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Thread: Jewelry box finish - suggestions?

  1. #1
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    Jewelry box finish - suggestions?

    I am working on some jewelry boxes. Since I have three ladies and I dont dare do just one, it becomes a bigger project because everything is times 3. (now to be clear, two of these ladies are 11yo and 13yo respectively!).

    And after throwing down well north of $200 for brass hinges, I guess I am all in on this project. These will not be what I would consider 'masterpieces' just due to the practical nature of the volume of the project, but they should be 'pretty nice' and something I would expect the recipients to all enjoy/appreciate for many many years.

    So I have to decide on a finish. There are roughly 18 small drawers. Some panels. Casework. Nothing is large in size. But it all adds up. The 'go to' might be some form of BLO such as watco. Lots of sanding and rubbing on multiple coats. Given all these drawers and corners and small parts, this approach would be tedious. The woods are walnut, cherry, some lacewood, some figured maple.

    Recently I tried Waterlox on a project and it came out well. But I have only used it once. My understanding is that it is a 'varnish'. Also I sometimes see Watco listed as a 'varnish', but more often as an 'oil'. I am not educated on these differences.

    And I wouldnt mind trying a spray on vs wipe on, just to make it easier. This would mean proper sanding and prep work, and also clean spray area, but I do paint car and have sprayed wood finishes in the past so believe I can get that to work. I have used waterbased spray on finishes (Target) and definitely DO NOT want to use those for this project. I am looking for that traditional, deep finish that makes you want to touch/run your fingers over the wood.

    Is there such an animal that sprays on? Or am I relegated to the hand rubbing of multiple coats?

  2. #2
    I would buy a spray can of spray lacquer. I like Mohawk/Behlens stringed instrument finish but there are others.

    Sand your parts to 600 grit before you assemble.

    You really won’t need to rub down in between coats.

    You could, if you wish, rub the final coat with wax and a superfine abrasive or paper bag.

    A single can will probably do all 3 boxes.

  3. #3
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    I tend to consider that the finish process may take as long as the build process. Applying, proper drying, and removing dust nibs between coats takes patience....particularly when a lot of small pieces/detail work is involved.

    When you want that traditional, deep finish, nothing seems to match oil and/or shellac (IMHO).

    Shellac is a little finicky to apply, but it brings out the beauty of the wood while drying very quickly. So multiple coats can be done in a day. However, given I don’t have a clean room to finish, it does require some smoothing between coats...even considering is dries quickly. Brush marks/pad marks, runs, etc., may need some attention.

    Oil (like BLO), or oil/varnish mixes (like Watco) are easy to apply, don’t need sanding between coats, and bring out that traditional deep wood grain look. Down side, is you need to allow plenty of dry time, especially if you want to top coat with shellac/lacquer/wax. After the last coat, I will wait as long as a week or two.

    Neither of these finishes (shellac or BLO/Watco) on their own will be particularly durable, however, for a jewelry box, I find them durable enough...not taking into account young children playing/use of the box. The up side is that they are both easily repaired/freshened.

    Since you have experience in spraying, I might suggest you apply either oil or shellac initially to get the look you want, and then spray a top coat of lacquer or whatever.

    Whatever you do, don’t apply oil products to the inside of the box or drawers. Trust me, it will smell for the lifetime of the box. I pre-finish all inside pieces with shellac prior to assembly.

    Please share photos...would love to see them.

  4. #4
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    Hobbyist advice here. Rattle-can shellac is easy and looks good on walnut. Cherry (sanded up as high as you can stand) looks and feels good with Watco. I use the cherry-tinted version to even the color out. The figured maple, however, I dont know. Oil seems to muddy the figure to me, so I usually dye and sand back first. Then shellac or spray lacquer. If you mean that there is a mix of all those woods in one box, then I'd just go with the shellac.

    I think Waterlox (a varnish made with tung oil) would be wasted on a small object like a box, unless you really like the color it gives. Partly because if you don't use it all soon, the remainder goes bad quickly (and wasted) without taking precautions. I also find it harder to apply easily on things that do not have large flat surfaces.

    But the big mistake of making jewelry boxes for your family is that you will now be expected to fill them.

  5. #5
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    All great insights and exactly the type of suggestions I was looking for.

    I have sprayed lacquer before. But in those cases built it up so it somewhat 'sits on top' of the wood and I 'think' for these I want something that penetrates more. Had never considered an oil first then a top coat, which could be thin.

    And same for shellac. I wasnt thinking, even though I do have some flakes and it would be very simple to spray.

    These are combinations, such as figured maple with cherry, the lacewood with walnut, and some accent pieces mixed. So it really needs to be the same finish across all the different woods. (although there is still some time to 'prefinish' some pieces.

    More planning to do, and some testing is in order.

  6. #6
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    Here is a suggestion that has worked well for me. I wipe on two or three coats of Watco Danish Oil per the instructions on the can. After allowing the Watco to cure completely, I apply two coats of Johnson's Paste Wax. The wax imparts a certain "warmth" to the appearance and makes the surfaces feel silky smooth. If the finish ever needs renewal, just apply and buff another coat of the Johnson's wax.

    I also use a lot of spray lacquer, which doesn't look as plasticky as polyurethane, but you said you wanted to avoid a film finish.

  7. #7
    If you want it in the wood, imho, I would wipe on and wipe off a danish oil.

    Whatever you do, sand up to 600 - even 1000 if you have access to it. It Burnishes the wood, almost mildly sealing it. This means you get even penetration of the oil or varnish or lacquer on the initial coats. It helps get a good, ultra thin finish. Sanding like this does not inhibit any curl highlighting.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Beckett View Post
    I am working on some jewelry boxes. Since I have three ladies and I dont dare do just one, it becomes a bigger project because everything is times 3. (now to be clear, two of these ladies are 11yo and 13yo respectively!).

    And after throwing down well north of $200 for brass hinges, I guess I am all in on this project. These will not be what I would consider 'masterpieces' just due to the practical nature of the volume of the project, but they should be 'pretty nice' and something I would expect the recipients to all enjoy/appreciate for many many years.

    So I have to decide on a finish. There are roughly 18 small drawers. Some panels. Casework. Nothing is large in size. But it all adds up. The 'go to' might be some form of BLO such as watco. Lots of sanding and rubbing on multiple coats. Given all these drawers and corners and small parts, this approach would be tedious. The woods are walnut, cherry, some lacewood, some figured maple.

    Recently I tried Waterlox on a project and it came out well. But I have only used it once. My understanding is that it is a 'varnish'. Also I sometimes see Watco listed as a 'varnish', but more often as an 'oil'. I am not educated on these differences.

    And I wouldnt mind trying a spray on vs wipe on, just to make it easier. This would mean proper sanding and prep work, and also clean spray area, but I do paint car and have sprayed wood finishes in the past so believe I can get that to work. I have used waterbased spray on finishes (Target) and definitely DO NOT want to use those for this project. I am looking for that traditional, deep finish that makes you want to touch/run your fingers over the wood.

    Is there such an animal that sprays on? Or am I relegated to the hand rubbing of multiple coats?
    My thinking is eventually they will get some nail polish or something on the finish which you will need to clean off. An oil finish such as Watco you would pretty much take it down to the wood before you got nail polish off. If the Watco was a type which had a dye in it then the color may be difficult to restore.

    Using a finish that is chemical resistant probably the best would be a conversion varnish. It works like lacquer which would need to be sprayed and also I don't believe you can get less than a gallon. Another option would be an oil based polyurethane. It's easy to get and use and if the finish were to dry a few months before a problem occurred you should be able to clean it off with acetone as long as you didn't let the solvent sit and soak.

  9. #9
    Since you are used to Watco sticking to that might be a good idea, but I'll include some comments on my recent experiences with finishes that I'd consider for a similar project.

    I'd either use a rub on oil or spray on lacquer, but that is just me. I find them both pretty easy and no fuss. The deciding factor is whether I want a film finish or not. With these two choices I'd wind up with hand rubbing either way. It is just in the form of wet sanding/polishing after drying with the lacquer

    For a while my go to finish for small jobs has been equal parts 100% tung oil, mineral spirits, and poly varnish. I rub it on, let it sit a while, and buff it off. Apply another coat in a day or so. Repeat as required... The poly is there mostly to speed drying and to help fill pores a bit. It is not allowed to sit on the surface and become a film finish.

    Lately I have started to experiment with Odie's Oil. My initial impression is very positive so far. It seems to give an excellent finish with very little effort if you sand the wood to a very fine grit in preparation. The results are similar to and maybe better than what I had been doing, but with less effort and fewer coats. Depending on the wood it sometimes actually looks good with one coat. It is also nice that it is food safe and smells nice throughout the process. Since it is an in the wood finish it does require sanding to a very fine grit and not skipping steps in sanding so there is some work there, but the actual finishing is really effortless.

    Btw, the price looks super expensive per ounce, but the coverage is really high per ounce so price per coverage is competitive.

    Edit:
    One thing I failed to mention is that I typically find the sprayed finishes to be more not less trouble than the rubbed on ones on small projects. Maybe not always so on projects with large surface area, but on your jewelry boxes I would.
    Last edited by Pete Staehling; 10-20-2019 at 10:43 AM.

  10. #10
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    As always, different techniques and materials come into play that will best highlight a particular species of wood and also work well for the type of project and the "look" one wants to have in the end. BLO alone (or with wax) can look great with a nice soft finish. Shellac can be outstanding when one wants a high gloss that's easy to apply, especially for small things from a rattle can. Watco and similar varnish/oil type products can split the difference, depending on the specific formulation/sheen and the number of applications, particularly when "more protection" is desired. My best advise is for you to experiment on scrap before finishing ANY project so you can establish what looks best for what you've built and for the purpose for which it was built. Small decorative projects like jewelry boxes have the most flexibility because they have almost the least "durability" requirement, IMHO.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  11. #11
    No advice on a finish but a request for you to post a picture of your jewelry boxes - even in unfinished condition.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  12. #12
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    Carl,
    My go to finish on a lot of small projects has been Tried and True Original - Polymerized Linseed Oil & Beeswax. https://www.triedandtruewoodfinish.c...l-wood-finish/

    I have found that if I sand to a very high grit(800 -1000) prior to applying any finish, it will only absorb a smaller amount As Prashun stated earlier) and therefore not get bleed back and also only require 1 - 2 coats to get a satin feel and sheen to the finish.
    Just my experiences.

    Jim

  13. #13
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    One of my favorites, too, Jim, although I tend to use the "just oil" version most of the time. The cherry desk I built my spouse back in 1997 (before she was even my spouse) was finished with the oil/wax version and it still looks brand new today...when it's not covered with papers, of course.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  14. #14
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    Spray shellac. Lots of coats. Easy, darn near mistake proof, and the walnut will look good with a semi-gloss finish.
    Regards,

    Tom

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Henderson View Post
    No advice on a finish but a request for you to post a picture of your jewelry boxes - even in unfinished condition.

    Mike
    Will post a thread in the projects section

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