Grain fill black palm next to maple.

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11 Jun 2012
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My latest project is a black palm and maple chessboard.

The palm has a very open texture that needs filling before finishing (a soft french polish). I've tried some Rustins grain filler darkened with a touch of oil colour. My main concern was that it would stain the maple - this didn't seem to happen, but by the time I'd sanded the board back to the point that the maple was clean, it looks like most of the filler in the palm has either been sanded away or pulled out.

Whats the best way to approach this? My next thought is shellac (or cellulose) sanding sealer first, then grain fill....... or is there a better way?

Dave Cha Vue. Thought I just answered this but then realized, it was on the other side lol
Possibly a radical viewpoint, but why do you want to fill the grain. As present that looks really nice, if you fill it could end up looking like a sheet of plastic.

When a finish goes on to the palm it darkens considerably, it's almost black. Some of the grain is extremely deep and - too my eyes - it looks glaring, especially when the light falls just right.
If your not looking for a contrasting grain fill, wipe over the whole board with medium thickness super glue with a piece of foam/sponge. It's important to try different bits of foam as some will set off very quickly with the super glue. I've had good results with the dark grey or black foam used for packaging. Always try on scrap. A can of spay activator is usefull to set off the glue in between coats (just a light spray about a foot away, not too much as the glue could foam) You can rub down with grey abrasive paper between coats till the grain is filled. The super glue can be flattened and polished like a laquer finish or rubbed back with steel wool and pledge / mister sheen or whatever it's called these days. Thin super glue can also be used you just might need a bit more. Super glue can be softened and removed with acetone but quite a continual wet application is requiered to soften it. You should be able to get the super glue and activator from a flying (balsa) model shop. I wouldn't try this without the activator as the glue would take too long to dry. I've used this method quite a lot for spot repairs on guitar necks and it works fine. You have to be reasonably quick wiping the the glue onto the project and don't be tempted to go back over a bit to often as the sponge could get stuck. Different sponge materials react differently with the glue , some will set of quickly others will give you extra working time, experiment. You can always sand back and go over again till the grain is filled and you can use this method as a final finish.
Hi Steve
Just a point. If you do want to use normal (ie rustins oil based grainfiller) you had the right idea in your first post using a sealer on the maple (I'd use cellulose laquer instead of shellac) and make sure it's dry before grain filling. It's some thing I use when finishing rosewood guitars that have a marquetry inlay in the back join which can often have end grain which takes up dark rosewood sanding dust. Super glue or cellulose seals the lighter wood from dust or filler. If your'e making just the one project you could seal plus use some masking tape squares on the maple to protect the lighter wood from the filler.
I took a fresh look at it this morning, wondering if I should just accept the grain as another added contrast - smooth pale and coarse dark.

I spent an hour or so sanding it, added a decent coat of shellac sanding sealer, sanded it again, and put on a first coat of FP.

It's starting to take a nice shine, I think more of the grainfiller remained than I thought.


I've never used black palm before, only wiped it over with a bit of white spirit to get an idea of what it looks like finished, and with the spirit it goes almost black. The sealer and FP has kept it much, much lighter than I expected.


It'll be interesting to see what some more sanding and a bit of polish does tomorrow.

Hi Steve
It looks quite nice to me. The only qualms i'd have is the shellac is not a very resistant finish to marking. A bit of felt under the chess pieces might be an idea.

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