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I have been using Minwax Hand Rubbed Poly Satin finish to finish maple and walnut picture frames and I really like the ease of application and the look of this finish. The satin finish looks very natural and since it is an oil-modified finish it imparts a subtle amber tone to the wood.

I also really like the ease of application as I can simply rub it on with a cloth, let it dry for 10 minutes and then apply a second and final coat (sometimes I will do 3 or 4 if I want it to appear less satin).

What I don't like are the fumes and the environmental impact. Is there a water-based finish out there that will give me the same or very similar look to the wipe-on poly? Is there one that is similarly easy to apply?

In case you are not familiar with this exact product, basically what I'm going for is the satin look of tung oil, boiled linseed oil or any other oil really but from a water-based finish. I have also heard it is similar to General Finishes Arm-R-Seal satin.

Thanks!
 

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Most of the water based finishes I've tried dry to quickly for wiping. General Finishes Woodturners finish seems to work a bit better; at least on the lathe, where in basically wiping it on except that the object is moving instead of the finishing pad. I use a small cosmetic sponge wrapped in a piece of panty hose. It seems to maintain a wet enough edge. Like all water based finishes, it does raise the grain on the first coat, but that's the nature of the beast. General Finishes Woodturners Finish also has an amber tone although it's not exactly like oil.
 

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I should also mention that durability is not a primary concern for me since my application is for picture frames

If you want a water base finish that gives the appearance of oil base general finishes endure used to sell one with a orange tint .

Another option would be using a tinted grain filler or a wax....

Now even thou you don't want the orders, a shellac will give you what you want. It will have a Oder but it won't last long..
 

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I've been using Varathane WB poly. I apply it with a rag. I really like the ease of application and the quick dry time.

It doesn't give the amber look, but I've used it over dyed pieces, so additional color wasn't a concern.
 
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