Tips for Working With Wood Figure
Keep the figure in sight when finishing your wood
Sand figured wood to about 180 grit. Sanding to finer grits won't bring out the figure any better, and may actually lessen its impact.
Here's a method that produces a beautiful figured surface. First, sand to 120 grit. Then, instead of further sanding, clean up the surface with a cabinet scraper as shown right. The scraper's edge, when properly dressed, shaves the wood down to a smooth, glassy surface without tear-out. (We follow this procedure on figured wood and burls in the WOOD® magazine shop.)
When you must stain figured wood, rely on dye stains. While pigment stains can highlight figure, they also can obscure it if applied too thickly. Dye stains accentuate the figure more effectively than pigmented stains, no matter how dark the stain color. Gel stains usually mask the figure.
A clear, film-forming finish, such as varnish or lacquer, enhances the depth of a figured surface. This can give it a more dramatic appearance.
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