Friday, August 3, 2012

A Wood Lover's Finish

    No apologies to Pizza Hut and their slogan  "A Meat Lover's Pizza" because as I was applying the first hand rubbed coat on the Walnut table bases I appreciated why I love this finish so much.  Here's kind of a strange angled photograph to illustrate what I'm talking about:

Tables Upside Down
     No matter how I tried to rotate this shot it still looks strange!  The bases are upside down and you're looking at a side view.  What I hope you'll see is the sheen on the end table closest to you compared to the other one.  The finish procedure I use, though time consuming, is one that is incomparable to any other.  Granted, it's my opinion but the feel and luster is one you can't get any other way.  I've shared this finish with many other woodworkers and even clients.  I learned about this finish in the early 70's when I was at San Francisco State University.  It's a three part mix that is hand sanded into the wood and then wiped dry.  The first application is with 400 wet/dry paper, this is followed by two more applications with 600 wet/dry paper and finally a minimum of two more applications with denim which I'm guessing is about 1000 grit.  For this project the first coat took about 2 hours but is well worth it.  After allowing 24 hours or so for the finish to dry, the next coat will be applied.
    This finish was shown to students in the woodworking program when Art Espenet Carpenter (here's a link about him) came to the University and shared it with them.  This was the time when there were a couple of other well known woodworkers in California. He's in the same company as Sam Maloof and James Krenov and the three of them had a huge influence on the woodworking scene.  If my memory serves me well, Art was the man who coined the phrase that "time is care" as opposed to the more popular one stating "time is money".  I go for the time is care in my work, always having the goal of whatever I produce being the best that I can do.
     Perfection and woodworking are very seldom used in the same sentence!  In our local woodworker's monthly meeting that subject often comes up.  We've been trying to understand why virtually everyone that brings a project in for show and tell will point out the small error or blemish in their own work, it's as if we want to downgrade the talent we have or something.  In any case, didn't mean to get off on a tangent but the finish of a piece of furniture is the final phase of the process.  I happen to be quite prejudiced towards the finish I use because it does give great results -- Ikea, Ethan Allen, et al have nothing on this.  The other huge advantage is that as a craftsman working in a small shop you don't need to have spray booth and all of the related equipment.  Lastly, the finish is very easy to repair if ever needed.  I've even repaired a cigarette burn in an Oak bar top many years ago.  Here are two more pictures to illustrate how this looks on the table bases.

     Here the base on the left has its' first coat, the right one only has a coat of Danish Oil on it.  I love how it enhances and brings out the natural beauty of the wood.  For me, it really is all about the wood!

     This one is a little harder to tell but both legs are done while the apron between them again, only has the Danish Oil.


  1. What is the formula for this finish?

    1. It's a mixture of pure gum Turpentine, boiled Linseed Oil, and polyurethane. I've given it out so often that I have it typed out and will send it to you if you send me your email address. Mine is

  2. Thanks John, I would be very interested in your formula.

    Mark Schreiber

  3. John, I just want to tell you that I found BLO and varnish here in Taiwan. I tried your recipe, Right now the sample have two coats and it already looks great. Thank you!

    One question. Do you mind if I give the recipe out? If you don't mind, I'll share it in my blog. Of course, the credit is yours.