Walnut and birdseye maple box finish questions.

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Forum topic by OldBull posted 09-27-2020 02:31 PM 387 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View OldBull's profile


220 posts in 181 days

09-27-2020 02:31 PM

Good Morning,

I am inching my way toward my first hardwood project, a jewelry box. I have purchased padauk, walnut and birdseye maple. Three different woods but I intend to use only two and I suspect it will be the walnut and birdseye. In my reading and watching I am trying to figure out the finish. I thought I had run into only one pre – finish option (wood conditioner) when I see two more. Sanding sealer and grain filler, so now there are three or maybe two if they are the same.

I have a total of 6 cans of finishes.

1. new can of minwax wood conditioner
2. new can of watco danish oil black walnut dark
3. new can of denatured alcohol
4. new can of oderless mineral spirits
5. very old can of minwax provinvial 211
6. very old can of minwax red oak 215

I am willing to purchase more if needed.

I would appreciate any insight into a finish for this box. The lid will be walnut with birdseye insert. Finishes are still a little confusing as I have it somewhere in my head that some finishes clash and I will get it wrong.

I am hoping for a semi gloss finish.

Thanks for any help
Old Bull

12 replies so far

View Zort's profile


38 posts in 652 days

#1 posted 09-27-2020 02:37 PM

I am in the process of finishing a chess board made of walnut and maple. I am trying a French polish, which consists of rubbing a mixture of shellac, denatured alcohol and oil. It is turning out well, I think.

View OldBull's profile


220 posts in 181 days

#2 posted 09-27-2020 02:56 PM

@Zort if you get a chance can we see pics?

View LesB's profile


2627 posts in 4329 days

#3 posted 09-27-2020 04:44 PM

The list you provided are not finishes.
Do you intend to add a stain to the color of the wood or stay natural?
Very old cans of finish are not good to use (more than 1 or 2 years old throw out)...old stain usually is OK.
Both walnut and padauk have open pores in their grain which may need filling if you want a smooth finish. Maple does not normally have open pores but with birds eye there may be some “chip” out of the eyes when it is cut or planed and they may need to be filled.
Sealers should not be needed unless you are using stain and want to control the penetration (mainly on the birds eye)

For a natural finish I would use an oil like BLO (boiled linseed) or processed Walnut oil. The oil will make the grain show better (pop or bling as some call it). With several coats these will build into a surface finish that can be waxed and buffed to a satin shine, but it will not be as hard as Lacquer, poly, Shellac, or varnish. You can also apply a top finish over these oils after they have cured for a week or so.
Always sand lightly with 320 or 400 grit between coats; especially the first couple of costs.

For a small project like this you can get spray cans of all four of these but there is also wipe on poly and Shellac can be wiped on using a lint free cloth. The wipe on is very easy to control but takes more coats to build a finish.

-- Les B, Oregon

View Bstrom's profile


138 posts in 59 days

#4 posted 09-27-2020 04:51 PM

To get a look at the wood finished naturally – no stains – you can wipe it down with Mineral Oil and determine if the results would be desirable before coloring the wood. I stain mostly to deepen a wood’s color, not change it, but that’s not the case for everyone. Just use scrap to see if the stain will make you happy first!

-- Bstrom

View OldBull's profile


220 posts in 181 days

#5 posted 09-27-2020 05:21 PM

Thanks for the replies. My terminology I am sure is wrong as I have just begun to think of finishes. I believe I do not want to stain but to deepen the existing wood. I have also begun to like the padauk more and more. As I read and look further I am thinking shellac or wipe on polly.

What color shellac flake would work with walnut, or with padauk ? would shellac look good on the birdseye?

So I guess to clarify, I wouold use shellac or wipe on poly after I use the wood conditioner. The shellac or poly would go on soon after the conditioner. If I get the shellac or polly completed and want more gloss can I use something further like laquer?

Thanks for having patience

View Picken5's profile


324 posts in 3578 days

#6 posted 09-27-2020 07:31 PM

I’m with Bstrom — I’d much rather avoid staining altogether. I wouldn’t use wood conditioner at all. Wood conditioner is typically only used prior to staining anyway. (I prefer oil-based poly, but I know many have great results with water-based poly.) Shellac or polyurethane are both fairly clear finishes that are easy to work with in my opinion and either will darken the wood somewhat. Once you’ve sanded your project, you can get a good idea of what it will look like with just shellac or poly on it by wiping it down with mineral spirits. Mineral spirits (like most finishes) will deepen the tone and actually darken the wood a bit — and when it dries, which is usually just a matter of minutes, the wood returns to it’s original color. It’s a great, no-risk, way to see what your project will look like when finished.

No, you don’t need to add laquer to get more gloss. I usually use satin polyurethane, but it’s readily available in glossy and semi-gloss. If I want more gloss after applying satin poly, I rub it with 0000 steel wool and then with a plain cotton cloth (or sometimes just a paper towel) — i.e. the old hand-rubbed finish. And applying paste wax will also increase the gloss.

Here’s a link to a walnut jewelry box I built a number of years ago. The only finish I used was oil-based polyurethane.

BTW, I love the contrasting look of walnut and maple. They’re great choices of woods for most projects.

-- Howard - "Time spent making sawdust is not deducted from one's lifetime." - old Scottish proverb

View Spaceballs's profile


9 posts in 33 days

#7 posted 09-27-2020 07:43 PM

Hi Old Bull- I had written a good bit earlier and I never posted it because I got sidetracked doing some things at home, so I am going to post it but I want to add a little more to it before I do. One very important thing to mention though…. People spend countless hours in designing their project, getting the materials, preparing, cutting assembly, etc. and then they don’t do the necessary research or study before applying the Finish. An improper finish can nullify the prior detail work on a project so it pays to do the research before putting on the finish. That little tid-bit of info came from Mr. Flexner’s book I suggest you get later on in this message. Make samples first is always a good idea too. Something about 3” x 5” x 1/4” or near that size and sanded to the same grit as the project. And for your samples, try to use wood that is the same color and grain as your actual project, the woods match, that helps. Practice makes perfect. If you can, work with somebody who understands and does wood finishing, if they will take you under their wing for a summer. Maybe volunteer to help him finish, do some sanding, staining, get involved, you will learn a ton hands on. There is a Great book I recommend titled Understand Wood Finishing: How to Select & Apply the Right Finish by Bob Flexner. It has great info but also great pictures and hundreds of them (a picture is worth a thousand words) . It is a 30 buck book but you can find it on Ebay for under 10, well worth the cost, jump on it. Now, I see your comments about Shellac and Poly, please realize, that Shellac is a Alcohol base and the makers of shellac do not recommend you topcoat it with Poly, a mineral spirits based item. If you want to see a pretty color, put some orange shellac on Walnut and you get that amber glow old walnut is known for but shellac is not the hardest finish available, it can be pretty but but not very durable. Also, Shellac has a shelf life, as do all finishing materials, but shellac is more effected and shorter than others, by time. Tell you what I’m gonna do, since my other Post is so long- I’m going to send it separate too, I want to see your project, I know it looks grand. I’ll send you a picture of a church we did in town if you want. Also, I have a little bit of Brazilian Rosewood left from a job we did in the early 70s, before the tree was put on the endangered species list and prevented from being harvested in the Brazilian Rain Forest. I feel very fortunate. Also, the gentleman above is incorrect in stating none are finishes. The Watco Danish Oil is indeed a Finish. It contains special oils and varnish. Watco Danish Oil is a hand rubbed finish technique, unlike other topcoats that sit on top the surface the Watco product is absorbed down into the pores of the wood where it hardens and becomes part of the wood. I have seen instances when Watco was speced by architects on bank jobs for custom furniture such as bank counters, check desks and board of directors offices. I had already written a little about the Watco product in my other message that is coming next, although I wrote it first, so sorry if I repeat a little. You will also see new things too. Does that make any sense? I hope so….

-- Mark of Dixie Woodcraft

View OldBull's profile


220 posts in 181 days

#8 posted 09-27-2020 09:42 PM

Thank you all, @Picken5, @Spaceballs, LesB, Bstrom, Zort, It is very much appreciated. So what are your suggestions for finish. In most cases I like to learn but I think in this case an absolute “use this” will be best for me. I will include a pic of the wood I have. Off to the left is my completed cut list for my box joint sled.

Does the mineral spirits trick show if the wood will get blotchy??

View JohnDi's profile


86 posts in 2320 days

#9 posted 09-27-2020 10:08 PM

What you see with the mineral spirits is close to what you will get with a clear poly. Blotching occurs when stain is applied.

View cowboyup3371's profile


173 posts in 1084 days

#10 posted 09-27-2020 10:22 PM

I built a few music boxes for my daughters and wife using the same woods and though the first one had an Ebony stain applied to the walnut and lacquer on the birdseye maple, the last three only had lacquer on all woods. Personally, I liked the lacquer only better approach for those woods.

-- Cowboy Up or Quit - If you are going to quit than get out of my way

View LesB's profile


2627 posts in 4329 days

#11 posted 09-28-2020 10:13 PM

You asked for a straight answer. Assemble the box. Apply a coat of processed Walnut oil. Let it cure/dry for several days. Then apply several coats by hand of either wipe on poly or clear shellac. Sand lightly between coats. After the top coat has dried for a week or so apply a carnauba paste wax with a white 3M pad and buff with a soft cloth. You can hardly go wrong doing this.

-- Les B, Oregon

View SMP's profile


2678 posts in 791 days

#12 posted 09-28-2020 10:49 PM

First project? IMO if you want to have success and not be overwhelmed, go buy some General Finishes Arm r Seal in whatever sheen you like and rub on 2 or 3 coats. Done.

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