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A LITTLE HELP PLEASE! Looking for a bowl finish with low to no odor,

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Forum topic by a1Jim posted 10-25-2021 07:15 PM 1663 views 1 time favorited 37 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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a1Jim

118296 posts in 4859 days


10-25-2021 07:15 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hi Freinds,
I’m Looking for a bowl finish with low to no odor, my wife and I are extremely sensitive to odors. As a long-term Furniture maker, I know a fair amount about finishing and know that oil finishes really pop the grain on figured wood but they take a long time to dry and have a very strong smell for a long time after filling my shop with that strong smell for a long time, this is the reason I usually use a dye to color wood and bring out the wood grain and then a clear coat on top both water-based products with very low odor. Being fairly new to bowl turning I see many people sanding & finishing their bowls while it’s still on the lathe when watching bowl finishing on youtube videos. All said and done I’m hoping some of you have ideas. In researching online the best options for a low odor. finish seem to be wax or water-based finishes that I’ve tried and seem too plastic-looking. The wax options seem to be Beeswax (online some say it has a strong odor), Carnauba Wax ( some reviews say that in bar form it’s too hard to use on bowls), and Carnauba furniture Paste Wax.( not much online about that) I would appreciate on your take on any of these or another low-to know fume option.

BTW I’m not concerned about the aspect of the finish being food safe.

Thanks for your help

-- https://www.artisticwoodstudio.com/videos


37 replies so far

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SMP

4951 posts in 1188 days


#1 posted 10-25-2021 07:38 PM

I guess it depends. Personally I am SUPER sensitive to chemicals, so much so that I recently took a bunch of my finishes to the hazardous disposal event here. Some finishes I like:

Pure tung oil – smells good to me, takes a long time to dry

Walnut oil- smells good to me, dries ok

Home made BLO – smells fine, dries in a few days.

Here is where I contradict myself:
For finishing wine stoppers I make on lathe I use a BLO and CA finish. It makes my eyes water but it dries so dang fast I don’t even get a headache unless I am making a few. It only smells a few minutes.
Got the idea here:
https://www.wwgoa.com/video/super-wood-finishing-for-turning-001111/

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Lazyman

8204 posts in 2670 days


#2 posted 10-25-2021 07:58 PM

If the bowls are decorative (no food or washing), I really like Mylands Friction Finish. The Hut Crystal FF is also good. These are probably the my most used finishes on bowls and other turnings. They have some solvents but are basically a wax, shellac and BLO finish that is best applied while on the lathe. You use friction to set the finish which causes most of the alcohol and other solvents to flash off pretty quickly so the smell is mostly gone within a day or two. I’ve never noticed any significant smell immediately after application (and buffing) unless I put it up to my nose. It can be applied off the lathe but will benefit from a buffing that generates some heat. I have used it on several of my projects and is good for a glossy sheen though not durable when the bowl will need to washed. Check out my Orbsession project to see the results. I usually try to say what sort of finish I used on my turnings so you can look through some of the other ones too. You can mix your own friction finish without the wax using BLO and shellac.

If you use something like Tried and True finishes which use heat polymerized BLO, I actually find the smell rather pleasant but goes away after a couple of weeks. I usually bring them into the house to cure and I never noticed any strong smells during that time. I suppose this partly depends upon how long you are willing to wait for the finish to cure and what you find offensive.

I recently used General Finishes Wood Turners Finish. I think it used to be called GF Salad Bowl Finish. It does have a strong smell for a few days but dissipates pretty quickly, in my limited experience with it. I finished a bowl with it a few weeks ago and I can detect no smell now, nor have I noticed any smell for more than the first few days. It can be applied on or off the lathe. It leaves sort of a satin finish.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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Dave Polaschek

8795 posts in 1864 days


#3 posted 10-25-2021 08:05 PM

I use a homemade friction finish, which is more or less equal amounts of linseed oil and a 1# cut of shellac. I mix them on the rag, and apply to the piece on the lathe. My sweetie doesn’t like the smell of linseed oil, but the heat from the friction of the rag cures it very quickly, and the shellac seals the surface, and I can bring a finished piece inside and she doesn’t complain about the smell, as long as I make sure to buff it well.

I’ve also used tung oil with shellac to make a homemade friction finish and that works well, too. I use the pure tung oil from Real Milk Paint.

I’ve also been using Ack’s Wood Paste lately, and like that. It’s a wax and abrasive mix for the abrasive paste, which works well as a grain-fill on open-pore woods (it makes its own sanding dust and holds it in place with the wax), then I can use my friction finish over that, or use their polish. The polish is mostly carnauba wax, I think.

Finally, the finishing cremes from Real Milk Paint are no odor, no VOC, and produce a pretty nice finish on flat work for me, especially over paint, but I hadn’t thought to try them on a bowl until now. I suspect they’ll work nicely for that. If you have questions, you can call their 800 number and they’ll be happy to answer.

Hope this helps!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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OSU55

2893 posts in 3272 days


#4 posted 10-25-2021 08:08 PM

I dont consider wax a finish. Take a look at Mahoneys or Drs Woodshop polymerized walnut oil, the linseed oil prepolymerized hard wax oil finishes like tried and true, osmo, and others – no voc’s. Takes the walnut oil 2-3 months to actually fully polymerize bit its food safe anytime. Havent tried the linseed oil stuff so cant comment other than low odor that is not harmful. None are very wear resistant if that matters. There are shellac based friction polishes but you are dealing with dna and hi voc’s. All of the water based finishes will give a plastic coated look.

I use solvent based poly thinned 1:1 with ms and love it, but ms voc’s and the longish lasting odor are not what you want. Same thing with all the danish oils that are popular. Thats why I think the polymerized walnut or linseed oil based products w/o voc’s are your best bet.

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a1Jim

118296 posts in 4859 days


#5 posted 10-25-2021 08:36 PM

Thanks for your help SMP
unfortunately, Blo,& tung oil, are more odors that get to me but the process looks interesting and if the odor goes away quickly as I might give it a go, I haven’t tried walnut oil, worth a try. thanks for the link.

thanks, Nathan I wondered if burnishing while turning would help to make the solvents dry quickly . Thanks so much for all of the useful info, just wondering where you buy Mylands Friction Finish & Hut Crystal FF at and what kind of solvent they use? Very cool spheres thanks for the link.

OSU I would assume that wax would not be a real finish much the same as mineral oil is more f a treatment I’ve tried the Tried and True but if it clams no VOC’s I don’t find that to be true the bowl I tried still has an odor after 3 months. although I did not apply it with friction application on the lathe so perhaps that is the difference. wondering what kind of solvent is used in Mahoneys or Drs Woodshop polymerized walnut oil and where you buy it? Thanks for your help.

-- https://www.artisticwoodstudio.com/videos

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a1Jim

118296 posts in 4859 days


#6 posted 10-25-2021 09:00 PM

Hi Dave I guess I skipped over your post sorry about that. thanks for your tips on the homemade friction polish and other products. Thanks for your help.

-- https://www.artisticwoodstudio.com/videos

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Lazyman

8204 posts in 2670 days


#7 posted 10-25-2021 09:38 PM

I have actually applied the Tried and True Varnish Oil in the same way as a friction finish, though with a little more time waiting for it to soak into the wood before buffing, and heat seems to help speed up the curing time. You have to apply very light coats and several of them to get at least a little build up. I use this mostly on turned tool handles because I like the feel but I have used it on bowls too. Definitely a low sheen finish.

You can order Mylands at least on Amazon, I think but I’ve purchased both Hut and Mylands at Woodcraft or Rockler stores too. One reason I like the friction finishes is that it literally only takes a couple of minutes to apply and can be lightly handled immediate. By the next morning it is usually ready to display.

To find the solvents in any finish just search the name of the finish followed by “SDS” and you will usually find several links that will tell you about anything in the finish you might want to know about. Mylands and Hut both have Ethanol and/or Methanol. I think that one or both have some Naptha and maybe some acetone too. The buffing with friction will flash most of it off pretty quickly so if you are concerned, might warrant an appropriate VOC rated mask. If the solvents are a concern, I would definitely mix it yourself using one of the heat polymerized linseed oils and shellac, leaving only the alcohol VOCs which evaporate quickly.

EDIT: My Worm Caller was the first thing I finished with T&T VO as a friction finish. I applied several coats on the lathe in about 30 minutes if I remember correctly and it was pretty much ready for use a couple of days later.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8795 posts in 1864 days


#8 posted 10-25-2021 09:41 PM

You’re welcome, Jim! The finishing cremes from Real Milk Paint are zero-VOC, so that might be a good solution for you. I’m pretty happy with the low-sheen on flat work. I tried putting a little on a khaya egg I turned about 15 minutes ago, but I don’t want to comment on how it looks buffed on the lathe until after it’s had a chance to dry completely. I’ll try to stop back after dinner with an update.

All of the friction polishes will have some drying oil. The smell goes away quickly as the heat sets it, but there’s definitely an odor there while you’re applying it.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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Aj2

4129 posts in 3080 days


#9 posted 10-25-2021 10:50 PM

Rubio monocoat. It’s zero voc .
Kinda expensive and a small amount of thought Needs to go into mixing small batches.
It looks great and is by far the easiest finish to use.
I use pure oil.
Good Luck

-- Aj

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a1Jim

118296 posts in 4859 days


#10 posted 10-25-2021 10:53 PM

Thanks again Nathan for all of the great info I have to say I’ve never made nor seen a “Worm caller” totally unique project.

Dave , not quite sure what a finishing cream is? is it an actual finish or is it a top coating? Thanks again for the super info.

-- https://www.artisticwoodstudio.com/videos

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a1Jim

118296 posts in 4859 days


#11 posted 10-25-2021 11:04 PM

Thanks, AJ that sounds good but you weren’t kidding “kinda expensive” = $50 for a little under 12 Oz. 4+ oz less than a pint. I’d have to think about that one, it would take less thought if it were for a money-making project.

-- https://www.artisticwoodstudio.com/videos

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8795 posts in 1864 days


#12 posted 10-26-2021 01:00 AM

The finishing creme is a top-coat designed to go over Real Milk Paint to “toughen it up” a bit, but it’s basically a clear coat that offers some protection, and will enhance colors a bit. I wasn’t sure about it when I bought the smallest size to try it out (I like their paint, but often cover it with shellac and then poly, especially if it’s heading outside), but I’ve been pretty happy using it like a varnish without the smell. It doesn’t build a thick film, but it does change the feel a bit. Not sure exactly what’s in it, but I’ll probably buy the bigger can next time I run out.

The egg I coated with the finishing creme with nothing else on it looks kinda blah, so I’m not sure if it’s good all by itself, but I put a second coat on, and I’ll check it again in the morning.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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OSU55

2893 posts in 3272 days


#13 posted 10-26-2021 12:30 PM

I think the odor you smell from t & t is the oil and not solvents, but if its too much for ya so be it. PSI and other places sell Mahoneys and Dr Woodshop has a website. Clearly you have a hi sensitivity to certain smells, and no one else can judge whether a particular scent will be objectionable to you, so you will have to keep buying and trying till you find something.

I have tried Rubio without the catalyzer. Its available in small sample bottles. To me it has a non chemical smell that is nice, maybe cinnamon, and does dry to a semigloss. Very thin film. Would probably use it if it wasnt so hi $, but if it passes your smell test its worth it to you. The real milk paint finishing creme is worth trying, being wb I doubt it smells much or lingers long. Never tried it. You could try wiping some wb finishes. Ive never tried them since they set up so quickly and didnt have a reason to try it, but you do. None will create chatoyance in the wood, including that paint creme. Good luck in your search.

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a1Jim

118296 posts in 4859 days


#14 posted 10-26-2021 01:58 PM

OSU55
Yes, it’s very hard for the average person to understand my wife and I’s sensitivities, it’s very difficult dealing with being this sensitive to odors, we had friends that we adored that would invite us over to dinner but the laundry detergent they used gave me a terrible headache and made my wife physically ill, even talking to them even outside had the same effect. 98 % of soaps, detergents that say “sent free” still have more sent than we can take. I had to resign from my local city council because the person next to me deodorant made me sick and even migrated to my clothing without being in physical contact with them. For a while, our local post office used oil-type air fresheners that used scented oil and we had to have our son do our banking and trip to the post office for us. When our children visit they know that certain deodorants and laundry detergents affect us. Being this sensitive really does affects your life.
Getting back to finishing I have to wear a respirator even for WB finishes and have good ventilation in my shop to use them, during warm weather I may use some oil finishes outdoors with a respirator as long as I have a place to store that item out of my house and shop while it drys. All said and done I know having a thread asking a question about odors in finishes is going to be a mixed bag of responses because what is odor-free to most people is not to me. Thanks for your suggestions I guess from here on out it’s going to be up to me to experiment by buying some of what others say are low VOCs

-- https://www.artisticwoodstudio.com/videos

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OSU55

2893 posts in 3272 days


#15 posted 10-26-2021 03:29 PM

Forgot to state earlier – AFAIK all marketed and diy “friction polishes” contain solvent, either dna for shellac based or lacquer thinner for lacquer based. There are various mixtures of the finish, solvent, a drying oil, and may or may not have wax. I suspect all will be unacceptable to you but with an organic vapor cartridge respirator maybe you can use them. The voc’s go away pretty quickly since the solvents are very volatile (within minutes, though the vapors will still be in your shop air if not ventilated). They will have some smell for a few days.

I think the best thing for you to try next is the walnut oil and the Rubio. See if any type of shop sells or uses Rubio (or Osmo, you already tried T&T), and go there for a “smell” test. These would work well for most any turned item, but might not be the best where utensils are used.

Walnut oil – These are different vs what’s on the grocery store shelf, as they are polymerized to aid drying (no chemicals). I use Mahoney’s oil only, no wax, for salad bowls etc where utensils contact the wood and a hard finish is undesirable. I do not detect much smell at all, but you have to judge that. I tested the drying by placing a drop on hard plastic. It took close to 3 months to actually cure out and dry, and I spread it out thin. Some claim it dries in a few days, but what they do is just put a small amount on, and it soaks into the wood appearing to be dry. It isn’t. The item is usable immediately, but some of the oil may migrate to a cloth/hands (not harmful) and the wood may appear dried out fairly quickly.

Can’t comment on the oil and wax as I haven’t used them, but I surmise they will give a bit more gloss and not as much oil will be absorbed. The wax will seal the pores. The wax will wear off handled/used items, but the mix can be re-applied forever as needed. I think the oil/wax would be my choice for all items except those that see use/get handled a lot if I was in your situation.

For a higher gloss sand to higher grits – I go to 800. Can wet sand with oil and oil/wax to fill pores, though it can take months for the “paste” to actually cure and harden.

Either can be applied and then turn the lathe on to “friction” polish. With the oil, I soak the item down, let it absorb all it will for an hour or more (sometimes all day or overnight), add some if needed, them wipe off and set aside. Apply another coat a week or so later. Let sit for several days, then buff off on or off the lathe. My intention is to completely soak the wood so it will not soak up dressing or other liquids that come in contact with the wood. The owner can apply mineral oil, or get the walnut oil, and touch it up over the years as needed.

You can read up here:

https://bowlmakerinc.com/product-category/mahoneys-finishes/
https://www.doctorswoodshop.com/

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