A Matte Finish for Open Wood Grain

A wood sculptor likes the look he gets with straight sanding sealer on his sand-blasted pieces, but he worries about future color changes. Pros comment. July 3, 2008

Iím a wood sculptor with need to create a matte finish on open grained (carved and abrasive blasted) wood surfaces. Over the years, Iíve tried a wide variety of custom concoctions and over-the-counter products (lacquers, varnishes, penetrating oils). In each case the finish was not what we were looking to achieve (amber coloring of wood, uneven gloss/matte effect, etc). We have been using the Minwax sanding sealer (yellow can for use under poly products) for the past year with great success!

We spray or brush the product without any additional topcoating. The surfaces receiving this treatment are not subject to anything requiring durable finish and are interior in nature. Now the question is - is this product color fast? Also, can anyone see potential downsides from use of this product as topcoat in this application? Lastly, does anyone have a suggested alternative for achieving a very natural/matte finish on open grained wood surface?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor D:
Refined shellac wax will give you a wax protection without changing color and it is the only wax you cannot buff to a gloss sheen. It stays matte no matter how hard it's rubbed.

From contributor R:
Sherwin Williams makes a product called Homoclad Sealer. I think that would work well for you. It is an alkyd product but penetrates deeply into the wood so I don't believe you would get much discoloration but of course you will have to do your own testing for your application.

From contributor P:
Becker Acroma has a product called Wood Wash which might work for you.

From contributor C:
I agree that Homoclads is an excellent sealer, but it's an akyd resin and will yellow over time.

The wood wash is no more than a waterbase coating that has water soluble HALS by ciba incorporated into it. It works but will also soak in unevenly which. I personally have been using that particular HALS since it was introduced. Also just a friendly reminder - in the future always make samples before you actually start the project process so you will know what you might encounter and not be in this situation.

From contributor R:
Keep in mind that the wood itself is what changes in color, not necessarily the coating. Of course this color change is caused by direct or indirect sunlight and to a lesser degree, the types of lights we use in our fixtures.

Since youíve been using the Minwax product for the last year or so, have you observed anything that you donít like about this coating? Anything added to the raw wood be it a wax or a coating is going to have some color effect on the end grain, thatís just the nature of the beast.

While youíre experimenting with alternative coatings to what youíre using now you might want to try the Liquid Satin Wax.

From contributor R:
I realize Homoclad is an alkyd resin but it does penetrate deeply into the wood so I believe any yellowing would be minimal. (At least I have not experienced any problems over the years on projects where I have used it). That is why the disclaimer to do your own testing.

The wood species will have a greater effect than the coating I think. Wood darkening will more than make up for any yellowing in most species other than really light woods like sycamore or maple and these are not typical species used in carving.

From the original questioner:
The Minwax product has worked really well for us over the past year. It darkens the wood slightly and leaves the slightest of a warm yellow tint, a good match with the finishes we use on adjacent surfaces of these pieces. As well, this product is the only one we have used which penetrates evenly on what is very typically end grain that has been subject to glass bead, walnut hull or sand blasting in what is almost always punky/heavily spalted open grained wood.

I think my real concern about using this product was relative to long term potential of further and significant discoloration. Now that I know that the product is linseed oil based, we are operating in our comfort zone and will continue to use, but, also look for a better.

From contributor C:
Just so you know linseed oil does darken with age over time. If youíre happy with the results youíre getting thatís fine but in years to come you will notice darkening. To what degree I cannot say for sure since youíre only applying a light coat if I understand you correctly, so it may not be objectionable for your use. For insurance sake you can place a piece of your scrap wood with the coating on it and put it in direct window sunlight for a year and see how it does as to yellowing.