Give a newbie some finishing tips!

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by kthornbloom posted 09-24-2014 08:02 PM 1309 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View kthornbloom's profile


16 posts in 2677 days

09-24-2014 08:02 PM

Topic tags/keywords: walnut maple finishing hall table

Hello, this is my first post here. I’ve got several small projects under my belt, and would like to start my first “real” one with traditional joinery. It’s going to be a walnut and maple floated-top hall table:

Since I always seem to struggle to get a nice finish, I thought I’d ask you pros! I’m looking for a satin finish, preferably with a bit of amber to make the grain look nice. What finish type & method would you suggest for a beginner? Should I apply before or after assembly?



8 replies so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30660 posts in 3672 days

#1 posted 09-24-2014 08:07 PM

2 coats of Danish oil, sanded lightly. Then coats of lacquer with light sanding between coats.

Welcome to Lumberjocks

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View ChefHDAN's profile


1837 posts in 4184 days

#2 posted 09-25-2014 03:30 PM

Arm R Seal seems to be a top favorite around here. I’ve just started weaning myself off of the convienence of buying miwax or other items at the big box stores and going with General FInish products, the difference in the end product and the easy of appllication have made it very worthwhile to get the better product shipped in.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View waho6o9's profile


9132 posts in 3911 days

#3 posted 09-25-2014 03:41 PM

Practice on scraps first, and a lot of it.

Write the recipes on the back of the scraps you like and save them if you wish.

Welcome to LumberJocks!

View RogerM's profile


809 posts in 3733 days

#4 posted 09-25-2014 03:49 PM

I first use Minwax Golden Oak to get a nice warm color on walnut. The best way to get the golden amber color on maple is to use a dye. I use a water soluble dye (#SKU: 2100, medium walnut Aniline Dye made by Moser)
which can be ordered from Bartley Furniture Kits. My finishing schedule for maple follows. You can see this finish in a set of curly maple cabinets in my projects section.

The finish is a multistep process which I have come up with based on a lot of trial and error. First sand the stock to 180 grit sandpaper. Wet the stock with water then sand again when dry. To get the curl to come through on curly maple you need to use a dye. I use Moser’s water soluable dye (it is a powder that you can get from Bartley’s Furniture Kits website). I mix this using two cups of water to 3/4 teaspoon of dye powder. After this dries lightly sand with slowed down random orbit sander (400 grit) then put on a second coat and sand again (400 grit). Let this coat dry at least 4 hours then put on a coat of Seal Coat diluted with equal parts of alcohol (I use a chip brush for this). After this dries (at least an hour) rub down with 00 steel wool or use the random orbit sander using 600 grit (you can get this from Klingspors). Follow this coat with successive coats of polyurethane diluted with equal parts of mineral spirits (I rag this on until I get the sheen that I want). The cabinets have three coats. Finally, lightly sand the final coat with a slowed down random orbit sander with 1000 grit (Klingspor’s again). Rub down the entire surface with Minwax Finishing wax applied with 0000 steel wool and buff. Rather lengthy but hope this helps.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View JonHitThingWithRock's profile


97 posts in 3056 days

#5 posted 09-25-2014 03:54 PM

Arm-R-Seal, or Ace Hardware Polyurethane, thinned by half with mineral spirits, applied with clean t-shirt material. do the first coat then sand lightly with 220, 2nd coat then sand with 320, 3rd then 400, 4th then 600, 5th then let cure for a week or more, wet sand with a mixture of mineral spirits and mineral oil with 1000 grit then 2000 grit, clean off with mineral spirits and a clean cloth. apply finishing wax with 0000 steel wool, wipe off within 5 minutes with microfiber towel.

That’s my finishing regimen, works well but takes a couple weeks due to drying time. I do basically the same thing with spraying water-based finished, except i can get all 5 coats done in a day.

View kthornbloom's profile


16 posts in 2677 days

#6 posted 09-25-2014 04:02 PM

Thanks for the feedback guys. There should be some kind of warning that woodworking is 90% finishing before you get into it. :)

I’m assuming I should do all this after assembly, right?


View OSU55's profile


2938 posts in 3324 days

#7 posted 09-25-2014 04:26 PM

You have already made a giant leap in improving the finish of your project – you are considering it before you ever start the project. I find it interesting folks will spend weeks or months designing and building a project just right and then just slap on some simple finish. I view the final finish as 1/2 of the project.

The best recommendation is to educate yourself on finishes and finishing. The next giant leap is learning that finishes and finishing is science, not some secret black art, and education will do that. You don’t have to be a scientist or engineer. I highly recommend Bob Flexner’s “Understanding Wood Finishing” and Jeff Jewitt’s “Great Wood Finishes” or “Tauntons Complete Illustrated Guide To Finishing” by Jeff. They differ in some info and have different preferences. Both have info on waterborne finishes, and provide just enough finish chemistry knowledge so you know why some things work and other things don’t. Both of these guys made a living finishing furniture. Many praise Charles Neil’s new book. I have not read it, but knowing Charles style it is probably not technical enough to fully understand the chemical aspects.

There are so many ways to achieve what you want that it is difficult to answer the questions. I prefer to finish any glued joints after assembly. Typically tops, doors, shelves – anything that bolts or screws together gets finished then assembled. I design furniture with the finishing process in mind.

Do you spray, brush, or wipe finishes? How scratch resistant do you want it? Is water (condensation from drinks) a concern? Chemical resistance? Fumes during finishing? Filled grain? How much film thickness do you want? The books I mentioned cover all of these aspects and allow you to make decisions on how to proceed, and what you may want to do in the future for other projects.

Probably the easiest and cheapest is wipe on, as long as you don’t want a lot of protection/film thickness. For a “close to the grain” finish I use solvent Poly diluted 25-50% (any brand works for me), keep the surface wet for 5-10 minutes with a brush, and wipe off. Let dry 4-6 hrs, do another coat. Before the final coat, very lightly sand nibs with 600. If I want some film thickness, I will use a very fine brush to apply a thinned final coat. The poly will pop the grain and add some light amber color. Sheen has a lot to with popping the grain, the more gloss the more the grain will pop. This is just as good, as easy, and cheaper than all the danish oil, watco, and other oil finishes that are just thinned urethane finishes.

I love shellac, but it’s a challenge to do large surfaces like a table top by brush. Water and chemical resistance is not very strong, and you would have to add flatting agents or rub the gloss down.

At any rate, welcome and good luck!

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

7356 posts in 3827 days

#8 posted 09-25-2014 05:32 PM

Second that suggestion about Flexner’s book. Should be required material in nay woodworking shop. Anyway, an oil based varnish will give you the amber color for the maple, and will darken the walnut. I would suggest a non poly varnish, but that’s only because I don’t like the appearance pf the polyurethane formulas (looks plastic to my eyes). For me the varnish would be Pratt and Lambert 38 (alkyd/soya oil) or Sherwin Williams Fast Dry Oil Varnish; probably the second if I wanted the amber tint. It’s an alkyd/linseed oil varnish, and much more amber than the P&L. I’d apply it as a wiping varnish, thinned 50% and wiped on (at least 6 coats). I like that table design, should turn out quite nice.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics