All Natural Top Coat

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Forum topic by HomesteadWoodwright posted 02-05-2019 12:46 AM 660 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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9 posts in 738 days

02-05-2019 12:46 AM

I have been dabbling recently with making my own all natural stains. I really like the idea of coloring and finishing a woodworking project with no chemicals from stains or finishes. However I can not find a decent all natural hard wearing top coat for my projects. I know could use shellac, but the issue I have with it is that heat and alcohol can damage the finish. Then there is bees wax or paste wax, but those need to reapplied to maintain a nice finish. So I would like to know if there is a diy all natural top coat finish that is as durable as polyurethane or is there way to prevent shellac from being damaged from heat or alcohol? Any other finish suggestions that will have fewer or no (preferably) chemicals in them would also be welcomed.

8 replies so far

View Aj2's profile


3178 posts in 2602 days

#1 posted 02-05-2019 01:16 AM

There’s a finish made by Rubio mono coat that’s supposedly very green non voc. I sorta remember its soybean based.
Its expensive.
For me I would just use shellac. Button lac is the hardest shellac but it does have color.
Why are you spilling your whiskey on your work anyway.
Maybe someone needs to cut back on the alcohol.

-- Aj

View OSU55's profile


2651 posts in 2794 days

#2 posted 02-05-2019 01:30 AM

Give up finding one that will perform like poly, just aint happenin. I think the Tried and True varnish people claim their stuff is “green”, I think by way of no metallic driers. I think Ive seen some polymerized “pure tung oil” with no metallic driers, heated to get the curing process jump started. May I ask why?

View HomesteadWoodwright's profile


9 posts in 738 days

#3 posted 02-05-2019 02:13 AM

LOL! Aj2 :) It’s not me I’m concerned about. I would like to make and sell some small furniture once I am happy that my skill will produce decent to high quality products. And I am trying to avoid any potential questioning of quality do to the finish getting damages from heat or alcohol.

The reason I ask OSU55 is because while i was researching some furniture ideas I came across an article where the author used a vinegar and steel wool stain on the project. Immediately after reading that article the freight train known as inspiration knocked me down the tracks of research to find ways to color and finish my projects that did not require respirators or well ventilated rooms. Something that I could use in my basement shop without causing my scent sensitive family members terrible headaches. Plus the fewer chemicals that are used are also better for the earth, and i also like to try and make as many the things I would use myself.

View CaptainKlutz's profile (online now)


3349 posts in 2299 days

#4 posted 02-05-2019 07:38 AM

+1 Shellac

‘safe’ wood color is easy: Transtint dye in de-ionized water carrier.
I prefer to use water/alcohol for faster dyring, or for non-grain raising alcohol/acetone carrier.

There are many safer water based top coat choices based on acrylic resins for amateur wood working. But acrylic is derived from petroleum, and not something you can make at home easily? General Finishes HP does a respectable job against alcohol and water spills. Just keep the picante sauce, and acetone away from it. It can safely be applied in basement shop.

Last but not least: Top coat with any chemicals? Good luck!

Hope you know that you are going to be working in same chemistry space with some of best minds in scientific world who want something similar – Safe low VOC top finishing coatings. :)

There are some epoxy resins made from ‘organic’ glycerin feed stock which is a byproduct from biodiesel (.vs. propylyene from petroleum) that is marketed as being ‘green’. These resins have made their way into zero voc outdoor industrial surface coatings for metal, as wood top coats seldom need epoxy finish. Not cheap due higher price of feed stock, these run about $150 gal in 5 gal pails. Challenge with epoxy is curatives are organic amines/imides which can never be ‘green’. There are some low odor systems, but they still out gas stuff you shouldn’t breathe and are not recommended in a closed space without ventilation.

When government labeled soy bean oil as low VOC oil in 90’s, it become a ‘green’ option to petroleum oils. It has a slight natural drying effect, purified versions can supposedly be used as oil top coat with very very long cure time. If can tolerate metallic drying agents and some mineral solvents (Japan Drier), you can make it cure faster. By adding driers, this is no different than BLO.

Epoxidized soybean oil is also ‘green’ alternative resin commonly used with acrylic resins in water based top coats. These are reasonably new and I have only seen products with it sold on commercial basis. Akzo Nobel is one of major players in these new systems. Most of this work is held as company secrets.
Patents and development cost recovery on several of new water compatible ‘green’ finishing resins makes them much more expensive than convention resins used for top coats. This is slowing the introduction into consumer markets as customers will not pay double (or more) for water/oil base coating just a little more green/safe, unless government regulations demand it. So primary markets right now are California and couple European countries demanding zero VOC commercial wood finishing.

The biggest challenge with environmental protection is you need a cross linked polymer. None of the vinyl, acrylic, epoxy, or polyurethane systems can be made without fractional distillation of hydrocarbons, and some serous chemistry formulation knowledge to create proper cross linking.
I personally would not call the next generation of ‘green’ wood top coating space DIY? :)

Best Luck!

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View bondogaposis's profile


5804 posts in 3156 days

#5 posted 02-05-2019 02:33 PM

Tried and True has a varnish that is made with polymerized linseed oil and pine resin. It is not a s durable as poly.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View SMP's profile


2249 posts in 710 days

#6 posted 02-05-2019 03:51 PM

Beware of what is called “all natural” as there really isn’t a standard. Anything truly without chemicals and VOCs isn’t going to be as durable as poly. There is going to be some tradeoff. Some decision you will have to make between durability, maintenance, and chemicals/VOCs. From doing a lot of research, Osmo PolyX seems to be the best option out there. There is another one that looks similar that my local hardware/hardwood store sellscalled Livos, but I need to do more research on it.

Osmo Polyx, there are a few types and sheens, but this is one:

View BalsaWood's profile


179 posts in 1963 days

#7 posted 02-13-2019 08:36 AM

Try the varnish oil from Tried and True like Bondo mentioned. I’ve used it on a couple bookshelves and it came out really nice and provided a nice protective layer. It took a long time to apply though and then dry.

View ArtMann's profile


1480 posts in 1620 days

#8 posted 02-13-2019 03:45 PM

Are you, in all seriousness, classifying vinegar (acetic acid) and steel wool (iron alloy) as natural non-chemical products? I think your definition of “all natural” is pretty arbitrary.

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