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A Pair of Fast Finishes for Small Turnings

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Liquid Finish

Liquid Finish

When it comes to finishing pens, bowls, and many other small turnings, you won't find any easier way than applying the finish while the project spins on the lathe. Here are two finishes made just for that.

Finish with a French accent A liquid finish variously referred to as French finish, turner's finish, or padding lacquer gives turned work a rich, satin luster. A variation on the true French polish process, this technique dates far back into history.

You can buy a ready-to-use finish such as French Polish (available from Craft Supplies USA, 800/551-8876) or make your own. For a home-brew finish, mix equal parts of shellac, denatured alcohol, and boiled linseed oil.

If you make your own shellac from flakes (shown in front in the photo at top right), mix 2 pounds of flakes into a gallon of denatured alcohol for a two-pound cut. (Or mix 1/4 pound into a pint for a smaller quantity.) Shellac and turner's finish work best when fresh, so mix small amounts.

Whichever formulation you use, application is straightforward. After sanding the turning to at least 220-grit, clean off all dust. Then fold clean, soft cotton fabric into a pad several layers thick and about 3x5".


Dampen the pad with the finish. Then, with the lathe running at about 2000 rpm, press the dampened pad against the bottom of the workpiece, as shown left. Lay the pad on your fingertips and grip it with your thumb, keeping your fingers and thumb pointing in the direction of lathe rotation. You want the pad to be able to pull free from your hand if it catches on the turning.

Press the pad against the work with moderate pressure, and move it from side to side for even coverage. Heat generated by friction dries the finish almost instantly, so you can assess your results as you go. Build up several light applications to achieve the best results.

Continued on page 2:  Solid Finish


Comments (2)
txamu74 wrote:

Question? What is the shelf life of the home made version? Does anyone know?

11/16/2009 09:43:35 AM Report Abuse
bertolton wrote:

I prefer the liquid (French) polish as I feel it holds up to handling, especially if a top coat of lacquer is sprayed on. The oil can be boiled linseed, tung or even Danish oil; but I would caution you to NEVER use cloth padding on the lathe, it's just too dangerous. A small piece of paper towel works just as well and will tear away if for some reason it catches on something.

11/12/2009 07:17:56 PM Report Abuse

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