Video: Traditional Danish Soap Finish

In this video excerpt from “No-Fear Chairmaking,” Christopher Schwarz shows you how to use soap flakes (or grated soap) and water to make two varieties of traditional Danish soap finish. This finish is fast and easy to make, there are no VOCs about which to worry, and it is quite easy to apply. Plus, you’ll walk away with cleaner hands than when you started…

If you’re interested in the building the chair shown in this excerpt, check out the full “No-Fear Chairmaking” video, available at ShopWoodworking.com; it’s also included (along with 500+ other woodworking videos) on our streaming video subscription site: videos.popularwoodworking.com.

Soap is a quite popular finish for furniture and floors in Denmark and other Northern European countries. It imparts an almost completely flat look, typically looks best on lighter-colored woods and does have to be renewed from time to time – how often depends on wear, of course. But re-application is easy, too.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

5 thoughts on “Video: Traditional Danish Soap Finish

  1. NK

    I was just making a batch of the waxier soap finish based on a blog post of yours from 2yrs back. Glad to have found this video too! You had said to add a small amount of water and mix and see what happens. If the flakes aren’t all dissolved add a bit more. So I spent a good hour adding a tiny bit at a time not wanting to overdo it. I ended with still a thick marange, but still a few undissolved flakes. Is that going to work? I had pulled out a small amount and gave it more water until all flakes dissolved, but I’d say it ended as more of a beaten fluffy soft peaked egg-whites – much lighter than my larger batch. Which am I going for? It was so hard not taste the mixture, it looked so good.

    And my second question is how best to store this? Room temp in a jar? Thanks for all the info! We are going to put this on interior wood window boxes…I think.

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

      I added Chris’ article on the subject to our site: http://www.popularwoodworking.com/techniques/soap-making-clean-finish-2 In it, you’ll see the difference between a thinner mixture and a thicker one (they both work, but impart a different sheen). It’s odd that boiling water didn’t dissolve all the flakes, but my guess is it will still work (just wipe away any flakes that stick to the surface).

      Chris stores his at room temp in a jar, as you guessed.

      1. NK

        Thanks for your reply! So far so good. I’ve put three coats on a sample board and it looks very nice. Is there a dry time necessary before it hardens up a bit? I put the last coat on last night. And then this morning put a few drops of water on it to see how it handles a little water and it immediately turned white and soaped up. I wiped it down again with my cloth. I’m guessing it’s just was not dry yet? (It’s about 75 degrees and 50% relative humidity inside.)

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