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Finishing for a Jewelry Box

6868 Views 6 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  DrDirt
Well, any highly figured wood I guess….

I am finishing off two jewelry boxes and have applied two coats of oil over the last 24 hours.

This is one of the weakest areas when it comes to my hobby of woodworking so, here's a question (or two) for those of you who would like to share.

Is two coats of oil enough to finish the box off or would you add a third? When is enough, enough?

Wax over top of the oil or some other finish?

Thanks in advance…...
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I'm working my first box as we speak… and the amount of coats is just a personal choice, I think. I prefer the method of putting the finish on, then taking it all off with 0000 steel wool (not for water base-use sandpaper). Then, I do it again… coat and then remove. I keep doing that until I like what I see.

I read where many do use wax. I am not in favor of it as a personal choice. I think wax draws and holds moisture and dirt. You have to strip off all the wax if you ever needed to refinish or repair.

With today's products, I can't tell much difference between an oil finish and a poly finish, and I can't tell much difference between water base poly and oil base. I don't have equipment to spray, so my put on - rub off method works for me. May not be suitable to all.

I don't use stain… I prefer the clear coats and let the wood do the talking. If I'm using cheap wood (pine) I'm into the habit of simply painting while still using the put on take off method. Yeah, takes time… but I end up with smooth finish that acts very durable.
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Hey Don
With oil you seal off the grain with two coats so more won't add an color or more protection. A lot of box makers use wipe on poly in comes in oil and water base.
Don, first of all, the two coats of oil is fine… you don't need any more.

As far as where to go from there, it's largely a question of personal preference and what you want the finished product to look like. Just applying paste wax at this point will give you a nice look. But if you want a "deeper" looking finish, you'll want to go a little farther.

Polyurethane is the finish of choice for most hobbyists like us because it is much easier to work with than lacquer. Oil based has a slight amber color that will warm up the appearance of your finish. Water-based, on the other hand, is clearer and will not alter the color of your finish at all. FWIW, I usually prefer the look of oil-based. Also, since you are going over an oil finish, you stand less chance of an oil-water reaction if you stick with oil.

If you go with oil-based poly, you definitely want to wipe it on. Either buy the kind ready made for wiping, or make your own by mixing regular poly 50/50 with mineral spirits. I like to wipe on several coats, allowing at least 6-8 hours between coats, then sand back a bit with 400 grit. This will leave you with a whitish, awful-looking mess of a finish, but it should feel extremely smooth to the touch. Now wipe on another coat or two very carfully to avoid any runs or drips, and you should have a beautiful, smooth finish.
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Hi Don,

I'm with the others in saying that it depends. I usually ask the client what they want and show them samples of both. One coat of oil are plenty to deepen the figure of the wood and bring out the grain. I tend to disagree on the protective side though. I have found that the more coats of tung oil I add, the better the protection, especailly if it's only getting a wax finish on top. I usually go up to 4-5 coats of tung oil with 24 hours drying time in between coats.

If the client prefers the feel of bare wood, then I will buff with tripoli, white diamond, and then wax. This gives a nice glossy finish that is very smooth and natural to the touch. If the client wants super high-gloss and durability, then I use Charlie's method of above with 50-50 wipe-on poly. Very shiny, not quite as "natural", but very resistant. I usually do about 4-5 coats of wipe-on.

In the end the client's tastes, or yours, should dictate the finish, and not one person's preferred method.
Which brand of tung oil do you use?
I use a waterlox for many projects - If I do a dining table there are 4-5 coats…which is realy gaged by having enough that there is a film build on the surface for protection.
For nightstands, or boxes that dont get that kind of abuse - 2 coats is enough. Comes down to the look you want to achieve. More coats builds a film some find feels like plastic instead of wood, and the gloss builds.

So Stop if you want a more natural feel. you can dull the finish with 0000 steel wool and bring some of the shine back with wax.

Answer is it depends what you want it to look and feel like

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