finishing mahogany

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Forum topic by spamfilterman posted 03-23-2010 05:43 AM 3780 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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149 posts in 3293 days

03-23-2010 05:43 AM

Topic tags/keywords: mahogany finishing

I’m working on a tv stand. I’m using mahogany plywood for the carcase and solid mahogany for the top, face, legs, and drawer fronts.
Problem… I’m not sure how to finish it.
On my other projects I’ve just used a few coats of Arm-r-Seal, and that has worked fine.
The mahogany I bought for this project seems noticeably lighter in color than what I’ve used before. A test of Arm-r-Seal on it just seems too light. I don’t think the wife would approve of it – she demands something a little darker.

So, any suggestions? I like easy, one-step/one-product finishes.
How about Watco oil? If so, which color should I try in order to bring out the mahogany-ness?

8 replies so far

View davidpettinger's profile


661 posts in 3471 days

#1 posted 03-23-2010 03:01 PM

hey spamfilterman,

Mahogany can be a little tricky. It depends on the openness of the grain. You may need to apply a grain filler before you final finish. My suggestion is to give Old Masters a call and talk to them. They can help and their products work very well.

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View jevarn71's profile


83 posts in 3431 days

#2 posted 03-23-2010 10:22 PM

Not sure how dark you are needing, but one trick I will sometimes use if I need to slightly darken mahogany is I will place it outside in direct sunlight. Of course you will want to be sure all machining and sanding is finished prior to doing so. To see how dark the wood will get, try it first with some scrap pieces by covering part of the wood so it doesn’t get any sun. You might be surprised.

As far as finish, I usually just clear gloss polyurethane. To get a very smooth surface I’ll do 3 or 4 coats, rubbing with #0000 steel wool after each but the final coat. Even after the poly, over time, the mahogany will continue to darken on its own.

Here are some before and after pics of my mahogany china cabinet. The poly alone will darken the wood.

-- Jason, JEV Woodworking

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149 posts in 3293 days

#3 posted 03-24-2010 03:19 AM

Thanks jevarn71, maybe I’ll leave a piece of scrap out tomorrow and see what happens.
I’ve tried just a coat of Arm-r-Seal, and it just didn’t darken the wood enough.
I also tried a coat of Dark Walnut Watco oil, and it was just way too dark brown.
Maybe I’ll try the Red Mahogany Watco next, but I hate to have to keep buying finishes that I’ll probably never use again.

View Cozmo35's profile


2200 posts in 3307 days

#4 posted 03-24-2010 04:55 AM

Sand, Sand & and Sand it, between sanding use Wipe-On Poly.

-- If you don't work, you don't eat!.....Garland, TX

View Jon Spelbring's profile

Jon Spelbring

199 posts in 4524 days

#5 posted 03-24-2010 03:36 PM

Amber shellac then armor seal then wax? (I’m about to finish a jewelry box, and that’s what I’m planning to use)

-- To do is to be

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3445 days

#6 posted 03-24-2010 08:58 PM

Just completed a couple of night stands, from African Mahogany—hardwood for the carcass and top; ply for the side panels.

Here’s what they look like after: – sanding to 320 grit – two “flood coats” of Watco Danish Oil (Natural), applied with a foam brush – one coat of Watco, applied with 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper – two coats of paste wax, applied with 0000 steel wool

Good luck!

-- -- Neil

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149 posts in 3293 days

#7 posted 03-26-2010 04:13 AM

Thanks, I noticed that the 2 tops in your nightstands are different colors… is that just because the color of the wood varies that much?
I really like the color of the top on the left one, but I’d be really happy with either.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3445 days

#8 posted 03-26-2010 07:40 AM

The finishing was done the exact same way, so … yup … it was the difference in the wood.

Here’s a picture of the original stock from which the night stands were cut:


I took my chances by using such dramatically different looking wood for the tops, but … kinda’ like the way it turned out.

That may give you some idea of the effect that the Watco had. Incidentally, it was the “Natural” colored Watco—in theory, it didn’t impart much color to the wood. That was my goal.

Have fun!

-- -- Neil

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