Finishing handrail

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Picalilli

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Hi
Not sure if this query really sits well on a woodworking forum, but I’ve been wanting to get started with woodworking anyway so seemed like a decent forum to join in preparation for that, and thought it would be a good place for advice on wood fonishanyway!

I’ve been working on stripping the old layers of paint and varnish from the wooden handrail on my stairs bannister with a heat gun. I can’t be sure but I think it’s mahogany (photos attached)

now that the thick is off Im planning to sand it down and clean with wire wool and white spirit (unless there’s a more suitable cleaning product?)

My quandary is what product to use when it’s ready to be finished? I want to try and keep the natural appearance of the wood as much as possible, and would prefer a Matt finish, so I’m not keen on varnish (but I’ve read that people just have a bad idea of varnish due to it often being applied badly).

I’m leaning towards either danish oil or hard wax oil (like osmo or Liberon)...any advice on the pros and cons of these? Or anything else I should consider?
 

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scholar

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It’s difficult to tell what the wood is on my phone (as if I would know anyway!)

Regarding finish, I am a complete convert to Osmo hard wax oil and use it for many things, certainly would for this application. I have it in satin and matt finish (not sure if there is a gloss). I find the matt finish very flat, so prefer the satin finish.

Cheers
 

scholar

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Incidentally, having stripped most of the old layers off, you may find it best to go over it all with some steel wool and meths or other solvent/stripper. I guess the original varnish was the gloopy type that is hard work to sand back.

it’s going to look very nice.

cheers
 

Picalilli

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Thanks - yeah, I’m planning on sanding with p80, then cleaning with white spirit and wire wool, then sanding with p120 and a final clean with the white spirit. Looking good so far, just don’t want to ruin all the work with the wrong finish. I am leaning towards the osmo oil
 

Picalilli

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Actually just realised that you meant clean with stripper and wire wool first. That’s a good call. Started sanding and the residual varnish was just clogging up the sandpaper straight away, so cleaned up first and took the thick off
 

smackie

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The Osmo satin would look really nice on the handrail. Takes a fair bit of wear too.

Not sure how you have it finished underneath but I’ve seen some nice restorations where they refinished with the bottom where the spindles fix into the rail painted the spindle color (so you‘d end up with a nice clean white middle section of rail the width of the spindle). The rail top, sides and first 1/3 underneath either side get finished in Osmo.

Only mentioning it because I once skimped on this bit and regretted it until I did it properly. 🙄

Cheers!

Scott...
 

Picalilli

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Thanks - that’s a good suggestion actually. It would also deal with the problem that I’ve not been able to get those bits properly sanded back (see photo).
 

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smackie

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Ah, yeah. That’s pretty typical. The channel that the spindles sit in often didn’t get a lot of love when it was made (I’ve seen some really rough ones). It is fiddly to mask and paint the base of the spindle channel neatly (especially on a long stair) but you do get the effect that the natural wooden rail is wrapped over the painted wood support, which is quite nice and draws the eye to the finished wood. You can paint some cardstock and insert it between the spindles to get the basic effect before you commit.

Cheers!

Scott...
 

Picalilli

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That’s a good idea too - it does sound worth doing but will put some card in first to see.
Definitely think I’ll go for the osmo oil now.
 
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