Made hickory table I'm proud of, nervous I'm going to mess it up with finish

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Forum topic by Dougan posted 12-21-2015 07:15 PM 2568 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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14 posts in 2207 days

12-21-2015 07:15 PM

Made these calico hickory tables for my parents for Xmas to put in their cabin (most of their furniture is “rustic”, like peeled pine, cedar, etc.)——still need to attach the lower shelves but you get the idea.

Anyway, I’m nervous about the finish. I was going to apply BLO but I’m not always a huge fan of the yellow color it gives lighter woods. I was wondering what others would do. Would you be OK using BLO here or would you prefer something else? I’m really looking for something to bring out the contrast in the lighter and darker wood parts.

Also, if I did apply BLO, it would be nice to do something to the tabletop to make it a little more smooth. I have beeswax around—I’ve put this on cutting boards before with success. Would I be crazy to mix some beeswax with BLO when I do the table top?

Really I’m just lookign for reassurance—Proud of what I’ve accomplished here so I’m nervous I’m going to ruin it with a bad finish. :)

Thanks in advance, and merry christmas.

21 replies so far

View HokieKen's profile


15334 posts in 2056 days

#1 posted 12-21-2015 07:41 PM

I’ve never used it, but have seen where people use a BLO, mineral spirits and beeswax mixture for a 1-step oil/wax finish. If I remember correctly, you just shave some beeswax in the MS and let it dissolve overnight (no idea how much wax) then mix the solution 1:1 with the BLO.

Like I said, never used it, just passing it along. Not sure what, if any, advantage there is over BLO then wax over it.

Whatever you do, I’d definitely recommend testing it on some scrap of the same material before applying to your tables.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View TheFridge's profile


10861 posts in 2404 days

#2 posted 12-21-2015 07:49 PM

You can gently heat the mix to encourage the wax to melt.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

6575 posts in 3411 days

#3 posted 12-21-2015 07:53 PM

A couple of things: you mention BLO as though that would be the only finish (?). While it will darken the wood and yellow over time, it also is not suitable as the only finish (IMHO). BLO is best used as a colorant, it gives (to my eyes) wood a nice look in most cases. While I’m at this point, I did think mixing it with wax (if that’s the sole finish) would be crazy. The thing to do: take a piece of scrap, and apply some BLO; let it sit 15 minutes and wipe it off (follow all safety precautions with the rags used). If you like the look, consider using it…but with a topcoat of some kind. Or, if you are considering using an oil based varnish, it will usually give about the same appearance along with a tough film to protect the piece (that’s what’s lacking with just BLO). To make the top more smooth I would probably apply 2-3 coats of an oil based varnish (not polyurethane, but that’s just me) and let it cure several days, then sand it back a little and apply another coat…the final coat would be very thin and applied with a rag (wiping varnish). The doors in the pic below (ignore the glare) are hickory and that’s how I finished them, maybe that will give you some idea of the affect the varnish has, this was a soya oil/alkyd resin varnish so it’s not quite a dark as a linseed oil formula.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

7042 posts in 4112 days

#4 posted 12-21-2015 08:13 PM

If you want to bring out the color of the wood, and make it “pop”, I’d use Watco Danish Oil first…..I’d put on 2 coats, letting each dry plenty good….Then I’d use a good fast drying top coat…maybe 2-3 coats…..

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View conifur's profile


954 posts in 2069 days

#5 posted 12-21-2015 08:15 PM

The MS, BLO and beeswax is a 1-1-1 mixture, I have used it and works nice, very reparable.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 3279 days

#6 posted 12-21-2015 09:20 PM

BLO ain’t a finish. Better to just smear it with some muddy water.

-- 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 bonesbr549's profile


1588 posts in 3985 days

#7 posted 12-21-2015 09:48 PM

BLO ain t a finish. Better to just smear it with some muddy water.

- Clint Searl

_+1 on that. It takes for ever to dry will never harden, and is just yuck (IMO). Take some scrap and try several things. If you are not use to finsihing, water base is a good choice as it’s pretty fool proof and will dry quick. General finishes is a good choice. For a top coat high-performance is good. Waterlox is excellent, but requires 24hrs between coats. Wipe on poly would be an easy win, but I don’t like the plastic look. Shellac will work, but is subject to water rings etc, but is super easy to repair.

Try several things on scrap

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3214 days

#8 posted 12-21-2015 10:17 PM

Do you have an idea where and how they will use the tables? If by a chair and a coffee cup or glass of cold water or a well watered plant will be set there I’g go for a harder finish like polyurethane. You could also use shellac if you want to get it done quickly. Shellac is extremely easy to touch up.

The mineral spirits/BLO/ wax formula is interesting—I saw that online as a recipe for an automotive undercoating as well. I mixed some up on a hot plate substituting bar and chain oil for the BLO and added a small amount of paraffin that you buy in the canning aisle of the supermarket. Shot it under my car and it hopefully will creep into some of the rusty crevices. The mechanic who changed my oil didn’t car for it dripping on him though.

View conifur's profile


954 posts in 2069 days

#9 posted 12-21-2015 10:23 PM

Linseed oil takes forever to dry, BLO has a drying agent in it. Shellac is a fast drying finish but if a wet glass sits on the table it will water mark.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View endgrainy's profile


251 posts in 2806 days

#10 posted 12-22-2015 01:30 AM

I’d go with wiping varnish like General Finishes Arm-R-Seal. It’s very easy to apply and does a great job of mimicking the grain pop of oil but has the durability of varnish. I use it on most of my projects because I can’t be bothered to learn new things :)

Shellac is also a good alternative, but less durable. I don’t have a lot of experience with BLO, but am not a fan.

Great tables, btw!

-- Follow me on Instagram @endgrainy

View ThomasChippendale's profile


244 posts in 1850 days

#11 posted 12-22-2015 03:22 AM

One coat sanding sealer or shellac, light sanding, 4 coats GF Enduro-Var semi-gloss sanded 220 grit with a block between coats, and give the top underside a coat of primer also at the same time so it does not warp.

-- PJ

View Dougan's profile


14 posts in 2207 days

#12 posted 12-22-2015 03:42 AM

Thanks everyone. This has been very insightful.

I’m going to start with the danish oil (natural) for the coloration. I gave it a test run on some scrap wood and holy cow does that look nice. I bet everything I’ve used BLO on before would have looked better with the natural danish oil. My work with hickory has been limited so far and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it took the oil. I’ll apply that tomorrow. Once that’s done I’ll try to figure out what sort of final shellac/varnish/whatever I’ll put on the table tops.

I plan for them to be bedside tables so I could see a glass of water ending up on the tables. So just the oil probably isn’t enough.

Thanks again, and feel free to keep the ideas coming—I still don’t know what the top’s going to look like yet.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

7042 posts in 4112 days

#13 posted 12-22-2015 06:36 AM


Any time you’re working with any kinds of hardwoods, once all the parts are sanded through the different grits, to remove the dust residue, and get it ready for staining/varnishing/poly, wipe it down with mineral spirits first….the grain will “pop”, and the natural beauty of the wood will come out….It will show you exactly what it will look like with a finish on it…..Let the m.s. dry good (about an hour), and then use a clear danish oil on hardwoods like Walnut, Oak, Cherry, etc. to give the wood a deep, rich color….I personally don’t like stains on natural woods. Just d.o. and a good top coat like poly…..You can even do this on laminated plywoods like Walnut, Oak, etc.

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View joey502's profile


558 posts in 2436 days

#14 posted 12-22-2015 07:16 AM

I would stay away from BLO on hickory, I made that mistake before. It looks good on the darker browns but the light colored portions will get a very yellow color to them.

The light shellac seal/ base coat topped with enduro- var as mentioned is a good choice for hickory.

View Robert's profile


4154 posts in 2399 days

#15 posted 12-22-2015 12:24 PM

I built a large kitchen of hickory (never again!! ;-) and elected to go with just Polyacrylic with no oil or stain and I think it looks great. It has darkened a little over time and now after 7 years mine has taken on a quite pleasing tone.

Sounds like you’ve got it figured out.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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