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Finishing & Staining Mahogany

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ByronBlack

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Hi Guy's

I'm coming up to the stage where I need to start buying the supplies for finishing a mahogany occasional table that i've currently making. I'm a little confused as to the order and technique in finishing this item. I need to stain it dark to match other furniture in the house.

I've done a little reading, and this is the order/technique I think will work, I would appreciate if someone could give me some advice as to whether this is correct.

1. Grain fill - I have clear grainfiller for this
2. Apply a couple of coats of shellac as a sealer
3. Cut-back with 320 grit to get level
4. Apply the stain on top of the shallac sealer coat
5. Cut-back with 320 and a further stain coat
6. Apply wax (carnauba or bees) and buff out

Will this do the job, have I missed anything out?
 

Chris Knight

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Byron,

Need more info to answer. Your question suggests that your stain is also a finish which is possible but not usual.

1. What transparent grain filler is this?
2. What stain are you talking of?
3. What exactly do you mean by shellac (roll your own, pre-mixed, a shellac sanding sealer, what colour if any? De-waxed or not?)

Not trying to be pedantic here but your question is too open-ended at present.
 

ByronBlack

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Chris,

1. The grain filler is Rustins Natural Grain Filler
http://www.axminster.co.uk/name/gra...roduct-Rustins-Rustins-Grain-Filler-22802.htm

2. The stain will be a dark brown, I don't know what type yet, as I havn't gotten that far.

3. Shellac would be some Button French Polish from Screwfix

However, i'm open to suggestions if these products aren't compatible or don't fit my requirment.

Basically, the finish must be quite durable, provide a good seal to the wood, and be able to take or be part of a dark stain. The wood is mahogany, so grain-filling needs to be done at some stage, i'm quite confused as to the correct way of going about this.
 

AndyBoyd

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Having just done this on my son's bed , this is what I did:

Sand to a fine finish 180, 240 then 320.
Thin button shellac, then 2 coats of normal strength button shellac.
Lightly rub down by hand with 400 non clogging sand paper between each coat of shellac.

Then finish it off with a clear paste wax.

Unless I'm making a french polished table top, I have never seen the need to fill the grain on mahogany , it comes up beautifully smooth without it.

The button shellac really brings out the red ness in the wood
 

Chris Knight

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Byron,

I don't know that particular filler and without that knowledge can't say how it would take a stain - it may resist a stain completely. However, I think you may be making life harder than need be.

Try sanding a piece of scrap to 220 grit and then apply three coats of this all-in-one product http://www.focusdiy.co.uk/invt/758277 - they also make a "deep mahogany" which is redder.

For a really glossy finish, apply home made "one pound cut" shellac or pre-mixed "Pale blonde" shellac

Until and unless you know the characteristics of the stain you mention, you can't be sure it would work in the methodology you have suggested.
 

ByronBlack

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Cheers Andy, I need to add a stain - where in that process is it best to use it? I was told that it's best to put it on a sealer coat, so it doesn't go patchy - so perhaps the stain should go on after the button polish coats, and then topped with paste wax?

Chris, to be honest i've tried some of the 'all in one' finishes, and have never really been satisfied, hence the need to it 'properly', but from what andy has said, maybe your right in that i'm making it more difficult than I need to.

The other option I was thinking of was to do a coat of danish oil, then the stain, and then the paste wax.
 

Chris Knight

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Byron,
There is no all in one answer I am afraid. However, mahogany - or at least Swietenia spp (including most of the pseudo-mahoganies that are sold as mahogany take stains well without blotching.

The things likely to give you most trouble are inadequate surface preparation, (planer marks, scratches across the grain,dents, glue splotches and sweaty thumbprints etc. Get rid of these and you get rid of most of the finishing problems that mahogany throws up.

The sequence of stains, sealers finishes etc cannot easily be generalised - it depends on the desired outcome and the formulation of the various finishing ingredients. There are just too many variables to be prescriptive without a lot of preconditions being specified. Thus sometimes you will want to stain before sealing, at other times afterwards.. :roll:

However, as I mentioned mahogany is a doddle for staining so don't worry about this step - although if using a spirit stain which is very quick drying, apply it quickly with a broad foam brush to avoid overlap marks.


Deciding on a finish usually starts with a question about the need for durability, then we move to things like gloss or matt finishes etc. For an occasional table in mahogany I would probably French polish in traditional manner, having grain-filled it with pumice, staining with a combination pigment/dye stain (many stains are exactly this out of the bottle as it were) before and after filling.

However, I think you could get a good result using the Ronseal and a simple glossy top finish - oil based varnish would be fine. Cut back with wire wool and wax with Liberon Black Bison clear paste wax
 

AndyBoyd

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Yes stain after your first thin coat of shellac but as stated elsewhere on this thread mahogany is a doddle to finish, so as long as you preapre the wood well (watch out for glue spills - two of these appeared on my sons bed, but the great thing about shellac is that it's easy to repair) you'll be fine.
 

ByronBlack

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I really appreciate all your advice and tips guy's. I'll spend the next few days sanding and preperaring I think, before I apply the finish.

I'll post some WIP photo's aswell.
 

Philly

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Byron
Just a quick question-why do you need to stain it? All the pieces I've made in mahogany look better without the stain-it obscures the grain too much. A coat of boiled linseed oil wet-sanded into the timber before your top coat really makes a huge difference, too.
Just wondering,
Philly :D
 

ByronBlack

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I agree with you philly - I love natural mahogany, but the table is a gift for my mum, and this will be sitting underneath a cabinet that is very dark and she wants it to match.

I used mahogany because I had some, otherwise I would have done it in dark walnut, so staining is a must for this one.
 
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