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Thread: Bowl Finish

  1. #1
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    Bowl Finish

    Just started turning about two months ago and I have just finished my 8th bowl, it is about 9 inches in diameter and will be a gift for my Cuz. I am using Watco Cherry oil to finish it but wonder if I should not go over this with a General Finishes ARM R All gloss coat or a spray lacquer. Any suggestions?

    Thanks,

    Jim

  2. #2
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    I sell quite a few bowls and people seem to like shine and smooth. I use Wipe On Poly from Thompson for most bowls. Several light coats, sanded with high grit sandpaper between coats.
    Fred

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by James McCarthy View Post
    Just started turning about two months ago and I have just finished my 8th bowl, it is about 9 inches in diameter and will be a gift for my Cuz. I am using Watco Cherry oil to finish it but wonder if I should not go over this with a General Finishes ARM R All gloss coat or a spray lacquer. Any suggestions?
    Thanks,
    Jim
    I prefer a "danish" oil finish like that because I like the way oil brings out features of the wood and because of the soft sheen it gives. I use 6-10 coats of oil, each left to dry overnight, sometimes wet sanding with the oil and 400 or 600 grit paper. I'm not much of a fan of a high glossy finish.

    I should mention I don't make to sell so I not concerned with what the market wants. I make it to suit myself, whether it's a gift or not. I'm sure your cuz will treasure it.

  4. #4
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    Thanks, I think I will just stick with the Watco danish oil. I think this bowl will darken as it ages, which is fine with me.

  5. #5
    I have been using the walnut oil from the Doctor's Woodshop for some years now. I don't want to put anything on a bowl that I can't eat straight out of the can. Just didn't like the lingering smells of the penetrating oils.

    robo hippy

  6. #6
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    James -- If you ask 5 turners for their preferred finish, you'll end up with 11 recommendations. It's a really good way to start an argument at a woodturning club. (Almost as good as asking what is the 'best oil' at a meeting of classic car enthusiasts!)

    My recommendation for utility pieces, that is, for pieces that will be used regularly, is to use walnut oil, pure tung oil (most products that have tung oil in the name have very little tung oil in them), or mineral oil. Walnut oil and tung oil are harden naturally. That is, in response to oxygen in the air, the oils form a soft polymer -- a type of natural plastic. The polymer helps to protect the wood from moisture. Mineral oil does NOT harden, nor does it dry. It is simply absorbed by the wood, which protects the wood from moisture. Both types of finishes are easily renewed by the user. Just wipe on another coat of oil, wipe off any excess, and you're done. The hardening oils produce a nice, soft, natural looking, sheen. To get that same kind of sheen from a mineral oil finish, you need a top coat of wax.

    Film finishes, such as lacquer, shellac, and polyurethane, protect the wood by covering it with a thin, relatively hard, film. This film protects the wood from moisture and scratches by forming a physical barrier between the wood an the moisture or sharp object. While these finishes can look very good and you can get sheens that range from mat to high gloss, they are only durable to a point. Past that point, they'll scratch or let moisture through. Once that happens, the damage is much more visible than it would be had the object been finished with a naturally hardening oil. It can be difficult for the user to renew a film finish. Some need to be sanded back and the finish reapplied. Some, like most lacquers, can have the new coat applied over the existing finish. (The solvents in the new coat of lacquer will 'melt' the prior coats of lacquer, making the new and old to meld into each other.) The problem, most users won't know what kind of film finish was used. Even if they did, most will not have access to what's necessary to renew the finish. So, since by definition, a utility piece will be used frequently, it will also suffer from frequent scratches. This is why I avoid film finishes for utility pieces.

    Danish oils are a blend of hardening oil finishes, typically boiled linseed oil, and some kind of film finish. If you apply several coats, you can build up a film finish just like you can with lacquer or poly. (In my experience, lacquer and poly are both more durable than a Danish oil film finish. They are also easier to apply if that's the look you are going for.) If you don't apply several coats, the Danish oil will harden within the wood itself -- a few fractions of an inch deep. This leaves a finish very similar to a naturally hardening oil. While renewing a Danish oil finish is fairly simple, most users won't have Danish oil in their pantry or recall what kind of finish was used. So, as a practical matter, it becomes as difficult for a user to renew the finish as if it were a film finish. So, again, for a utility piece, I avoid Danish oil.

    None of this is meant to disparage Danish oil or film finishes. I recently made a Murphy bed out of oak. I applied, IIRC, three coats of Watco Danish Oil medium walnut and then applied a couple of coats of lacquer. The Danish oil produced the mellow color I wanted and the lacquer, in semi-gloss, has held up very well. So, these finishes have a place in my shop. Just not for items that will be handled frequently -- like a bowl that will be used for eating popcorn on a somewhat regular basis. For items that will be displayed more than used -- Christmas ornaments, decorative platters, vases, etc., I use a film finish (generally, Deft's brushing lacquer). For smaller items that will be handled a lot, such as pens, I generally use CA as a finish.

    Note: I did not include boiled linseed oil (BLO) among the list of naturally hardening oil finishes. This is because most BLO available today is not 'boiled' (which, historically, was done to speed up the hardening process). Instead, metal hardeners are added to the raw oil. This produces a good, durable, finish. However, many people don't want metal hardeners in the finish of something that will be used with food. While I don't share that view, I respect it. (I don't go out of my way to buy organic at the supermarket, either.) So, I avoid BLO for items that will be used for food. Besides, I don't like the smell of BLO. However, when recently finishing a work bench, I used BLO. It works, cleans up easily, and is less expensive than the other options. So, again, it has a place in my shop.

    HTH
    Last edited by David Walser; 01-19-2022 at 12:54 PM.
    David Walser
    Mesa, Arizona

  7. #7
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    David had a nice description of many options. The varied opinions about what's a good finish arise in part because of different expectations -- high or low luster, film v "in the wood", one application or many, spray v wipe-on, requirements for standing up to handling/water/moisture, varied opinions on what constitutes "food safe". With that in mind, I'll list some finishes I commonly use with an emphasis on why.

    I use one quick coat of Danish oil on most "display" pieces that aren't going to be handled much. The reasons are that it's quick to apply, and I don't need any build; the oil is just enhancing color and bringing out whatever chatoyance is in the wood. I buff these pieces with tripoli, white diamond, and carnuba after. The buffing really isn't buffing the finish, it's buffing the wood. A lot of woods can be brought to quite a shine this way, but they don't feel like they're covered with anything (because they're not). But, this approach and the look that stems from it are not very durable to moisture. Put something wet on it and the sheen will be splotchy. Short version: quick, shiny but natural feeling, lingering smell (especially in things like boxes), not very durable (with just one coat anyway). John Jordan uses many coats of Danish oil rather than just one, he may have different opinions on the durability issue.

    I like the Doctor's walnut oil and wax finish for "soft sheen" items and where I think people would prefer a finish without solvents and driers. It's nice if you're running close to deadine because it doesn't have a lingering smell. But, it won't buff to a glossy shine, only a soft sheen. Easy to re-apply and re-buff to restore its look though. Summary: quick, "food safe" by most definitions, fairly renewable, not glossy

    I've worked with wipe on poly where I wanted a film finish, but I don't really like it as a bowl finish, because it can be difficult to avoid runs on curved surfaces (and requires a lot of coats if you put it on sparingly enough to avoid them) and the final finish shows scratches. I don't feel it's that good for something that's going to get used a lot; will stand up to handling very well, but not "use" (in my opinion). If the finish gets scratched enough for water to get under it you've got real trouble. Summary: takes a while to build, easy to get runs, durable in some respects (but can fail), noticeable film.

    For friction polish the one I've used is Shellawax. It's nice in that it will raise a real gloss on well sanded wood in a short time and can be handled essentially immediately. I've not used the cream, but the original paste is tricky (in my experience) to apply to anything of much size (in fact I think they recommend the cream for that). Will tolerate a little handling, but not actual wetness. I've used it with good results on spheres (i.e., mostly display with minor handling but gloss is appealing). Summary: quick way to gloss (can be handled in minutes), not real durable, hard to apply to larger turnings.

    Something I've only recently started working with is Mohawk's modified tung oil finish. Not sure what proportion of it is actual tung oil, website says it's a blend of polymerized (i.e., fast curing) tung oil and alkyd resin. It applies like WOP, but it seems to have a higher solids content and builds much faster. Smells, but not as strongly as many. Will provide a sparkling gloss finish in about three coats on most woods -- the rate at which it comes to gloss depends on how thirsty the wood is. Areas that aren't fully saturated appear dull until they're "full", then it builds a very glossy film, which can be knocked down if desired with steel wool and wax. Haven't been working with it long enough to know how it will "wear" in pieces that are actually used. Color is a light amber, considerably lighter than "Tru-oil" which is a polymerized linseed oil finish that applies in much the same way -- it is commonly used on gunstocks. Summary: easy to apply but requires multiple coats (for gloss), builds fairly fast, can provide a deep glossy finish if desired, jury out on durability. Here's a link to the product: https://www.mohawk-finishing.com/pro...-oil-modified/

    Best,

    Dave
    Last edited by Dave Mount; 01-19-2022 at 5:04 PM. Reason: typo

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Walser View Post
    ...

    Danish oils are a blend of hardening oil finishes, typically boiled linseed oil, and some kind of film finish. If you apply several coats, you can build up a film finish just like you can with lacquer or poly. (In my experience, lacquer and poly are both more durable than a Danish oil film finish. They are also easier to apply if that's the look you are going for.) If you don't apply several coats, the Danish oil will harden within the wood itself -- a few fractions of an inch deep. This leaves a finish very similar to a naturally hardening oil. While renewing a Danish oil finish is fairly simple, most users won't have Danish oil in their pantry or recall what kind of finish was used. So, as a practical matter, it becomes as difficult for a user to renew the finish as if it were a film finish. So, again, for a utility piece, I avoid Danish oil.
    ...
    HTH
    Good post, some good points.


    Richard Raffan once said he prefers a simple oil/wax finish or even no finish for things used daily for salad, cereal, etc., things intended to be washed with other dishes (although not in the dishwasher). Usually uses mineral oil and beeswax or paraffin wax. In his book Turning Wood it says soft wax will wash right and the wood can be refinished as desired. Some things he reapplies oil and wax once a week. Also, he describes porridge, salad bowls, and serving bowls get heavy use that have no finish.

    Raffan points out that finishing is a subjective and controversial topic. While efforts to bring out the figure with finishes may be "a great aid at the point of sale", most wood will end up some day dark or grey leaving the shape and balance of the piece to posterity, not the finish.


    As for "danish" oil, Watco or home made, etc., for the first coat I:
    - apply as much as will soak into the wood,
    - wipe off any excess after a couple of hours,
    - then let the piece "dry" (cure) for a few days, aiming for that hardening in the shallow layer at the surface.
    - The morning after the initial soaking I wipe off any finish remaining on the surface before several more days of curing.

    All subsequent coats are wiped on then wiped off within 20 minutes or so, never left on long enough to form a thick film. I let these subsequent coats dry overnight and wipe again in the morning with a fresh, dry paper towel. I let each of these coats cure for at least 24 hours. As mentioned, I sometimes wet sand with the "danish" oil on some of the coats with very fine sandpaper. Examining the surface before each coat with a good light and by feel lets me decide to wet sand or not.
    It would be interesting (but tricky) to do a test and measure the actual coating thickness, if any, after 10 coats or so.

    (Safety: be aware of the fire hazard of paper towels used to with polymerizing oil.)

    I prefer "danish" oil because of the look it gives, the moderate protection, and the ease of repair. Once I repaired an area with a serious turning defect, a circular ring overlooked before finishing, with hand scrapers and sandpaper. After reapplying the finish to the area the repair was not visible. I haven't had anyone bring back a damaged gift turning for repair but I think it would be relatively easy. After years of use in my own house, I find the finish to provide moderate protection for things like serving platters, rolling pins, and such.

    But my favorite thing about that finish primarily for the soft, non-glossy/plastic look:

    penta_plate_cherry.jpg bottom_olive_IMG_7435.jpg whiteoak_bowl.jpg carved_bowl_IMG_4195.jpg elm_box_comp.jpg

    Some other finishes I use: Mylands friction polish (shellac) for things like ornament globes and finials that don't get handled a lot...
    ornaments_comp.jpg
    ...CA for the rare times I turn pens, and very thin lacquer for some pieces and some woods, hand rubbed with pumice to cut the gloss:
    cedar_vessel.jpg


    BTW, I use gallons of straight BLO (with the metallic hardeners) often around the farm - shovel handles, barn doors, wooden trailer beds.

    JKJ

  9. #9
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    I'll go ahead and contribute, but you seem to have made your decision ofter 2 posts. I apply 2 very thin coats of Minwax Quick Dry Satin Poly. I apply one coat with a folded paper towel and sand with 320. Second coat gets wiped on as well. After all is cured, I sand with 320 and then 0000 steel wool. It gives a dull finish and is very close to the wood. It gives users the ease of wiping the inside down after use with a damp rag with no marks or damage.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Coers View Post
    I apply 2 very thin coats of Minwax Quick Dry Satin Poly. I apply one coat with a folded paper towel and sand with 320. Second coat gets wiped on as well. After all is cured, I sand with 320 and then 0000 steel wool. It gives a dull finish and is very close to the wood. It gives users the ease of wiping the inside down after use with a damp rag with no marks or damage.
    I want to try that and see what it looks like. Sounds quick.

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