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Waterlox on cherry

Shalom's picture

Waterlox on cherry (post #110776)

Hello everone. I'm about to complete my best approximation of a Maloof dining room table in cherry. I was planning to use Waterlox as the finish, but I'm concerned about the cherry blotching. One suggestion I received was to first coat the wood with diluted shellac. The Waterlox people suggest that I can take care of the blotching by adding an extra coat of Waterlox. Is it just that they want to sell more product or is it that an additional coat will just darken the whole table? They also say that if I use shelac I should make sure that it's defatted. I never heard of defatted shellac nor has the guy in the corner paint store. hmm. Would I do better to use wipe on poly? I'ld probably still get the blotching on the cherry. Another question. As I'm sanding the table top I notice that at one point two of my boards haven't managed to quite come together. It's a small spot about an inch long and not very wide, maybe the thickness of my nail. Can this be filled before (or after) I apply the finish? Thanks for reading this and for the hoped for responses. Shalom

Maturin's picture

(post #110776, reply #1 of 20)

Shalom... I have to say I like Waterlox, but the time required for 6-7 coats is tough for me now,  especially since I've tried a few projects with wipe on poly and have been happy with the results.

The cherry book shelves I've made were 'blotchy' at first, but to be honest I like that look, over the past five years or so, the piece has darkened considerably and any blotching is no longer an issue.

I used wipe-on poly on two cherry twin beds (after reading a review in Fine Woodworking on finishes) and I must admit I'm very pleased.  For me to buy a MinWax product was a bit over the top...anyway, I gave it a shot and, like I said, I'm happy.   I still like Waterlox, and I'm sure I'lll use it on my workbench when it needs refinishing, but the wipe-on products are earning respect by me.

Hope that's useful to of luck.





HowardAcheson's picture

(post #110776, reply #4 of 20)

You can turn the Waterlox into a wiping varnish just as you can with a poly varnish. Just thin it about 50/50 with mineral spirits. Waterlox is just varnish.

However, the Waterlox Original Sealer/Finish can be directly used as a wiping varnish right out of the can.

Waterlox varnishes will give you a much nicer looking finish than a poly varnish.

jeema's picture

(post #110776, reply #5 of 20)

"Defatted" is a wierd sounding description; my suspicion is that DEWAXED was what was meant .

Shalom's picture

(post #110776, reply #6 of 20)

OK Jeema, I'll play. So what is dewaxed shellac and where can I find it? I had thought of using regular "store bought " shellac and diluting it 50:50 with denatured alcohol. But the essential question remanes. Should I apply it to the cherry before I apply the Waterlox and what effect will that have on the natural blotching that occurs with cherry? Thanks Shalom

jeema's picture

(post #110776, reply #7 of 20)

When shellac is harvested, it is the dried  secretion of the lac bug (native to India) that is collected. This will be graded as garnet shellac. It contains, among other impurities, a wax. The wax will interfere with some of the charecteristics (mainly hardness, I think). When shellac crystals are first dissolved in alcohol, the very fine particles of wax go into suspension and float about. Leaving the container to sit for a few days lets this floating debris collect and settle to the bottom. The clarified liguid is still garnet in color, but the interfering waxes are removed: thus, dewaxed shellac. To make the color lighter (blond), you're talking bleaches and filtration as well as other things. Dewaxing is the first step, and I don't  know of pre-mixed (liquid) shellac that isn't (not to say it's not around, tho'). Apparently the wax is further processed into the wax component of shoe polish (not a nickel's worth gets chucked out; turn it all into money!).

HowardAcheson's picture

(post #110776, reply #10 of 20)

>> I don't know of pre-mixed (liquid) shellac that isn't (not to say it's not around, tho').

With the exception of Zinsser Sealcoat, none of the Zinsser pre-mixed shellacs are dewaxed. Dewaxing is not the first step in manufacturing shellac unless the intent is to make a dewaxed shellac.

Zinsser is the only US manufacturer of pre-mixed shellac.

jeema's picture

(post #110776, reply #11 of 20)

Thanks, Howie. I'm not in the U.S., and wasn't aware of that.

fatboy2's picture

(post #110776, reply #12 of 20)

FWIW, I have had little luck with the commercially available products promoted as preventing blotching nor with shellac.
But, as with several others, I like that look. I think it gives it character, unlike the cheap pieces of cherry furniture which are made up of rather narrow strips of wook and are quite uniform.
I have a cherry corner cupboard made in the mid 1700's and it has that color variation all over it. Obviously the builder didn't mind and don't either.

ChrisB's picture

(post #110776, reply #8 of 20)

Your best bet for "store bought" shellac is Zinnser Seal Coat. It is dewaxed. Read the directions on the side of the can and dilute it into a "one pound cut" ie, a pound of shellac per gallon of alcohol. Many folks refer to this, and other thin  shellacs as a "wash coat".

Splotching is caused by uneven absorption of a stain or colored finish. Putting on a wash coat of shellac allows the shellac to seal off those areas that would otherwise over absorb stain or finish. It does a good job of getting a uniform finish, but over time blotching fades out on its own in my experience.





SteveSchoene's picture

(post #110776, reply #9 of 20)

It can have a modest effect at removing "blotching", which is just the natural effect when grain swirls to expose more end grain in some areas than others.  When pronounced we call it "curly".  I think of it as nascent figure and tend not to mind it.  It becomes less pronounced over time. 

With Waterlox you don't need dewaxed shellac.  It will adhere just fine over shellac with wax.  Its only polyurethane varnish and any waterborne finish that has problems with shellac containing wax. 

Waterlox does come in several flavors.  There is a Satin, and a Gloss, but the one most people think of is Original/Sealer.  This is already formulated as a wiping varnish, you don't need to mix it 50/50 with mineral spirits.  It builts to a mellow gloss that I find very attractive.  You certainly can add a bit more mineral spirits if that seems to work better.  The Satin and Gloss do have more solid's content and would be better with more mineral spirits to use as a wiping varnish.  Satin is a challenge to use as a wiping varnish since it is sometimes hard to keep the flatting agent evenly suspended in the fluid.     

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

jdubbs's picture

(post #110776, reply #14 of 20)

I just finished a cherry dresser. This is what I used for the finish. First step was a wash coat of shellac, followed by a dye, van dyke brown diluted to a 6:1 ratio. Then another wash coat of shellac. I let this dry for a couple of days then glazed with a mahogany gel stain. Finally, I "finished " with 3 coats of waterlox. The fifish is beautiful and the grain pops at you. There are some who like the freshly milled look of cherry but there was no way I am going to look at pink furniture in my berroom for 30 years waiting for it to darken. The dye made the color of the whole piece more uniform. The glaze added a hint of red, and beleive me it did not make it to dark.

Shalom's picture

(post #110776, reply #16 of 20)

Thank you jdubbs. I'm going to print your suggestion and try it on my next piece of cherry furniture.  Sadly your suggestion came after I had completed my fifth coat of Waterlox on  my table. So, in spite of the company's suggestion it is a little blotchy. Actually Waterlox has an amber tint in it. (So they can claim it doesn't turn yellow in the can.) So my table is not too pink. It is though a tad too shiny for taste. Question: What does a "shelac wash" mean? Does it just mean an application of shellac or does it mean that you've dilluted the shelac. Thanks for your suggestion again. Shalom

jdubbs's picture

(post #110776, reply #17 of 20)

What I mean by a wash coat of shellac is one part shellac, two parts alcohol. You will still get some minor "blotching" but I think it adds charcter to the wood. Just out of curosity, how much did you pay for the cherry? Hope my expeirence has helped you.

Shalom's picture

(post #110776, reply #18 of 20)

Thanks, yes. As I noted before, I've copied your method and I'll use or adapt it in my next project. I bought my cherry at Condon Co. in White Plains NY.  I payed $6.95 BF for the 4/4 cherry I used for the top and $7.50 BF for the 8/4 I used on the base. I have no idea whether that's a good price or not. Now if I could get Maloof to sign my piece of furniture it would be worth about $3500.oo. I kinda lucked out on the wood because I had the guy cut my 36" pieces out of some 12' boards and he threw in the left over chunks. I was able to use them too. Shalom

SteveSchoene's picture

(post #110776, reply #19 of 20)

You need to add a zero to value a Maloof original--and perhaps do some multiplication too. 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

HowardAcheson's picture

(post #110776, reply #20 of 20)

>> Actually Waterlox has an amber tint in it. (So they can claim it doesn't turn yellow in the can.)

Waterlox is a phenolic resin varnish. Phenolic resin is a quite dark amber color. Waterlox is one of the most yellow of the varnishes. Phenolic resin is use because it makes a tough and very water resistant varnish.

The color of varnishes is dependent on the resin used and the oil used.

DabblerBabbler's picture

(post #110776, reply #2 of 20)

Made a table from cherry and wiped down the top with 5 or so coats of Waterlox. It blotched. Then had presence of mind first to use dilute shellac on legs. Those didn't blotch but didn't have the character of the top. Over time the blotches mellowed and darkened into the uniform look today, which I like. If you can, choose Waterlox over poly. The look and feel of the finished wood is immediate, not filmy or glossy.

Ronaway's picture

(post #110776, reply #3 of 20)

If you use the waterlox the finish will be easier to repair in the future. You can just clean it and add a couple more coats, with the poly you will probably be looking at stripping and refinishing. As far as the way it looks, I always prefer the look of a tung oil based varnish over poly.


If you're too open minded your brains will fall out.
siskiyou's picture

(post #110776, reply #13 of 20)

Go to Ron Hock's website for great shellac that is not mixed up yet. You can mix yourself.
Search Hock blades or Ron Hock. He also makes the best blades for planes you'll find. Quality stuff from Fort Bragg, CA.

Shalom's picture

(post #110776, reply #15 of 20)

Thanks for your suggestion. I'll look him up. Shalom