figured wood finishing question.

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Forum topic by dakremer posted 08-11-2010 07:20 AM 3182 views 1 time favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2756 posts in 4067 days

08-11-2010 07:20 AM

Hey LJ’s I’m doing some research before i start to make my first ukulele (small guitar). I want to use a figured maple for the sides (maybe for all of it). When using a very figured wood, how do you finish it to get the the figure to really pop out?? or maybe a better way to say it is how do you enhance the figure and give it some depth? I’m also looking for a high-gloss look! Thanks a lot in advance.

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

12 replies so far

View Dez's profile


1172 posts in 5053 days

#1 posted 08-11-2010 07:35 AM

I understand that an oil finish followed by a hard film finish is the best way to pop the figure. I bet there will be more/better answers soon!

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View Crushgroovin's profile


234 posts in 3899 days

#2 posted 08-11-2010 07:46 AM

There is a video by Glen D Huey called “Finishes That Pop” that shows some great finish work on figured Maple. I have also watched a Charles Neil video where he uses a dark water based dye. He has a huge number of videos posted on uTube.

I am in the middle of replicating the Charles Neil finishing technique. Although I had some issues getting the dye all the way off, I probably should have sanded it smoother prior to applying it.

I first got some Black dye from Rockler. I mixed it with water and applied to the Maple. After it dried I sanded it with 12o grit until it was gone. I repeated the process for 150 & 180. I have now stained the piece with some Cherry stain. Next I will be finishing with a high gloss Poly/BLO/Denatured Alcohol mix. I plan to apply coats and wipe off then sand from 220, 320, etc until I like the finish.

There is a ton of stuff out there on finishing. I would suggest getting a couple of test pieces and trying different methods. It is what I am going to be doing starting this weekend.

Hope that helps.

-- I wouldn't be so arrogant if you weren't such a moron!

View TJ65's profile


1398 posts in 4025 days

#3 posted 08-11-2010 11:36 AM

I asked a similar question not long ago, so check some of the answers on this.

-- Theresa,

View Operaman's profile


153 posts in 4822 days

#4 posted 08-11-2010 06:01 PM

After trying multiple methods, I find that using a sanding sealer on curly maple (Zinnser Sanding Sealer – a 2 lb cut of dewaxed shellac) followed by either varnish or pre-cat laq (M.L. Campbell Magnalac) is an excellent way to achieve real “pop” in your figure, especially if putting it onto a hand planed surface. If I were going for a super high gloss finish, I would use Magnalac Gloss as the second step, allow it to totally cure for approximately 4 weeks (this is a MUST step), then use 4F Pumic and Rottenstone to rub the finish out. This is a sure-fire way to achieve unreal pop in the figure and a super high gloss sheen.

-- Cheers!

View Jim Crockett (USN Retired)'s profile

Jim Crockett (USN Retired)

852 posts in 4709 days

#5 posted 08-11-2010 08:54 PM

Crushgoovin, you stated “Next I will be finishing with a high gloss Poly/BLO/Denatured Alcohol mix…”. I think you would want mineral spirits here rather than denatured alcohol. DNA is not a solvent for poly and I don’t think it will mix with BLO well either. You might want to do some more research on this unless this was one of those mind thinking one thing / fingers typing their own thing.


-- A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including his/her life".

View Ripthorn's profile


1459 posts in 3960 days

#6 posted 08-12-2010 02:38 AM

It depends on your definition of “pop”, because there are really two different thoughts on the matter. The first is to have a lot of contrast between the different grains in the wood and relies on using a wiped on dye that is fairly dark. This is then sanded back so that the dye only remains on the portions of the grain that soaked more of it up. Then you can put on a lighter dye over everything, then a high gloss lacquer or poly. This is what PRS and a lot of other big guitar makers do. When I made my bass last year, I wanted more of the 3D effect, so I used a polymerized oil (Tru-Oil, a gunstock finish) which gave very good results, but not a high gloss, more of a medium to medium-high gloss when done right. However, you could do an oil, then a wash coat of shellac and then a high gloss finish of your choice. Of course, the secret to the high gloss is your finish sanding and buffing/polishing technique as much as it is the type of finish you use.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Sawmillnc's profile


150 posts in 4030 days

#7 posted 08-12-2010 03:26 AM

sand sand and sand. Take it up to 1000 grit after your varied coats and that will give depth.

-- Kyle Edwards,, Iron Station , NC (near Charlotte)

View Ken90712's profile


17919 posts in 4164 days

#8 posted 08-12-2010 07:29 PM

Thought you left for school? Hope all is well.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View dakremer's profile


2756 posts in 4067 days

#9 posted 08-12-2010 08:04 PM

haha i did – but its hard to stay away!!

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4743 days

#10 posted 08-13-2010 04:47 AM

Here is a link to the blog I did

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Ken90712's profile


17919 posts in 4164 days

#11 posted 08-14-2010 12:34 PM

Ahhh thought so!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View newwoodbutcher's profile


836 posts in 3826 days

#12 posted 08-18-2010 01:13 AM

I’ve had very good results with BLO popping figure then after a few weeks use the top coat of your choice, I like sprayed Lacquer I’ve also had great success with liberon oil which goes provide a high gloss but might not be durable enough for your ukulele if it gets a lot of use.

-- Ken

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