Natural Hand-Rubbed Finish Formulas

When you get the notion to mix up a potion ... February 12, 2010

Does anyone know the processes used by Nakashima, Maloof, etc. for achieving a natural hand-rubbed finish? I'm currently using Tried & True but wondering if there is a standard process.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
Those finishes are nothing but some varnish mixed with some thinners, to which a little BLO (or Watco) is added. No real secrets or magical potions involved, just an understanding of how a few chemicals interact with each other. My guess is The Tried and True coating has the same ingredients as the Maloof or the Formby or the Nakashima or the stuff Fester of The Adams Family mixed up on episode #13.

From the original questioner:
So do you think it is just numerous coats, burnishing in between?

From contributor R:
Yep. The advantage of mixing up your own homebrew is that you can mix it as concentrated as you want. You can brush it on or use a roller or even spray it. Don't expect to see much of anything until you've applied a few coats, letting each coat dry before applying the next. Burlap works well to burnish the varnish. Heating up the first coat or two will allow for quicker absorption into the wood. Obviously I'm not saying to put the potion on the stove or in a microwave, but to place a can of the potion into a pot of hot water. I've used a crock pot on low to hasten the warming process.

The oil rubbing type finishes look beautiful when done properly, but they do take time and patience. Have you considered trying a tung oil finish? Some of them are just thinned down tung oil, but you can find uncut tung oil by searching for it on Google.

From contributor J:
I'm pretty sure Nakashima used just a tung oil finish. You can get polymerized tung oil from Sutherland Wells or Twisp Environmetal. You can buy the Maloof finish at woodworking stores like Rockler or Woodcraft. You can also get polymerized linseed oil through Twisp. SW products are easier to use, but way more expensive.

I have some walnut stools in my house, one finished in tung oil and one in Tried and True Varnish. I really like the varnished one because of the linseed oil base which ambers nicely over walnut. The varnish has rosin in it, which some say will do weird things over long times. I guess in 100 years, the finish can get an alligator like texture, but I have no information about how accurate that really is. A five year old stool looks better every year so far.

Some also say that tung is dangerous for peanut allergies, but I kinda wonder if this is an issue once the oil is dried.