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Thread: Finishes for turned wood

  1. #1

    Finishes for turned wood

    I am looking for resources (books, magazine articles, web stories) about different finishes for turning. Everything I find seems to be focused on flat surfaces. Right now I use either boiled linseed oil, or bees wax. Thanks in advance to your generous help.
    J. Tyler

  2. #2
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    Google Russ Fairfield Finishing Secrets. You can use anything on turning that you use on flatwork.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marvin Hasenak View Post
    ...You can use anything on turning that you use on flatwork.
    Yes, and in addition to that, you can use some different finishes and some in different ways. For example, I like to use shellac-based friction polish on small turnings such as finger tops and "magic" wands. (I've been using Mylands friction polish.)

    tops01.jpg wands_bowl_P7203947cs.jpg

    I think rattle-can finishes like lacquer and acrylic are a little easier to apply evenly than flat wood since they can be applied while the lathe is rotating very slowly. Also, some people apply liquid finishes while rotating on a slow turner (for example made from a rotisserie motor) and let the finish cure while rotating. That might not work so well with a grandfather clock.

    Besides the friction polish some of my favorites are "danish"oil, beeswax, lacquer, TruOil (not an oil), and no finish. Much depends on the size, type of wood, the intended use, and the look I'm trying for. For example, I sometimes use beeswax on eastern red cedar, either rubbed on or melted into the surface for an entirely different look. The danish oil brings out a lot more color on the same wood. Spray lacquer has an entirely different look. I made these three pieces from wood from the same cedar tree, different finishes.

    bottom2_IMG_4687.jpg cedar_bowl.jpg penta_platter_cedar_IMG_7434.jpg cedar_vessel.jpg

    When I get down to the shop a little later today I'll try to pull out some of my turning books and see if I can recommend any of them for the finishing sections. You might indicate what kinds of turnings you are thinking about, small things, big platters, things with intricate piercings and carvings or textures, shovel handles.

    JKJ

  4. #4
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    I've played with a little bit of everything but over the years I've settled on 3. Ok 4. I use lacquer on my mirrors and most Christmas ornaments. I mix my own dilutions and spray out of a Harbour Frieight touch up gun. I use Minwax wipe on poly a lot on most other things that are show pieces. I use Mahoney's Walnut oil and his finishing wax on user bowls and plattters. I use friction polish on most small items that are production kind of pieces.

  5. #5
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    Yes, when you first start looking into is, the subject seems endless and very confusing. My advice is to select 3 or 4 and use them for a while until you learn the ins and outs of those. The ones I use mostly:
    1. Friction polish for small things...but it is not s very durable finish for daily use...don't put it on a pepper mill.
    2. Wipe on poly for a very durable finish (Minwax)
    3. Rattle can lacquer for a non yellowing decorator object finish..
    .8-10 coats
    .
    4. Walnut oil for salad bowls.. then wax
    If you want to bring out the grain pattern before applying the finish use a blend of 1/2 BLO and 1/2 mineral spirits.
    BLO is Boiled linseed Oil

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by J. Tyler Klassen View Post
    I am looking for resources (books, magazine articles, web stories) about different finishes for turning. Everything I find seems to be focused on flat surfaces. Right now I use either boiled linseed oil, or bees wax. Thanks in advance to your generous help.
    J. Tyler
    Ok, I looked through some of my 50+ turning books and some general woodworking books. I don't have or know of any books specific to woodturning finishing.

    While not specifically entirely on woodturning, two general books on finishing look worth having for learning, understanding, and reference:

    Understanding Wood Finishing
    , Flexner - an outstanding book
    Great Wood Finishes, Jewitt

    Many of the woodturning books have plenty to say on finishing. Just like talking to people, some authors have their own favorite finishes and don't mention much else. Just like learning turning techniques it might be best to find a turner whose work you admire and want to duplicate and learn their finishing techniques. Some books have a variety of finishing methods and techniques scattered through the book, often with specific projects. Lots of good ideas there but nothing I'd recommend buying just for finishing reference.

    A few:

    Fundamentals of Woodturning
    , Mike Darlow
    Good section with suggestions and tips for different uses. If I had just one book, I'd get this one. Technical, not for the impatient YouTube generation.

    Turning Wood, Turning Bowls, and Turning Projects
    , Richard Raffan
    He mostly uses one finish and tells why and how. Richard likes to make things that will be handled and used.

    Ellsworth on Woodturning, David Ellsworth
    Good chapter on finishing. He does mostly hollow forms, not so much for things to be used and washed.

    Turning Green Wood, O'Donnell

    Woodturning, Ray Key
    Chapter on finishing

    the fine art of small-scale woodturning, Duce

    Masterful Woodturning, Roberts

    Fabulous Turned-wood Projects, Hiebert, et. al.

    Projects for Woodturners, Child

    I have read all or parts of these books and generally recommend them, perhaps depending on the type of turning of interest. I have other books I don't recommend. And lots of books say very little about finishing.

    Turner Stephan Russell used to have excellent on-line articles on finishing woodturings but his site is lapsed. I can usually get to it on the internet archive but sometimes it takes a few tries. This page has most of the articles:
    https://web.archive.org/web/20171003...-articles.html

    Doc Green always has some good stuff, check out his sanding and finishing section: http://www.docgreenwoodturner.com/articles.html#Sanding

    For online, search google for finishes for woodturning.

    There are zillions of magazine articles with good info about woodturning finishes. The problem is fining and acquiring copies.

    If you describe the type size of turnings you are in finishing, as well as their use and how much they will be handled, others might have specific recommendations based on their experience. A local turning club, classes, demos at symposiums, and local turners are also good places to learn finishing techniques.

    JKJ
    Last edited by John K Jordan; 05-28-2018 at 10:06 AM.

  7. #7
    Check out the product called OSMO, it is a hardwax oil, I use the Top Oil clear, and also use Polix on turnings. This finish may be new to turners, it cures to a very tough and impervious to water and alcohol finish. Application is much different than conventional liquid finishes. one advantage for me is it works best with sanded finish 150 to 220 grit. The product oil component needs to be able to get into the wood, the wax portion remains on the surface. It is normally a satin surface finish however one can make it shine by waiting until original coats have cured and then use the wax only product called OSMO cleaner, and then buff that after it has cured.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bert Delisle View Post
    Check out the product called OSMO, it is a hardwax oil, I use the Top Oil clear, and also use Polix on turnings. This finish may be new to turners, it cures to a very tough and impervious to water and alcohol finish. Application is much different than conventional liquid finishes. one advantage for me is it works best with sanded finish 150 to 220 grit. The product oil component needs to be able to get into the wood, the wax portion remains on the surface. It is normally a satin surface finish however one can make it shine by waiting until original coats have cured and then use the wax only product called OSMO cleaner, and then buff that after it has cured.
    Bert, do you know what is in this finish?

    I've never tried any hard wax oil. From what I read, it seems to be used on wood flooring but different brands behave differently. I often use an oil finish on turnings since I like the way it lets me see and feel the surface of the wood but I'm wary of the thick "plastic" look:

    "...for our clients that are used to the thicker ďplasticĒ look of polyurethane finishes, we feel this is a better compromise of sheen and build"
    http://napervillehardwood.com/blog/t...nt-the-winner/

    This guy apparently doesn't like hard wax oil so much: http://howtosandafloor.com/what-is-hardwax-oil/

    What's your take on the final look of the OSMO - is it more like an oil that penetrates or more like a thicker, clear film?
    Does the satin surface come from additives (do you have to stir well before applying?)
    What is different about the application?

    I wish companies sold sampler sized containers of their finishes so we could try them without buying too much!

    JKJ

  9. #9
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    +1 on the Flexnor book. He goes into the science of finishing and how and why different finishes seal and cure and polish.

    I like to dabble. Lacquer/poly/oil/varnish/shellac/epoxy/wax/CA glue... a lot depends on the intended use and what feel/look/durability you want and the species of wood.

    Easy to learn finishes that Iíve used:
    1) General Finishes Woodturners finish. Itís a water based poly that dries quickly for multiple coats. I have some pepper grinders where itís held up very well for years.
    2) any wipe on/wipe off oil finish (Danish oil/Tung oil). A lot of them have some diluted varnish in them but the slow cure and wipe off step are very forgiving.
    3) brush on lacquer (Deft paint can) is nice because it dries fast for multiple coats, sands and rubs out very easily but can be finicky if cold or humid. Iíve had good luck spraying Deft lacquer from an hvlp gun and airbrush. The deft product from the can has retarder in it which helps with the learning curve. Straight lacquer without the retarder can be tricky. Lacquer just isnít as durable for object that will be handled. Itís great for decorative pieces though.

  10. Tyler, our club teaches woodturning class each week at Eagle Ranch here in North Georgia. We need a fast drying finish because we have only one hour to turn and finish a product the students can take home with them that day. Spray lacquer would be a good choice except we're dealing with middle schoolers here in a close environment! One thing I've found that works really well for us is to use EEE-Ultra Shine per directions followed by a very small amount of Shellawax, both applied with significant friction. I got them both at Penn State but I'm sure other vendors have them, too. This seems to dry quickly to a non-tacky surface so the turnings don't pick up finger prints and still have a shine when they show them to their friends.

  11. #11
    First of all: Thank you all for your help. I am in the middle of an extraordinarily busy time and so am only just now able to respond to and look over your responses.
    John K. Jordan, I should have mentioned what I am turning. Mostly bowls and platters. Some of these are for food and some of them are decorative. The largest I can turn on my Jet is 11 inches. I prefer oak, but have a large pile of hard maple, a bit of walnut and a small piece of Russian Elm.

  12. #12
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    For decorative bowls and platters I use Minwax wipe on poly or spray on Lacquer. For user bowl and plates I use Mahoney Walnut oil followed by Mahoney's wax. These are food safe and alergy free.

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