Finishing Zebra Wood

One finisher's experience with applying finish to Zebrawood cabinets and turnings. January 27, 2008

What type of finish do you recommend for finishing zebra wood? Conversion varnish? Straight catalyzed lacquer or something else? Any prepping tips? I have a Binks Rapitor for my clear finishes.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
You can finish zebrawood with anything you would put on your standard stuff like oak or maple. I have finished zebrawood in cabinetry only with conversion varnish - it was also zebra veneer. I used MLC's Krystal, and the results were super.

Note that I also have done a good number of lathe turnings with zebrawood. You can get a very neat look by finishing it with a very amber-colored finish like regular old polyurethane, where the lighter streaks get the golden color but the black is still black.

I prefer the clear, white look, however, and conversion varnish is the ticket. Zebrawood is probably the most open-grained wood I have ever finished (next to maybe wenge) and I had to pile on three coats of CV to get anything resembling a closed-grain smooth finish. I was sanding every one of them back very heavily (back almost to the bare wood) with a 1/4 sheet sander and 220 grit. Naturally it was best to cure the CV for a few hours before commencing in the grinding. The final (third) coat was carefully thinned to make sure it laid properly and was not sprayed too heavy.

I also recommend you spray as dull a finish as your customer will allow. You probably won't get a total grain fill very easily and a glossy finish will end up looking cratery and dimpled. Otherwise, zebrawood smells like zebra crap when sanding it, but the end result is a stunning work.