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I'm trying to help out a non-profit veteran support group. They had a volunteer who was having wooden nickels (wood disks) laser engraved, then he was applying finish to them and they were then given to veterans who completed a therapeutic program. Unfortunately he died. We found his material source (Hobby Lobby) and his engraver (a local trophy retailer who has a laser engraver) and thought we were good to go. Then I started to experiment with finish. I am convinced the finish is lacquer. I applied four coats of Deft rattle can lacquer, each coat was like pouring water into a sandbox trying to make a lake. It still isn't sealed. I took another coin and applied four coats of rattle can shellac. Same thing, not sealed. I took it to a friend who lays down a lot of lacquer. He is also convinced the finish is lacquer. He sprayed from a gun three coats of M.L. Campbell pre-catalized lacquer. It was still sucking up finish like a sponge and so added a fourth. Looks the same. He mixed up a small batch of what he called conversion varnish, I presume a this is some sort of catalyst added to a different lacquer. Exactly the same result with four coats.

Before I started this process I had been looking for alternate sources for the blanks because bags of four at Hobby Lobby were going to be pretty expensive for the volumes this organization wants to do. One of the places I talked to said they once upon a time were a supplier to Hobby Lobby. He said it was Chinese Maple. I don't know if that simply means it's maple that grows in China or if it means it sort of looks like maple so it gets called that.

It looks like the disks are sliced from a log of the right diameter, in this case, two inches. Therefore the entire engraved surface is end grain. Finishing it so that it has a smooth satin finish is what has to happen. I am at a loss and I need your help. I have to believe someone else in LJ land has had this problem on knows the solution.
 

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Did you use sanding sealer under the lacquer or just the lacquer? Even the lacquers that say they act as their own sealer will not seal end grain as well as a good sanding sealer, at least in my own experiences.
 

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What species is the wood? Tighter grained wood will work better, more porous grained wood will act more like a sponge.
 

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Casey' Wood Products is a possible supplier. I've had good results buying from them in the past. The 2" stock is imported but there are some other sizes that would be domestically-produced.

Sanding the discs to burnish the surface would probably reduce the absorption.
 

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I would try filling a sealable container with brushing lacquer and dump in a quantity of wood coins and let them soak over night. Do it on a few as a test. This will give the lacquer enough time to penetrate and soak up as much lacquer as needed to fill the wood. If it works, this would be a quick way to finish a large number of pieces.
 
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