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single finish for two contrasting timbers

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Anonymous

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I have a project on the go which uses American Walnut and Masur Birch Veneer. It's a long way off completion but I've been experimenting with various finishes. The problem is that a tung oil based finish which would be my preference on the Walnut yellows the Birch and the water based acrylic that would be my preferece on the Birch just doesn't bring out the best in the Walnut. I suspect there isn't really an answer to this and I will probably go with a finishing oil.

Has anyone had good results with using a single finish for dark and light woods. I have limited experience of shellac but would anyone suggest experimentation with any particular type of blonde polish. I have to say I don't much fancy using this but if anyone has had great results I'd be interested to know.

I don't want a high gloss finish just a good hardwaring modern sheen.

Thanks

Roy
 

Chris Knight

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Roy,

First - don't be shy of using shellac. It has to be the best, most forgiving stuff in the world as well as the most flexible, useful and so on.

If I have a choice, I always use shellac as a finish and if I can't use it as a finish I generally use it as a sealer, or in a filler mix somewhere in a finishing process.

Having said that it may still not "pop" the figure in your walnut enough for your taste and even as the palest, finest stuff you can get it may be a touch too yellowing for your birch (although do try these on scraps - you may be pleasantly surprised).

Your mix of woods is always difficult for the reasons you have mentioned and also because if you are not careful when sanding, you can sand dark wood into the grain of the lighter stuff and there is very little you can do to fix that problem except bleaching it.

Not knowing what your project is, it is difficult to be very specific but try and finish the wood separately before assembly and gluing (TSTBO).

Depending on the size, consider using an artist's brush to brush BLO on the walnut before using a waterborne over the whole lot - that would pop the grain nicely.

Don't rush it! The conventional wisdom is that a good finish take at least as long as the making and often longer.

I know most of us don't do this and indeed don't like finishing very much but it's the finish that most laymen judge a piece of work by and if it's any consolation, Steinway take a year to finish their best pianos!
 
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Anonymous

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Chris

Many thanks for that. The boiled linseed oil idea sounds like it merits some further experimentation and could well be the answer.

On your advice (and looking at your results) I may well also revisit shellac. It is years since I tried the stuff and I probably used a poor product. I think I'll probably look at ready made up ultra pale dewaxed and maybe white polishes. Do you have a reccomended product or do you mix your own?

Regards

Roy
 

Alf

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Roy,

If you get it from somewhere with a reasonably quick turnover, Liberon's ready mixed blonde de-waxed is pretty good. Of course mixing your own is better still, but I'm very much the novice in that as yet.

Cheers, Alf
 

Chris Knight

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Roy,
I almost always mix my own - it's the only way you can guarantee fresh usable stuff.

I buy dewaxed powdered shellac (so called "transparent polish") from Fiddes a kilo at a time. I use powdered (ie crushed) because it is quick to dissolve. The big buttons (or even flakes) can take several hours to a day to dissolve thoroughly.

I also use Fiddes "Finishing spirit" to make it up. This is Methanol (methyl alcohol) plus a very small amount of pre-dissolved shellac -NOT methylated spirits, which is de-natured ethanol (ethyl alcohol - the stuff you drink when not denatured).

Methanol is poisonous but not hugely so - if you ever played with glo-plug motors and RC model aircraft, its the stuff the fuel is made from. It has several advantages over meths. First is it is not coloured and secondly you can rely on it's consistency of formulation. It dries rather faster too - which can be a mixed blessing but I prefer it that way.

I make up a 2lb cut and dilute to a one lb cut for wash coats or even thinner for filling with pumice (not an exercise you need worry about at this stage)

Dry shellac (the powdered stuff) has an indefinite shelf life (years) whereas once made up it should be discarded after 6 months max. You do not know how old the pre-made stuff is so that is one reason to mix your own. The stuff you make fresh yourself is magic - totally reliable and it can do amazing things ( in a push it will seal in a wax finish for example - traditional wisdom is that nothing sticks to wax)

If I want a coloured (golden to orange) shellac, I will make up a garnet or button polish with the appropriate dry stuff bought from eg Liberon.

I am not saying anything other than the stuff I recommend is no good, I am saying what works for me. I am also very definite on the merits of freshly made up shellac as opposed to pre-made stuff - whatever the makers claim.

For quick jobs, I will sometimes use pre-made shellac but I live not far from a couple of big finish manufacturers and I buy directly from their plant and can count on it being newly made at least.
 
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Anonymous

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Interesting Chris. I have only ever used pre-mixed stuff and not been over the moon with the results. I think I'll try your approach on the next box.
 
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Anonymous

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Chris & Alf

Thanks again for your further comments. From what you say it seems pointless buying ready made shellac for my experimentation as I can have much more control making it up myself and as the powdered stuff has a far longer life it will ultimately be less wasteful.

I'll now go and do some Googling and reading up on shellac.

Regards

Roy
 
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