Waterlox on American Chestnut - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 4 Old 08-13-2019, 10:35 AM Thread Starter
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Waterlox on American Chestnut

I've been applying original Waterlox to this American Chestnut tea table top with spotty results, literally. I got the wood 20 years ago from a hardwood dealer somewhere in Eastern PA. I know now that it's an endangered species; I don't remember if I knew that then, or whether the wood was ethically harvested or not. But I have it, so I won't let it go to waste.

American Chestnut is a beach-family tree, but has some similarities to walnut. It's softer and the grain density and pore size are much more uneven than walnut. And with the design of this top, there's a lot of transition between long-grain and end-grain, and a lot of nooks and crannies that are very difficult to sand.



I sanded the top to 220. Brand new bottle of Waterlox (not the 20-year-old stuff I asked about in a thread a few months ago). I applied a coat of Waterlox, lightly thinned with mineral spirits (say, 4:1), with a natural bristle brush, and then wiped it with a cloth. Let it dry for 24-hours and it looked lovely. Except, when the light hit it just right you could see tiny droplets or spots usually around the opening of a large pore. In paces where the end gran was sliced, there would be a spatter of glossy droplets. To the touch, it was mostly smooth.

There are imperfections in the carved surfaces, and I'm resigned to those being visible from any kind of gloss. But this is something else. The droplets/spots/spatter is on perfectly smooth-sanded areas as well as some spots that are less perfect.

I wasn't surprised by this. I figured I'd have to to a few coats with sanding between until the pores were filled and the last few coats would apply more evenly. So after sanding with 400 grit, I wiped with mineral spirits and let dry, and then I did a second coat. Same result. Buffed with 0000 steel wool, wipe & dry. Third coat, this time as a wipe-on with a rag. Same result. 0000 Steel wool a second time, wipe & dry, and wipe-on fourth coat (this one, without dilution). Same result.

So, do I just keep at it? Or do I need to change my process? Or is there something about combination fo the Waterlox and chestnut that just won't give me nice results?

Years ago, I got magnificent results with this product and process on a Walnut table top. I recall doing probably a dozen coats or so, and got a gorgeous luster with fantastic depth, without looking like a coat of plastic was on top.
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post #2 of 4 Old 08-13-2019, 04:31 PM
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The spots don't show up in the pictures so all I can do is make some guesses. Sometimes with an open grain wood if you flood the wood with a finish and the temperature goes up, especially if put in the sun the wood will more or less build air pressure in the grain and push out what finish was absorbed in the grain. With sunlight it can even blow bubbles in the finish.

You really shouldn't use steel wool between coats. Steel wool is dirty. It goes to pieces as you are using it and you have to be extra careful to clean it off before doing another coat. Then if there was some dirt in the finish the steel wool would only round it over. If there is any debris embedded in the finish you need sandpaper to shave it off smooth with the finish. 220 grit is fine enough for between the coats. 400 is better suited for automotive finishes which are applied thin as water.

When working with waterlox allow plenty of drying time. It main ingredient is tung oil and tung oil is a very slow drying finish.
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post #3 of 4 Old 08-14-2019, 07:40 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
The spots don't show up in the pictures so all I can do is make some guesses. Sometimes with an open grain wood if you flood the wood with a finish and the temperature goes up, especially if put in the sun the wood will more or less build air pressure in the grain and push out what finish was absorbed in the grain. With sunlight it can even blow bubbles in the finish.
Thanks Steve. Thatís likely the correct diagnosis. The piece is not in the sun, but weíve been having 20-25ļ temperature swings from night to day. And humidity fluctuations too.

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Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
You really shouldn't use steel wool between coats. Steel wool is dirty. It goes to pieces as you are using it and you have to be extra careful to clean it off before doing another coat. Then if there was some dirt in the finish the steel wool would only round it over. If there is any debris embedded in the finish you need sandpaper to shave it off smooth with the finish.
Huh. This confuses me. Sure, the steel wool leaves a lot of detritus, and Iíve been careful to clean it off. But it seems you advise against using it at all for any wood finishing? Or just on open-grained wood? Or just on Waterlox? When do you use it, or do you think itís just not a useful tool for wood finishing?

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Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
220 grit is fine enough for between the coats. 400 is better suited for automotive finishes which are applied thin as water.
When I sanded with 400 grit, it seemed to me I was sanding back to bare wood. Iím not sure what advantage backing up to 220 would have? Do you think the 400 is failing to level off the little blobs that are causing the problem?

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Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
When working with waterlox allow plenty of drying time. It main ingredient is tung oil and tung oil is a very slow drying finish.
Oh yes. These four coats went on over a period of three weeks. At least 24-hours from application to sanding/buffing and cleaning. Then at least another 12-hours to the next coat. But in some cases as many as seven days between coats.
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post #4 of 4 Old 08-14-2019, 08:20 AM
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No, I don't recommend using steel wool between the coats. Not just open grain woods but any finishing. When you do the between the coats sanding you are trying to level the surface. The wood might have high and low places in it plus anything you put on wood will make the grain stand up. You might also have dirt or debris in the finish so you need something abrasive to shave a little of the finish off. They even make a hard rubber block to put your sandpaper on to enhance this function. If you use sandpaper you tend to remove the finish more on the high places and leave finish on the low places. With each coat you do the finish gets more and more level that way. This really shows up more on a table top especially if you do a glass like glossy finish. When done you can see every little dent or wrinkle that the wood may have so you try to work these spots out as you go. They might not even be visible until you get a number of coats on so it's best to assume they are there. If you use steel wool for this function it does nothing to level the high and low places and if there is any dirt in the finish it won't remove what is sticking above the surface. You would end up just putting another coat over it and if you got some dirt in that coat you would have more and more dirt in the finish.

A finish would get pretty dull looking if you sand it with 400 grit. There may be a pretty good amount of finish there when you sand it. It should be pretty difficult to sand through a finish with 400 grit. If you think you are sanding through the finish you could always apply more of the finish before sanding. In the end when you are done you should achieve a thickness of 3 mils. That is about the thickness of a lawn and leaf trash bag.
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