Oil finish thickness

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by Zach LaPerriere, Nov 10, 2017.

  1. Zach LaPerriere

    Zach LaPerriere

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    I'm a traditionalist, or at least I've been accused of being one. I use finishes with no synthetic thinners. I'm moving away from walnut oil in favor of Tried and True Original finish, which is mostly linseed with some bees wax. I've also played around with Danish oil and their varnish.

    Traditional cabinet makers will verbally spank you for applying varnish or Danish oil if the finish thickness is anything more than bare bones minimum. 1/100 of a inch is the number I've heard many times. That sounds perfect for a walnut armoire with a hand rubbed finish, burnished with steel wool between coats, etc.... But... What about utility bowls?

    I'm a bit of a finish slob, and I keep going back to more is better—within reason of course. Bowls take a lot of abuse. Armoires are not for serving salad, after all.

    If anyone here as an opinion on micro-thin finishes, I'd love to hear it!
     
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  2. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    I'll agree that thick finishes usually don't look good, but my opinion is that the problem doesn't lie with the finish, but rather the way it is applied. Thick and glossy where you see the grain pores and figure and sometimes orange peel as part of the glossy surface is not my idea of a good finish. A well done glossy finish is glass smooth and may look deep even it is only a few thousandths of an inch thick. I mostly use three different types of finishing:
    • High gloss lacquer that has been leveled glass smooth. This takes a lot of fine sanding and polishing with ¼" thick Micromesh pads and then Novus 2 to polish out the very fine spiderweb still remaining. If I see any waves or ripples after this I go back and apply one or two more coats and repeat the polishing.
    • Oil ... walnut or linseed used neat (without anything else). No wax chaser either.
    • No finish. Sometimes I like the wood to go "au naturel".
     
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  3. Dean Center

    Dean Center

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    I don't think of oil finishes in term of thickness. That's a concept that applies to film finishes, but in my mind, not oil.
     
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  4. john lucas

    john lucas

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    Any finish will build if you apply enough of it. I did a rifle for my Dad that had 75 coats of boiled linseed oil. Long story on that but it's still nice looking after 30 years. It has not been handled a lot a bowl would be however. Something like Birchwood Casey true oil will give a thicker look with only 10 coats. I agree with Bill 100%. There's thick and ugly and then there's thick and glass smooth. You have to finish the finish if you want a really good look. Now back to bowls. I would not use a thick finish on user bowls. It just wears off with time. I think the best finish is one that can be reapplied by the user although I really wonder how many people do that. I don't sell many user bowls but I have gone to Mike Mahoney's walnut and use his wax as the final finish. I looks and feels great to customers. I tell them they can use regular walnut oil to restore the look if they feel it's necessary and not worried about walnut alergies. Mikes finish will not cause alergy problems.
    Most of my bowls are what I call decorator or show bowls. They simply look good and are designed for just sitting on the shelf or table so I tend to use lacquer or wipe on poly.
     
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  5. Owen Lowe

    Owen Lowe

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    I make a lot of utility bowls and you are absolutely right that their finish needs are different than furniture. How many furniture makers wash their dresser in a sink of warm soapy water followed by a thorough rinsing? The answer is probably, quite few. ;) Bowls (hereafter meaning items used in the kitchen and for dining) must be able to put up with a lot of use and handling that furniture just isn’t subjected to. So, ignore finish advice from that sector if they don’t have experience with making these types of utility items.

    All finishes on bowls are temporary. Again, all finishes on bowls are temporary. Finishes are just subjected to too much wear and tear and environmental changes to survive for any length of time when compared to furniture finishes. Any finish that builds much of a thickness will exhibit failure in very ugly ways. Abrasions penetrate the coating to expose raw wood and then it’s all over. Moisture gets under the finish, causing it to fail. It may flake off or more likely becomes a mangy-looking thing that ends up in the back of the cabinet, at the thrift shop, or in the landfill.

    I believe the purpose of applying a bowl finish is so that it looks good for the recipient. A “close to the wood” look is what I’m after that will let the bowl look “new" for a while, depending on use. (I also use T&T finishes for my work in addition to a self-mixed varnish/oil.) I let the recipient know that, with use, the bowl’s appearance will change in time. It will get dings, scuffs, and scratches. Foods and the human touch will alter the color in some areas while leaving others unaffected. In other words, the bowl will change as it experiences being a part of your life. I try to instill a sense of appreciation for the way the bowl will look with use; the appearance represents memories of good food, family, sharing time with others, etc. A thick finish will never yield the same kind of patina. (I offer instructions for cleaning and re-oiling if they’d like to “rejuvenate” the tone.) My guiding vision is of the kitchen bowls you see in museums that have withstood time and show a well-cared for life.
     
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  6. BobCoates

    BobCoates

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    Zach,
    I also use Tride and True, I stop at 4 coats. Each let cure over night and then burnished with 4 0 steel wool. Wait between 15 and 30 min and wipe dry.

    Bob
     
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  7. Tom Albrecht

    Tom Albrecht

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    Chill out Z. The girls and I just ate a bowl of popcorn from this bowl of yours that we got last January.
    z bowl - 1.jpg
    The bowl still works perfectly and it's not as shiny as it was back then. Like others have said, any bowl that gets used as a bowl and not a decorative piece is going to show wear, and patina, and beauty. If you have customers that are complaining, or hesitant to buy, then by all means do some experimenting. Otherwise, if it ain't broke...
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2017 at 6:32 PM
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  8. Zach LaPerriere

    Zach LaPerriere

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    Thanks for all the responses! Well my post just got deleted...oh joy!

    Owen...you said it poetically and hit it on the head. I couldn't agree more. Thank you.

    Bill, I haven't heard that in a while..."oil used neat". That's a perfect term. I think your three schools of finish are just right. I've never used lacquer on bowls, but plenty on flat woodwork.

    Bob...can I ask which Tried and True you like most? Thanks for the thought on four coats. I'm going to try a mere two for starters. I feel like the Danish oil might be the finest finish, but I'm trying the Original on their suggestion for ease of application. I have 50 bowls I just finished and another 50 tomorrow. I probably should go smaller, but might as well go all in...

    Tom: Thanks. You're too kind. I just feel that walnut isn't enough of a finish for non-utility, a touch flat compared to high quality linseed, and for utility bowls (and my doug fir and yellow cedar counters) the oil has so much more water resistance and longevity.

    Again, I really appreciate all of your thoughts. I'll report back here how it goes.
     
  9. Derek Lane

    Derek Lane

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    Oil finish over varnishes by nature are designed to soak into the wood and not lay on top so much. I have always applied oil finishes by giving the item a good coat then let sit for up to 15 minutes until it has had time to penetrate wipe off the excess cut back and then apply more coats until the item will not soak up any more this means that the oil has penetrated to it's maximum with a thin even layer on the surface. This can be washed with warm soapy water and dried immediately for cleaning. When food is involved I tend to go with a known food safe oil I do not use oils for cooking as some can go rancid and other contain nuts just in case some one has an allergy. The bowl in my avatar is finished with oil but not food safe as it is for decoration only
     
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  10. BobCoates

    BobCoates

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    Zack,
    I use the Danish oil version. I found the this could not be easier to apply, it seems to go for ever. They say use thin coats and it dosen't take much to wet the wood. I just dip a cloth in the can and rub it in while on the lathe. When buffing off, turn the speed up.
    Bob
     
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  11. Tom Albrecht

    Tom Albrecht

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    Where's the best place to buy Tried & True?
     
  12. Owen Lowe

    Owen Lowe

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    If I need it quickly, I go to Woodcraft. If I’m not in a hurry, Amazon. It’s a bit more expensive but it’s not much more considering I don’t have to spend $4-5 in gas to and from Woodcraft and take up an hour of traffic time.

    Try this link:
    http://www.triedandtruewoodfinish.com/find-a-retailer/
     
  13. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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  14. Tom Albrecht

    Tom Albrecht

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    So, what's the difference between Tried & True Danish Oil and Watco Danish Oil? Does anybody here know?
     
  15. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    No Danes were harmed in either of those products despite what the labels seem to imply. :D
     
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  16. Zach LaPerriere

    Zach LaPerriere

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    @Tom Albrecht Watco has a slew of petroleum products. It's considerably easier to put on, and a quality product, but many of my customers would consider it unsafe for food contact. I don't really care for the smell either. The T&T linseed just smells great. A shipwright friend jokes "Good enough for my flapjacks."
     
  17. Tom Albrecht

    Tom Albrecht

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    Thanks Z. So are you saying that the T&T is not easy to apply? And, if so, in what way is it more difficult than Watco?
     
  18. Zach LaPerriere

    Zach LaPerriere

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    Oh I should have been more clear. T&T is a wipe on. Supposed to go on THIN. Barely wet. It just takes some elbow grease, then wait an hour or so and wipe down dry. Best to use 0000 steel wool between coats, but I'm experimenting with skipping that step and just doing two coats.
     
  19. BobCoates

    BobCoates

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    Zack, Tom
    I used watco danish oil for years on furniture and I liked it. However one of he wood sites and I think watco web iitself said it is not food safe. Several woodworkers on other site seemed to think that it is because they did not go to the trouble of the testing necessary to say itis FS. T & T claims its,

    Zack,
    I used to just do two coats without steel wool between, however since I have been doing4 coats and steel wool I like the finish much better.

    Bob
     
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  20. Zach LaPerriere

    Zach LaPerriere

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    Thanks, Bob! I really appreciate the advice. I'll try four coasts soon. I have a hundred bowls to do, so admittedly I'm cutting things a bit short, but I have an opening this week and markets over the following weekends.

    Have you ever tried the Original finish with varnish resins and bees wax? I'm up in the air between it and the Danish oil. I think the Original finish goes on a little further.

    Here's what Matt from T&T said in email a while back: "The Varnish Oil is the most durable of all our finishes, however, the Original Wood Finish isn’t a bad option when it comes to wood turned bowls. This product contains beeswax so it really helps add extra liquid and moisture protection to the wood. Either will add durability and protection while highlighting the natural beauty of the wood grains."

    He didn't touch on the Danish oil, and I'm not quite sure why.

    I read the MSDS on Watco, and I know a good percentage of my customers would not feel it's foodsafe, so I moved on.

    Thanks again for the feedback.
    Zach
     

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