In Featured Article, Finishing

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I don’t have a “grainy” walnut bowl, so I used a flat walnut surface to demonstrate applying Watco Danish Oil.

A woodworker friend emailed me with a problem. He had turned a face-grained bowl from what he described as “grainy” walnut. To finish it he was using Watco Danish Oil, and his problem was that the oil continued to soak in to the two end-grain sides even after 6 or 7 coats. What should he do?

So I asked the fairly obvious questions. Was he letting each coat dry at least a day after wiping off the excess oil? Was he keeping the end grain wet for a while so the oil could soak in before wiping off the excess?

He replied back, “yes to both.” He let the oil sit on the surface wet for 15 minutes before wiping off the excess.

I found this strange. I’ve never seen it happen, either to me or anyone else. The wood must have been really “grainy.” The only solution I could think of was to apply a coat or two of a film-building finish, one that dries hard. The best finish to use would be shellac because it stood the best chance of bonding well.

Here were my instructions: Be sure the oil is dry. To do this he should put his hand on it. It shouldn’t be at all sticky. If it’s still sticky, he can use a blow dryer to speed the drying. Then wipe or brush on a coat or two of shellac. The purpose is to seal the pores so the oil doesn’t keep penetrating.

After drying, the surface will probably be too shiny so he should dull it with steel wool or an abrasive pad. Then apply more oil, rubbing with an abrasive after each coat dries. The purpose is to create a sheen that is similar to an oil finish alone.

Then I told him that if this didn’t give him results that he was happy with, he would have to strip the finish and start over.

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