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Finishing Basics

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  • Finishing Basics

    Since beginning my new adventure in scrolling, I've done a few things but haven't finished them since I wanted to do it in my garage but it's been too cold. Today, it's 60 and sunny, finally. Now I'm full of questions! Please forgive me if I sound like an absurd idiot, but if I don't ask, I'll never learn anything.

    I need to know how to apply finishes, mostly to fretwork. I read so many posts here about what to use, but not how to use it. Example, when applying BLO or any other oil, how do I apply it? I read about dipping and hanging and have just tried that and I made such a big mess! How are you supposed to hang it so the oil doesn't pool in the frework? Am I supposed to turn it every so often? After dipping a piece and hanging, how long should I wait before spraying it with the top coat? What top coat finish should I use? Shellac? Poly? I'm so lost, please help.

    We are the music makers.
    We are the dreamers of dreams.

    Easy scrollin' with a DW788

  • #2
    HI Mia,

    This is going to be kind of long, so forgive me. I'm far from an expert on finishing, but my theory is that for fretwork, the simpler the finish the better. That is why dipping in BLO is a popular method for scrolling.

    Using BLO accomplishes a couple things. It deepens the color, bringing out the grain on woods like cherry, walnut, etc. For situations where you may want to keep the wood closer to it's natural color, then BLO may not be the best choice. Also, dipping fretwork in BLO will get finish in all the little nooks & crannies that would be difficult if not impossible to do otherwise.

    Now BLO can be used as a stand alone finish if desired. It provides no protective value to speak of nor is there any sheen or gloss with a BLO finish. If neither of these are of concern, you can dip in BLO, let it dry and you're done.

    It helps to have an air compressor when dipping in a finish. I will dip, then set the piece on a rag or paper towels and let some of the excess run off. After the BLO has soaked in for 10-15 minutes, you can wipe any remaining excess off with a rag, then blow out the frets with air. You can then hang the piece to allow it to cure. It will be dry to the touch in a short while, but if applying a top coat, I would let it dry for 2-3 days under good drying conditions before applying a finish. Make sure to dispose of any rags or paper towels soaked in BLO properly. They are a fire hazard!

    I find that using a spray can to apply the topcoat of choice is the easiest method for fretwork. You can control how much you are applying to prevent puddling and runs and you can get some into the inside cuts. Your choices of topcoat are many. I like to use Polycrylic because it dries quickly, doesn't have too much odor and is easy to use.

    Spraying takes a little practice to get good even coverage. I bought one of those spray nozzles that attach to the can and they make it a lot easier to control the spray.

    Now if you don't want to use a spray can, but you want a little protection and/or sheen to your finish, you can use a Danish Oil or wiping varnish to dip the piece into, instead of BLO. These finishes will soak into the wood a little, but will also build a film. I've dipped in Danish oil, but not wiping varnish, so I can't give you a good comparison, but all Danish oil (or antique oil or any number of other names) is, is a mixture of oil (usually BLO but maybe tung oil), plus varnish and mineral spirits in approximately equal parts. You can buy this under a variety of product names or mix it yourself, allowing you to vary the proportions slightly to suit your tastes.

    Well that's my $.02. I hope it helps. Maybe posting this in the finishing forum will garner some responses from the resident experts if they don't see it here. Good luck!
    Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter. Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."


    • #3

      Definitely no expert here, but I've been using BLO mixed 50/50 with mineral spirits to dip the (mainly) oak pieces I've been doing. The mineral spirits make the BLO thinner and easier to shake off - then wipe off with paper towel. I haven't noticed any huge difference between pieces dipped in "neat" BLO and the stuff cut with MS.

      I haven't been top coating most of the things cut from oak. I like the look of the oak after a couple of dips in the BLO mixture - seems to make the colour richer and the grain pop. I wasn't too keen on the yellowish tinge that the BLO gave some basswood that I dipped though ...

      Perhaps there is something that I'm missing and would be interested to hear more from those with much more experience.

      Scrolling with a Dewalt 788


      • #4
        I dipped a piece in stright BLO about two years ago to see what happens to it. As soon as it dries I will let you know.
        Chuck D

        When a work lifts your spirits and inspires bold and noble thoughts in you, do not look for any other standard to judge by: the work is good, the product of a master craftsman.
        Jean De La Bruyere...

        Hegner 18, Delta p-20, Griz 14 inch Band saw


        • #5
          Hi Mia,

          For what it's worth......I just used WATCO Danish Oil (natural color) on a book case (Bill basically already suggested this above). I have not tried it on a scroll saw project yet, but I will definitely give it a shot on the next one. For one, it really brought out the tones of the wood. Also, I can't imagine anything easier. It tells you to *pool it on* in the instructions. Let it sit, add more in areas where it soaked in, wipe off excess. That was basically it. I was shocked at how little pooling there was in the corners, so I imagine you would see similar results on a scroll saw project.

          For other small projects I also have supported my project on essentially a bed of nails. Then all of the excess could just drip through and hopefully not pool in the fretwork. I am no expert but thought this might help.



          • #6
            Originally posted by ChuckD
            I dipped a piece in stright BLO about two years ago to see what happens to it. As soon as it dries I will let you know.



            • #7
              I sand up to at least 240 grit *before* cutting, then cut, then do a very light sanding to get rid of any little shaggies that the cutting left. After that, I dip in Watco Natural 3 times, allowing about 2 hours between and wiping them off with paper towels between dips. You have to be careful with the fretwork and the wiping, but you can usually fix anything you break with a little super glue.

              After that, if I want a harder or shinier finish, I spray on some Deft of the appropriate shiny level. I usually do 3-4 coats of this with at least half hour between coats and a light sanding if I don't like the smoothness of the finish.

              Some people think this is too much, but I get lots of compliments on my finishing. Best of all, I like it.


              • #8
                I pretty much do as unixpro does . I do keep pipe cleaners handy to get inside the frets when needed. One big mistake I made on a pattern I had spent several hours on was to get in a rush and purchased a cheap brand of spray lacquer and it turned my project white. Since then I only use deft but I am sure there are other good ones


                • #9
                  Not cured enough...


                  The reason it turned "white" was because the oil was not cured, and it was effected by the solvent in the can, or you either did not wipe it dry, or you tried to coat over the oil to fast.

                  Try it again.

                  Last edited by MacS; 03-23-2007, 03:36 PM.


                  • #10
                    Wipe On Oil Finish

                    This belongs in the finishing and painting section, but for now I used it to help some scrollers learn the "basic" oil finishing.

                    This finishing article appeared in the Austrailian Woodworker in 2006

                    I think you will find it informative and intersting.
                    Attached Files


                    • #11
                      Thanks, Mac! That was very informative. If I use an oil, do I need to seal it with poly or lacquer? Or is an oil enough?

                      We are the music makers.
                      We are the dreamers of dreams.

                      Easy scrollin' with a DW788


                      • #12

                        Its really a personal thing, you do not need to use poly or lacquer unless you want too. Oil finishes are low sheen coatings, so, if you wanted a higher sheen like satin or gloss you might want to go with the aerosols which will also will add more body to your scrolled pieces.

                        Some scrollers may apply 3 coats of an oil finish, while others may double that amount to give the piece a better finish.

                        Mia, you will also need to take into consideration to the kind of wood you will be using, like opened or closed grain wood.This will make a difference in the amount of finish you want to apply.
                        Last edited by MacS; 03-25-2007, 10:51 AM.


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