Finishing Oily Woods
Oily woods can pose a challenge when it comes to applying a finish to your nearly completed turning. Some woods, such as eastern red cedar and cedar of Lebanon are good examples of items which we sometimes have in stock. Many exotic woods, such as lignum vitae and rosewoods are other good examples. To improve your chances of succeeding in finishing, here are a few tips to use when finishing your next project:
Avoid Oil Based Finishes -
Oil based finishes (such as natural oils, oil based polyurethane, and oil based varnishes) will typically adhere to oily woods, but usually do not dry properly. The natural oils within the wood may slow down or nearly prevent an oil based finish from drying once applied. Avoiding these types of finishes, and opting for another option, is usually the best choice.
Pretreat with Alcohol -
Regardless of the type of finish you choose to apply, it is wise to pre-treat the surface of the wood with alcohol before finishing. Once a piece is sanded and ready for finishing, thoroughly clean the surface with a clean cloth. Follow up by applying some sort of alcohol, such as acetone, laquer thinner, or denatured alcohol. Treating the wood with alochol will help to remove some of the natural oils from the surface of the wood, which will help with adhesion and drying. Make sure to apply your finish shortly after the alcohol has dried from the surface to ensure the best results.
Using Shellac -
Shellac is an excellent choice for finishing oily woods. The alcohol contained within shellac helps the finish adhere to oily woods. As a finishing touch, a coat of wax can be applied over the shellac.
Using Wax -
Wax is probably the easiest choice for finishing up oily woods. Simply apply a coat or two of wax to your finished project, then buff the piece to the desired sheen.