Reclaimed driftwood finishing?

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Forum topic by woodcheese posted 06-17-2018 01:52 AM 843 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 1276 days

06-17-2018 01:52 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing reclaimed wood driftwood clock

I have this piece of driftwood that looks to be an old piece of a 4×4. It was found washed up on the beachfront of a cottage of someone I know. I thought it had some pretty interesting character, and that a bolt going through it at the top would make for an interesting 12 o’clock to make it into a clock face. It’ll be given to the owner of the cottage when it’s done.

Being waterlogged, I let it dry out for quite awhile, and scrubbed it with a bleach and water mixture. It will get some cut nail heads in the hour positions around the clock face, and I’m going to mount it to a wenge base for stability.

I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to finishing, and I’m wondering what exactly I should do? I’m thinking I’d like to use something that has more of a matte finish than a gloss finish, and something that will let the character of the wood show through. Should I use something that will seal it? Should I just use some type of oil finish? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

5 replies so far

View GrantA's profile


2107 posts in 2009 days

#1 posted 06-17-2018 09:19 AM

Paste wax, old toothbrush and heat gun (or hair dryer) is all you need for finish on that! Post pics, we like to watch!

View AESamuel's profile


100 posts in 1824 days

#2 posted 06-17-2018 10:56 AM

To be honest, I rarely finish driftwood. It’s already broken down significantly in the saltwater so adding a finish isn’t really going to do a lot for the wood, only change/preserve the look. Driftwood has quite a distinct “dried out” look (ironic, having been soaked in water for a long time, eh?). If you add a finish it will look a bit more filled out and refined but perhaps lose some of the rustic charm.

If you did want to add a finish, paste wax will help to seal the wood without changing the look too much. Buff the wax off pretty much straight away – if you leave it to dry then it will buff to a high sheen.
Boiled linseed oil will preserve the wood and stay very matte, although it will add “warmth” to the wood through a slight colour change but that is personal preference.

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John Smith

2128 posts in 764 days

#3 posted 06-17-2018 11:06 AM

once you put a finish, any kind of finish, on driftwood, it takes something away
from its true beauty. the saltwashed and sunbaked patina is gone, and gone forever.
it becomes “just another piece of wood”. if you wanted to do anything to it,
you could make some rusty nail heads and install them for the hour markers.
(don’t use the whole 3” nail, just cut a 1/2” of the head off, sand it a little, and rust it).
[don’t use furniture tacks – that just makes the whole thing look “tacky”].
good job ~ as it is ~ leave it alone.

google: “driftwood clock photos” to get an idea of how other people have done theirs.


-- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --

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John Smith

2128 posts in 764 days

#4 posted 06-17-2018 03:50 PM

if you do choose to use rusty nail heads, first, the metal must be degreased
and lightly sanded with 200# paper. you can make a quick and safe
accelerated rust promoter with a half cup of hydrogen peroxide and a half cup
of kitchen vinegar and a tablespoon of table salt (or sea salt). swish it around
a few times a day and the next day you will have ornamental rusty nail heads.

-- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --

View woodcheese's profile


6 posts in 1276 days

#5 posted 06-17-2018 11:31 PM

Thanks everyone. That’s all very helpful. I’m leaning towards leaving it unfinished at this point to keep that driftwood characteristic look. The paste wax and boiled linseed sounds interesting to me, but I’m hesitating at this point. I just wasn’t sure about the need to put a finish on this to help preserve it over time, but it sounds like going without a finish will be fine. I guess the seawater has provided it’s own finish.

Thanks, John for the tips for the nail heads. I’ll definitely be using that recipe to rust the nails. I have some cut nails from Tremont Nail Co that should help keep with the rustic, aged look.

I’ll post pics when it’s all done.

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