All Replies on Durability of Sam Maloof's Finish

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Durability of Sam Maloof's Finish

by Marshall
posted 11-01-2012 08:52 PM

27 replies so far

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 2471 days

#1 posted 11-01-2012 09:03 PM

maybe a thin wiping varnish? (i’v never used maloof’s finish)

-- Joel

View Domer's profile


252 posts in 3783 days

#2 posted 11-01-2012 09:20 PM

I have been lucky enough to see a couple of Sam Maloof’s pieces in person and they are beautiful. The Boston Fine Arts Museum has a program that allows you to sit is some of their furniture. I think it is called Please Be Seated or something like that. One of Sam Maloof’s benches was in the program. I assume that it was finished with Rockler’s Sam Maloof finish. I have seen a couple of videos where Sam Maloof said that he used the Rockler Sam Maloof finish partly because they gave it to him for letting him use his name on it. Obviously all of the furniture in the Please Be Seated program get lots of use and the piece we were able to sit in, showed no signs of wear.

However, I use the Arm-R-Seal Satin finish on walnut and use three coats and sand in between each one with at least 360 sandpaper. To me, it looks a lot like the Sam Maloof finish on walnut.

My 2 cents worth.


View Fuzzy's profile


298 posts in 4405 days

#3 posted 11-01-2012 09:39 PM

Look at the “components” ... OIL … zero protection … TUNG OIL … almost zero protection … VARNISH … good protection … EXCEPT that now it is not only diluted, but actually contaminated. Practically every can of varnish I’ve ever used cautioned that it should only be used on surfaces that are clean, dry, and free of oils.

When you “blend” those three ingredients, they are just that … a BLEND … NOT some magical chemical compound. Each molecule retains it’s original properties. If an oil molecule hits a wood cell, that cell is contaminated … if a varnish molecule hit a virgin wood cell, that cell is protected. Net result …approximately 1/3 of the cells are protected, and 2/3 never will be … BUT … they look nice.

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

View CharlesNeil's profile


2483 posts in 4288 days

#4 posted 11-01-2012 09:48 PM

what sheen Arm R Seal are you using, the plastic look is purely a matter of sheen, most finishes are actually a form of a plastic, which is what makes them durable, tell me the sheen and lets see what we can do here, Arm R Seal in my opinion is a very difficult finish to beat , I have it on steps, floors and on and on, we just need to get the sheen correct, I have several friend who have done the Maoof thing and it does look good, until about 6 months or a year later, then it just seems to die, because it finally dried out, they redid them in Arm R Seal, or Waterlox, and they still look great,

View RBWoodworker's profile


441 posts in 3769 days

#5 posted 11-01-2012 09:54 PM

I have done many many Maloof pieces and have taught classes on how to build the famous Maloof chairs and at this time, I am currently making a Maloof rocker that was the very last rocker that Sam made, but the kicker is it’s NOT like his classic’s totally different. a picture of it can be seen on my website if anyone is interested in what the new design looked like..anyways..back to the finish..I have used Sam’s finish on just about all of furniture, but came to realize that the finish, while although looks good, does not last and has no protection properties..thus my switch to the actually gives me the same look and feel that Sam’s finish does, but also allows a better protection.. this is exactly what Charles said’s a sheen issue..on this chest your making, trust me, your nephew will not be looking at what finish you used but the wear and tear will be considerably more noticeable over time when the Maloof finish dries and becomes dull thus Sam’s recommendation of re-coating once a year.. with the Arm-R-Seal, you won’t have that issue and any water damage will not be an issue with the Arm-r-seal but as you found out, will be with the Maloof poly blend.. and No, the wax will not offer any better protection either..

Link to the new rocker below

-- Randall Child

View Marshall's profile


151 posts in 2472 days

#6 posted 11-01-2012 10:19 PM

Thanks everyone for the replies. I’m new to the site (and relatively new to woodworking), and I’m amazed by how quickly people respond and with great advice!

I’m using Arm-R-Seal Satin Oil and Urethane Top Coat. In addition to the “plasticy” look, I’m seeing a ton of dust in the finish. I looked back at a few of my other projects around the house, and I dont see the same issue (again all in qswo). I dont know if its a technique issue, if the difference in the wood is making it more noticeable, or if my basement is just a lot more dusty now.

I’m using a foam brush to apply. I try to keep the coats as thin as possible but still provide complete coverage…

Thanks again everyone for the advice and suggestions!

-- Marshall -

View RBWoodworker's profile


441 posts in 3769 days

#7 posted 11-01-2012 10:30 PM

can you take a picture of this dust your talking about and send it to me? I’m curious at to why your getting this and maybe I can offer a solution..

-- Randall Child

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10640 posts in 4469 days

#8 posted 11-01-2012 10:39 PM

I think I can safely say…

If Sam Maloof developed it, used it, and made it available for others to use, you KNOW it is the Best finish that he would use on his work.

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

View Dave G's profile

Dave G

335 posts in 2465 days

#9 posted 11-01-2012 10:41 PM

Hi, Given it’s a kids piece I personally would put at least one top coat of poly on it. Wears like woodpecker lips; looks very good. I think it has the best compromise between durability and appearance.

I have put the poly over Watco oil without problems on lots of pieces over the years.

It should be mentioned that there are some very good general finishing references available cheap:

This is Flexner’s.

-- Dave, New England - “We are made to persist. that's how we find out who we are.” ― Tobias Wolff

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3468 days

#10 posted 11-02-2012 02:31 AM

The thing is, Maloof’s finish is mostly oil. He developed it because it looks GOOD on walnut. Protection is relative. Kids can tear up a woodpecker lips finish and you would still be left with trying to repair it. That would be hard. Oil finishes are easy to apply and easier to repair. If they’re not going to be using a chemistry set on it, I would use the Maloof’s.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View Fuzzy's profile


298 posts in 4405 days

#11 posted 11-02-2012 03:05 AM

I remember Sam giving an interview in which he said something to the effect that he needed something quick & easy, so he tried his blended finish. He NEVER said it was optimal, or even good … just quick & easy. All the wannabees jumped on it with the above stated logic that if Sam used it on HIS OWN projects … it must be simply wonderful. Problem is, it offers almost zero protection from anything … but, it IS quick & easy.

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

View RBWoodworker's profile


441 posts in 3769 days

#12 posted 11-02-2012 04:58 AM

The “Oils’ in Sam’s finish not only amber the grain, but also pop’s the figure where there is figure. Shellac does that also, but is harder to apply.. Sam’s finish is foolproof in simply wiping it on and then wiping it completely off. It’s hard to fail with a finish so simple.. Don’t get me wrong..I have used his finish and still use it where it calls for it, but if I want protection..I have to use a more durable finish..if I want the same look but a more durable finish..I use the Arm-R-Seal or I spray shellac followed with a varnish of my choice..there’s a lot more work when using the other finishes, but they offer better protections..

-- Randall Child

View CharlesNeil's profile


2483 posts in 4288 days

#13 posted 11-02-2012 12:18 PM

Ok, here we go, now before you chastise me on this, try it, it is one of those things, we have done for years and it simply works, as we have discussed sheen is the issue with looking like plastic, and oils in a heavy film like the Arm R Seal are definately more prone to collecting debris, because of the long open time,. The trick we use here with the spray deft, is done to simply lay down a satin sheen ( they have other sheens), it dries super fast and leaves a very thin film, but over time as the finish wears, it remains the same, the lacquer is almost negliable , again we have done this for years, and never an issue, but be sure to test. Just give your Arm R Seal a light scuff with some 600 to be smooth,( it should be dry enough to dust when sanded) and just do a single wet coat, if it needs more let it dry and repeat, You can also rub the finish to a desired sheen, but this is just way too simple and easy , again try it before you knock it, but also be aware your using a flammable lacquer product and take precautions, I also just got some minwax satin lacquer, did well

Don’t want to hammer on this, but when you understand that the sheen is the plastic look, not to say a totally grain filled ,slick surface doesn’t have a more plastic look than a surface that the grain pattern shows, but the sheen is the big deal, here is another example

View Everett1's profile


213 posts in 2951 days

#14 posted 11-02-2012 01:23 PM

My vote is for SAMs method

The kid is going to beat it up no matter what. Fixing SAMs finish will be my h easier than a straight up poly finish

I personally switched to a mix of blo/spar/min spirits. Works great. I stopped with tung since its expensive and spar replaces the waterproofing that it added. So easy to fix later on and make the piece look brand new

-- Ev in Framingham, MA

View Manitario's profile


2762 posts in 3300 days

#15 posted 11-04-2012 04:19 AM

In essence, the Sam Maloof finish is just a variation on Danish Oil, or any other number of oil/varnish blends on the market. If the Sam Maloof finish makes the walnut look good, then use it, and then just wipe on a few coats of wiping varnish for added protection.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10640 posts in 4469 days

#16 posted 11-04-2012 04:32 PM

Here are a few links to shed a little light on it… (hope so, anyway)

My Website Finishing section

The Sam Maloof Combo recipe

The Sam Maloof cans.

It really is good stuff… IMHO

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

View Jim Jakosh's profile (online now)

Jim Jakosh

22855 posts in 3523 days

#17 posted 11-11-2013 01:31 PM

Try Forby’s Tung Oil finish. It takes 3 coats to bring up the gloss but it shows the grain beautifully. But, I have not tried the durability with a wet object on it. I should try it and report back!

I put wipe on poly over the Forby’s and that looks good too!! I found that wipe on poly does not give that plastic that look of brush on poly. It depends on what look you want, I guess

Thanks for the post. Gets us thinking!!......................Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View pmayer's profile


1048 posts in 3482 days

#18 posted 11-11-2013 02:43 PM

I sat in a Maloof rocker that was 30 years old, and the finish was in bad need of being refreshed. Maloof was a brilliant designer and craftsman, but he wasn’t a chemist. The thing that I like about this finish is that it is easily repaired as Ev pointed out. What I don’t like about it is the need for maintenance because I find that I never actually do it.

-- PaulMayer,

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2778 days

#19 posted 11-13-2013 07:59 PM

Waterborne poly.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View MN2's profile


1 post in 1474 days

#20 posted 07-04-2015 06:40 PM

You can achieve the luster of Maloof oil by using Sikkens CETOL 1 (color 78, Natural) followed by waxing and buffing with Mylands wax. It’s an outdoor stain, so be sure to work with good ventilation.

View RobinDobbie's profile


147 posts in 2152 days

#21 posted 07-04-2015 07:32 PM

I’m probably wrong about whether or not what I’m about to say applies, and if so, I hope someone doesn’t feel bad about immediately pointing it out. However, didn’t I used to hear that new oil finishes should be reapplied once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, then once a year thereafter? Otherwise they will just look terrible in no time and not really have the moisture protection that they could potentially have. That said, I’m usually the type of joker who just vomits 3 or 4 coats of polyurinate on stuff and calls it a day. I do know that in time, the crosslinking that occurs in urethanes will eventually make the finish really brittle and the finish will need to be completely removed with a sodablaster or whatever.

As far as dust nibs on poly, I do know that some 800-1200 grit sand paper followed by a rubbing compound with a buffer would work. I wonder if a clay bar would work like they use to clean overspray on cars?

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 2266 days

#22 posted 07-05-2015 04:43 PM

I agree with Charles Neil here. A lacquer finish, like Deft, will give you the same look, while providing a great deal more protection than a finish which contains wax and oil. Any finish, as long as it’s applied thinly enough, will give you that “close to the wood” look. As an interesting side-note, I’ve read that most Scandinavian teak furniture is finished with a thin coat of conversion varnish, rather than oil.

View saltcod's profile


69 posts in 1570 days

#23 posted 07-09-2015 01:43 PM

Hey all

Quick sidetrack question about the the secret “recipe” from Maloof.

I’m reading that it’s:

— 1/3 pure tung (,190,42942)
— 1/3 polyurethane varnish ( like wipe on poly?
— 1/3 beeswax (this one I know!)

Is that poly the right one? Or would that work?

View itlldo's profile


3 posts in 1151 days

#24 posted 01-10-2017 03:32 PM

I’ve used Maloof, Waterlux and 1/3 blo,mineral sprints and minwax poly. They are all acceptable but my best finishes have been achieved with Arm-R-Seal applied with a rag and prepping the surface with 400 grit and mineral spirits.
With a drying time of 4 hours and a ambient temp in my shop of 63 degrees I can apply numerous coats (usually 12)
and the results are stunning. I used to use Briwax but the natural sheen with thin coats makes the surface life like and the color and the clarity on walnut and cherry are exceptional. Check out Mark Cremora’s video ” My finishing process #12” on you tube. Fast easy and simple and very durable. ( Its passes the watering test). I will not longer bring BLO into my workshop because of the fire hazard.

View itlldo's profile


3 posts in 1151 days

#25 posted 01-10-2017 03:36 PM

Hey all

Quick sidetrack question about the the secret “recipe” from Maloof.

I m reading that it s:

— 1/3 pure tung (,190,42942)
— 1/3 polyurethane varnish ( like wipe on poly?
— 1/3 beeswax (this one I know!)

Is that poly the right one? Or would that work?

- saltcod

View itlldo's profile


3 posts in 1151 days

#26 posted 01-10-2017 03:41 PM

Go to the video by Dave Picciuto “The Drunken Woodworker” Your recipe is what he uses. I personally have never had good success with BLO. If your shop is not above 65 degrees it take forever to dry and it gets sticky and the lustre is fair.

View Kirk650's profile


655 posts in 1165 days

#27 posted 01-10-2017 05:14 PM

I used Waterlox satin on the blanket/toy chest I made a couple months ago. Looked great. Took it to the niece, and we put it in her little daughter’s room. The little kid ran to it, climbed on it and did a dance on it (in shoes). My heart almost stopped, but I made it for the kid. If she wants to dance on it, that’s fine. The dance did no damage to the Waterlox.

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