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Thread: Finishing quandary

  1. #1
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    Mar 2023
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    Finishing quandary

    I am making an "alternative guest book" for an upcoming wedding in our family, similar to this:

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/1484630...4%3A1484630191

    She wants the base wood to be dark, and rather than use plywood as the Esty crafters do, I chose to glue up some walnut. We've settled on the font and layout for the letters, which I'll cut out of 1/4" MDF with the scroll saw and paint white (unless there's a better material to use?). Guests can sign the board with black Sharpie, then she wants to display this at home. She doesn't care that the signatures won't show up well on the dark walnut.

    My question is on the best way to finish the walnut. I would love to use an oiled finish like Odie's Oil, but not sure the Sharpie will work well on top of this, and I'm concerned that glue will not stick to it for the letters. I was planning to use CA adhesive. Same concerns with poly. Should I wait to finish until after the event, then spray it with poly to seal the wood and Sharpie ink? Would this cause the ink to bleed? Other suggestions?

    The walnut "disk" is done, 24" diameter, sanded and ready for the next step. I'm planning to add a couple of cleats across the back, perpendicular to the grain, to keep the panel flat. One will be beveled for a french cleat for hanging. I'll have to devise a way to attach it that will still allow the panel to move with the seasons.

  2. #2
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    Sharpies are alcohol based, so any finish with a "hot" solvent could be a disaster. I suggest you only use a water based poly for the Sharpie to work, but even then, a sample experiment would be good. CA adhesive is not a permanent glue, some failures have occurred over time, and 10 years out the letters may have all fallen off. Make all the holes for any screws in that cleat as slots, and absolutely don't glue it. The walnut has to move from season to season.

  3. #3
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    I've used a Sharpie over many woods (walnut, maple, cherry) with a coat of mineral oil and it works fine.

  4. #4
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    You could finish it with most any OB or WB finish prior to the event, then apply another coat or two afterwards to seal in the signatures.

    John

  5. #5
    I have a jar of Odie's (the popular 'Universal Finish') ... as well as some Tried & True Varnish Oil (BO+pine resin) ... on hand. Along with some scrap pieces of walnut.

    I'll put a coat of each on a test piece today, then once they have a day or two to set, I'll try a Sharpie on them and report back.

    FWIW - for something simple that will work well, I suspect a wipe on varnish would be your best bet. Most of the Odie's products are oil-wax blends. So, I suspect a Sharpie won't work very well on it. Likewise, with simple oil finishes ... but we'll find out soon.

    I'll follow up with the results Monday or Tuesday.

  6. #6
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    Something in a spray can, maybe would help avoid smearing?
    < insert spurious quote here >

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the replies. For some reason I got no notification, so didn't know these were here.

    I'll also do some testing on scraps. I was working on a project using Helmsman Urethane on Friday, so I top-coated some permanent marker (Milwaukee Inkzall is my preference) on unfinished wood and it didn't bleed at all. It also accepts the ink no problem. I'll also try it with Odie's Oil, water-based Polycrylic, Wipe-on Poly, and Shellac. I also need to test Titebond 3 to see how it sticks to these coatings.

  8. #8
    Why not attached the letters with a few small brads just to locate them. Spray the entire piece with a spray can of lacquer. Carefully remove the letters, leaving their impression in raw wood. Since the letters have now been sealed with clear lacquer, top coat the letters with the opaque lacquer color of you choice. Glue the letters on permanently with woodworkers glue (the backs of the letters and the impression of the letters on the main piece are both raw wood). Once everyone has signed using a Sharpie, spray the whole thing one more time with clear lacquer.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Flesher View Post
    Thanks for the replies. For some reason I got no notification, so didn't know these were here.

    I'll also do some testing on scraps. I was working on a project using Helmsman Urethane on Friday, so I top-coated some permanent marker (Milwaukee Inkzall is my preference) on unfinished wood and it didn't bleed at all. It also accepts the ink no problem. I'll also try it with Odie's Oil, water-based Polycrylic, Wipe-on Poly, and Shellac. I also need to test Titebond 3 to see how it sticks to these coatings.
    TB III isn't going to stick well to any film finish, nor I doubt Odie's Oil either. CA glue will, and Gorilla Glue and epoxy likely will, though not sure about Odie's.

    I would glue the letters to the raw wood, finish, have guests sign it, then add another coat of finish.

    John

  10. #10
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    This seems unnecessarily complicated, besides many of the letters are too small to allow even a small brad to be driven through without breaking.

    I think my plan now is to spray prime the letters with BIN to get them smooth, then coat with white laquer. Glue them down, then spray the whole thing with clear laquer.

    Will do a test to make sure BIN and laquer will be ok together.

  11. #11
    Much to my surprise, an ordinary Sharpie worked just fine on both Odie's and T&T Original Varnish.

    One coat of each was applied, per their respective instructions.

    Wrote on each with the Sharpie two days later. Waited 3 minutes for the ink to dry, then tried to smear them with my finger - nothing. Then tried to rub them off with a blue shop towel - very very little came off on the towel, and no smudging at all.

    sharpie.jpg

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