can wait another day or so for it harden further or continue to use the scotchbrite and wipe with the grain with a rag slightly dampened with paint thinner, this will dissolve any scratches.

If you are having a problem with streaking on large surfaces on the last coat, let it dry and apply another coat thinned another 50%.

It will take a week for the finish to fully cure.

BEWARE – If you substitute ingredients you are on your own

-- Don Kondra – Furniture Designer/Maker

32 comments so far

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 5337 days

#1 posted 12-05-2007 03:16 AM

I think the proof is in pudding. I have seen your website and bookmarked it under “Artisans”.
Thanks for sharing the formula.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View piper's profile


101 posts in 5315 days

#2 posted 12-05-2007 04:05 AM

I am one that fears the finishing I am going to try this its got to be better than what Ive beed trying


-- piper

View Don Kondra 's profile

Don Kondra

117 posts in 5124 days

#3 posted 12-05-2007 05:08 AM

Finishing should be the reward for all your hard work.

The grain and natural beauty of the wood in your project comes alive.

I do realize there is some mystery to finishing because of the amazing amount of products available.

This finish is my result of years of experimenting with hand applied finishes and should help you obtain acceptable results NOW.

As with all new procedures, Do a test piece first :)

Cheers, Don

-- Don Kondra – Furniture Designer/Maker

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14192 posts in 5221 days

#4 posted 12-05-2007 05:20 AM

Thanks for the finish recipe. will try it sometime.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View David's profile


1969 posts in 5377 days

#5 posted 12-05-2007 05:53 AM

Don -

Thank you sharing your recipe . . . I will be giving this a try in the future!


View Betsy's profile


3394 posts in 5134 days

#6 posted 12-05-2007 05:53 AM

thanks Don. This looks like one even I can use!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4074 posts in 5302 days

#7 posted 12-05-2007 05:58 AM

Don, why did you pick Spar varnish as a component? Do the UV inhibitors play into the choice? For interior work wouldn’t a alkyd interior varnish work as well without obscuring the grain. Just wondering… I don’t want to booger up any magic.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 5552 days

#8 posted 12-05-2007 06:17 AM

It looks great on your projects! I’ll put it on my to try list.

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 5304 days

#9 posted 12-05-2007 12:28 PM

Don that sounds like just the ticket. I’ll have to try it on one of my future projects. I appreciate you sharing your formula.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 5112 days

#10 posted 12-05-2007 12:55 PM

Ditto, I am going to try this.

View frank's profile


1492 posts in 5444 days

#11 posted 12-05-2007 02:08 PM

Hi Don;
—-this is indeed a great finishing mix!
I’ve used this one myself and know that there are some furniture makers who also use this on their works of Shaker furniture.

I also have actually even used this one in houses on the trim boards and baseboard as there is no build up or plastic look that comes from straight poly, as some of my past customers wanted a more subtile finish on their woodwork. I’ve used the 25:25:50 mix and a mix of 1:1:1, which seems to me preferable on interior trim housework. Then also I have substituted the spar varnish with interior grade poly. Also I have used boiled linseed oil as a substitute for the tung oil. One of the great features of this type of finish also is the low level of luster you end up with on your project.

I might add and I’m sure you just forgot to mention that this finish is ’highly explosive’ in the left over rags. We used to use a steel barrel for the rags we were desposing of and then at the end of the day, throw a match in and burn the rags up. Seems as if every day, by the time afternoon rolled around the barrel would be smokin’.

Great post and thanks for your sharing….

Thank you.

-- --frank, NH,

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 5200 days

#12 posted 12-05-2007 04:15 PM

Thanks for the recipe. I’ll try this one. I’ve used a 1.1.1 mix of BLO, Spar and Turpentine. I’ve used Japan dryer when I was oil painting but never thought of it in finishing.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Don Kondra 's profile

Don Kondra

117 posts in 5124 days

#13 posted 12-06-2007 03:17 AM

Douglas said – why did you pick Spar varnish as a component? Do the UV inhibitors play into the choice? For interior work wouldn’t a alkyd interior varnish work as well without obscuring the grain. Just wondering… I don’t want to booger up any magic

My memory is a little hazy, it has been a while since I settled on this forumula :)

But I think it was simply the assumption that an exterior finish would be a little more flexible and well, tougher. The UV inhibitors don’t obscure the grain and I have been told by other WW’ers they have used interior varnish with no ill effect…

And Frank, thanks for bringing up the WATCH OUT for the rags… you can never be too careful.

I use tobacco cans for the mix and when I am done with a coat, I simply throw the rag in the can and put the top on.

Once I’m done with finishing I throw the rag into my wood stove…

Cheers, Don

-- Don Kondra – Furniture Designer/Maker

View Karson's profile


35278 posts in 5638 days

#14 posted 12-06-2007 03:27 AM

Thanks Don. I’ve used BLO varnish and Mineral Spirits. and I liken it to Danish Oil. I’ve not used Japan Dryers.

-- 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 Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4074 posts in 5302 days

#15 posted 12-07-2007 10:34 AM

Thanks for the reply, Don! I’m going to give it a go.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

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