Bringing out the deep 3-D chatoyancy in English Sycamore

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Forum topic by Durnik150 posted 05-10-2009 07:31 AM 2257 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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647 posts in 3857 days

05-10-2009 07:31 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question english sycamore bandsaw sander clamp sanding finishing shaping modern

I recently completed 2 boxes from English Sycamore (ES) with a standard band saw technique. This is the first time I have ever used ES.

I laminated layers of ES with the top layer being the most vibrant figure of the wood. The reptilian scale pattern was amazing! Usually with a band saw box the end grain is either oriented to the top/bottom or to the left/right. Not wanting to lose the beautiful rays in the wood, I rotated it toward me 90 degrees so the end grain was facing me. It worked out well and you can barely even see the glue lines, partially because that front face now has a drawer built into it.

With this little switch I was able to display the ES pattern across what was now the top of the box. I got to the moment of truth, the first layer of the finish which usually brings out the deep 3-D glow and depth. I applied the natural stain and was very disappointed. It did enhance the pattern’s contrasting rays but didn’t provide much depth. Hoping that it might just need a poly coat to deepen it, when it was dry, I moved in that direction.

I applied the thinned polyurethane and, when dry, rubbed it down with 0000 steel wool. Two more layers followed. While the rays are vibrant and do have a little chatoyancy, I was hoping for a much more striking result.

Am I barking up the wrong tree (literally!) with the ES by expecting it to glow and reflect like curly maple? Did I take or not take a step that would have brought this out more? Several photos of the project are in my projects section. I don’t have them on-line anywhere else online so I can’t import them right now. Any feedback or opinions would be welcome!

-- Behind the Bark is a lot of Heartwood----Charles, Centennial, CO

3 replies so far

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4302 days

#1 posted 05-10-2009 02:02 PM

I believe that aniline dyes are the “cleanest” way to add color to wood. Traditional stains tend to be muddy and/or flat. The aniline dyes penetrate deep with color pigment.

I typically apply the water based aniline dye very liberally. I then rub the surface with a wet paper towel. After it dries, sand the entire area with fine sandpaper. Repeat the process using another color, thus creating complex layers of color.

Check out some of my vessels. Although I tend to work with vibrant colors, the same process can be used with traditional colors to achieve a more subtle effect.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View a1Jim's profile


117742 posts in 4112 days

#2 posted 05-10-2009 05:55 PM

If any one has his color technique down Joe does he produces some of the most vibrant colors an beautiful figures on LJs

View Durnik150's profile


647 posts in 3857 days

#3 posted 05-11-2009 02:25 AM

Excellent suggestion Joe, and thanks for the information! I have seen your work and have been very impressed to say the least. You’re right Jim, the A1-Go to man answered my inquiry and I appreciate it!

Now, let’s see,....Maple? Sycamore? Redwood burl? Ah, where do I start?

-- Behind the Bark is a lot of Heartwood----Charles, Centennial, CO

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