Finishing a chessboard-Walnut, Maple, and Cherry

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Forum topic by Chad1172 posted 08-11-2014 05:28 PM 3644 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 1891 days

08-11-2014 05:28 PM

I just finished construction of a chessboard for my son. The edges are cherry, and the alternating squares are walnut and maple. I used my orbital sander with 80-grit sandpaper to knock down any high spots as well as remove a couple of glue spots, and that is as far as I have gotten at this point. My son wants a high-gloss, mirror finish on the chessboard itself, and this is where I am having some issues…..I know that I should fill the pores of the walnut, maple and cherry tend to be blotchy, and I want the high gloss on the walnut and maples “squares”, while leaving the cherry edges semi-gloss…I am planning on sealing all of the cherry (including the cabinent that the chessboard sets in) with 1# cut shellac, then water-based analine dye, then semi-gloss varnish. Any one know of a step-by-step process to fill in the pores of the walnut, not get the maple blotchy, and then get the whole thing to a high-gloss sheen? I haven’t decided if it would be worth it to dye the maple to “pop” the limited figure in the maple, or to use dye on the walnut. I could probably figure all of this out if the I was just dealing with just maple, or just walnut, or just cherry…but combined together it has thrown me for a loop.

7 replies so far

View JFred's profile


210 posts in 1844 days

#1 posted 08-11-2014 08:38 PM

Sending you some luck on this one…...... : )

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2784 days

#2 posted 08-12-2014 02:57 PM

View Chad1172's profile


6 posts in 1891 days

#3 posted 08-12-2014 03:08 PM

thanks! I wil have to check out the video…in the meantime, I am going to upload a couple of pictures of the project. This is my first official woodworking project.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2669 days

#4 posted 08-12-2014 05:22 PM

I’ve only done one high-gloss finish, but it turned out well and has held up. I actually didn’t want to, but that’s what was asked of me. I used Minwax Polycrylic, applied with a foam brush, several coats. Once it cured, I wet-sanded starting at 400 and going up until 2000, then waxed.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 1930 days

#5 posted 08-13-2014 06:00 AM

Steve’s video series on the hand rubbed finish for mirror gloss is the best out there.

2 critical things that i learnt from my chess board build (see my projects/blog if you want to read more)
1. Fill all the pores, no way around it, if you don’t do it, you won’t get a good finish
2. Be patient and do it by hand, don’t use a ROS or similar (don’t ask me how I know. :))

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View patrad's profile


51 posts in 2610 days

#6 posted 08-13-2014 01:37 PM

I think the Polycrylic route may save you a lot of pore-filling and different species headaches. I would do a test piece with the different species first and see.

View Chad1172's profile


6 posts in 1891 days

#7 posted 08-13-2014 02:08 PM

Thanks for all of the ideas!! I think I have settled on this route, let me know if there are any problems with my idea….

1. fill the pores with Timbermate Walnut….filling in with a plastic putty knife with the grain and then scraping off the excess going across the grain (shouldn’t affect the maple at all due to its tight grain)
2. after it dries, sanding it down and then applying a seal coat of Zinnser Sealcoat Shellaq
3. after that dries, sand down the seal coat and apply several (5-6) successive coats of Arm-R-Seal wiping varnish, sanding inbetween each coat after it dries with increasing grits of sandpaper (sanded by hand, with the grain, until there are no glossy areas seen)
4. after the final coat of Arm-R-Seal, which will be diluted, and after there are no shiny spots indicating that there are no “valleys” in the finish, then I will begin the waxing process to bring the board to a high-gloss sheen.

I will have to tape off the cherry (the border around the actual chessboard) really well…....I am planning on using an analine dye, sealed with shellaq, and then applying Arm-R-Seal for the cherry

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