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non-toxic finishes for beginners

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  • non-toxic finishes for beginners

    I've worked my way through Mr. Nelson's book and now, thanks to him, I feel fairly competent cutting I've been using acrylic paints to finish my boxes because I had some and I'm familiar with them, and I was making little keepsake boxes painted in sea colors with cutouts of seahorses and crabs and such on top of them (the kids love 'em!).

    Now, however, I want to try out my new fretwork box patterns from Rick Hutcheson and I'm not sure what is the best way for me to finish them. I have trashy lungs and can't use the spray varnishes and adhesives and such that many people seem to use. It seems that some of the other common finishes such as tung oil are rather pungent, although I haven't tried it yet. Do you all have any recommendations for a non-toxic finish for these beautiful little boxes? My workspace is in my house...although I can always bribe my son to drag my stuff outside and finish it for me if that's my best option

    Now I must go back to drooling over my new Wildwood Designs catalog. Thanks for reading this


  • #2
    About the easiest finishes on your lungs are the water based ones. Water base Polyurethane or water based (WB) lacquer. I prefer the WB lacquer because it has the same fast drying qualities of the dangerous for health solvent based lacquers and a more durable finish. Don't know if it available yet in spray cans yet though. I buy it by the gallon and use a HVLP sprayer for applying it.

    But regardless of what finish you use, there should always be some degree of cross ventilation in the finishing area .

    The task ahead of us is never as great as the power behind us

    Delta P-20 Scroll Saw, 14" x 43" Craftex Wood Lathe and Jet 10" Mini Lathe .


    • #3

      As far as fumes go every product will carry some sort of odor now whether this is offensive to you is someting for you to decide. Water base polys or lacquers are very good to use and easy cleanup. They are a clear product so it will not highlight grain or add color. This maybe what you are looking for. Now you can use Tried and True Danish oil This is very low in odor and is enviromentally safe. Now with this product you get grain highlights and will with several coats build up to a soft finish to touch. You can use olive oil or walnut oils but these need to be reapplied after they dry out over time. These are good for cutting boards. So to sum up you do have choices.
      John T.


      • #4
        tried n true

        Ive never heard of "tried and true"! Where is that available at, and how is it in price compared to Watco? dale
        Dale w/ yella saws


        • #5
          fumes from paint=

          Hey mag-- I too have copd and I am on oxygen 24/7 .. needless to say I love my sawdust and my paint fumes to some extent - when it gets to me i know its time to clean the mess. But i use acrylic on a lot of things and then varnish right over it.. seems to brighten it a lot and makes it really pretty. but they only thing I really have trouble with as far as the smell is the paint thinner.. I use oil based paints and varnishes but when they dry it clears out pretty good. keep a fan on you ( ceiling or other wise ) to keep the air moving, I cant tolerate floral or perfumy smells but the paint doesn't sem to bother me as bad as the manmade stinks..Just don't spray to heavy or paint to long inside or it will make your brain act funny.. then you 'll be silly like me -- hope this helps-- and prepare to be a happy little scrooler since you have found a perfect pastime..Sharon


          • #6

            Tried & True Varnish Oil, Danish Oil, and Original Wood Finish. The Tried & True oil finishes are linseed oil based products that contain nothing else (Danish Oil), Beeswax (Original Wood Finish) or Rosin (Varnish Oil). Linseed oil can be cooked, allowed to stand or have air blown through it to increase the degree of polymerization (linked molecules) of the liquid oil. The higher the polymerization, the closer the oil is to becoming a dry film. Varnish Oil is the most polymerized product and by pre-heating the oil, one can get it to dry even faster. My use of fast here is relative because pure drying oils takes days to dry fully and weeks to cure. If you need an easy to use protective coating that dries in minutes/hours, we have other products like the Waterlox varnish mentioned below. Basically all coatings are non-toxic once they are cured. The main advantage of the Tried & True products is their non-toxic nature while still in the can. If you have problems with solvent odors or want to introduce your kids to finishing, the Tried & True products are an ideal choice.

            Check your local hardware store or better yet paint store. I get it at a paint store. Price runs about the same as Watco. Less yellowing. Do a google search for other places.
            Last edited by jttheclockman; 01-12-2006, 04:27 PM.
            John T.


            • #7

              This suggestion comes in from far left field, so if you don't like the suggestion that will be OK.

              Fretwork is admired for the effort and dedicated stick-to-it cutting. When you show off your fretwork to your friends, the shine on the wood itself is overlooked. If you want to show off the wood as well as your cutting, you can use different color woods.

              JTTheClockMan, sometimes has posted a Florentine Clock he cut (Wildwood, a design by Cindy Stewart of LS Tiffany Studio.) If you get a chance, you will see the light / dark woods standout. But you don't really notice any shine or texture of the finish. What you see is the cutting pattern, your eye is drawn to the missing wood while you mind tries to focus on pattern made by the remaining wood.

              Many times with fretwork, a dull matt finish is all that is needed to protect the wood. Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO) is great for that. But BLO has paint thinner. I am sure your lungs will not like that.

              You could get an OSHA approved Breather Mask for VOC paint for about $25 -$30 USD. Ask at your local Big Box Home improvement center in the Paint Department. Get the one with the replaceable charcoal filters. I think 3M makes the most comfortable one to wear. You dip the project in the BLO.

              Also there is Mineral Oil, you get from your local Drug Store. (down on the bottom shelf, below all the other Laxatives that sell for a lot more money.) So, on a 'practice' piece dip it into a bit of mineral oil. (Use a cheap plastic container, with a lid, big enough to hold the fretwork.) After a minute or so remove it and wipe it dry, and hang it up to cure. Repeat next few days. Then let it cure for at least 3 days.

              Mineral Oil does not cure a protective coating like BLO, but it will give a dull finish that is safe.




              • #8
                I like the General Finishes EF Polyacrylic Blend. The EF stands for Environmentally Friendly. The smell level is very low and the application is easy.


                • #9

                  Thanks, you all, I knew you'd know something I could use. I will try all these to see what suits me best. That was an excellent point about people not really looking at the fretwork finishes so much; I hadn't really considered that. I think the Tried and True Danish Oil sounds pretty good.

                  Sharon, I was a little worried about the sawdust and chemicals aspect of scrolling, and your post was a great big boost for me Thanks!


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