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DIY Timber Finish Recipe's
DIY Timber Stains

DIY Timber Finish Recipe's

Published: Apr 5th, 2020 2:04 PM
Categories: wood / finishes

I've been seeing a lot of people asking and offering DIY (Do It Yourself) recipes for common Timber Finishes. These can vary slightly from country to country and even be regional depending on the ingredients available. I am not trying to take work or product away from those that sell finishes, on the contrary, if you would prefer to purchase a particular finish and support those making large quantities I wholeheartedly endorse you doing that and in turn supporting someone's business and family.

Before I start listing popular finishes, let me first endorse and link those businesses and brands that you can try out if you don't wish to go to the effort of making your own:

Just Shellac. What is Shellac? How do I use Shellac?

Shellac has to be one of the, if not the most versatile of finishes, even when used as a Sealer/Sanding Sealer.

Shellac is processed from the hard Resin produced by the Lac Bug that it uses to lay its young in and comes in Waxed (Natural), and DeWaxed (slightly processed to remove the Wax).

To make up the product we use for finishing, require an alcohol-based liquid, such as Methylated Spirits (Metho), also known as Denatured Alcohol (DA), which is used to dissolve the Shellac Flakes into the desired quantities, known as Pound Cuts.

  • 1 Pound Cut = 12gramms of Shellac Flakes to 100ml of Metho.
  • 2 Pound Cut = 24gramms of Shellac Flakes to 100ml of Metho.
  • I think you see where this is going.

Generally, to apply Shellac myself, I sand up to 240 grit, then clean out the sanding dust using Straight Metho (this also raises the Knapp of the timber). Then I apply a 1 Pound Cut of Shellac and rub it into the Timber to try and force the Shellac down into the grain. I let that dry off for a few minutes, then continue sanding up to a higher grit, depending on the look of finish I'm after, obviously for a super shiny or French-Polish look I'll sand past 600 grit, cleaning the sanding dust off between grits using compressed air.

Once I'm ready to start applying the finish, I use a modified French Polish technique.

Using some white cotton (old t-shirts work well), and balled-up cotton wool (I use Sheep's Wool from our Sheep as it contains Lanolin and helps with lubrication during application and is the traditional way to do French Polish). The cotton wool ball is placed into the centre of a square of material about 100mm x 100mm square with the corners pulled up to the centre, held with the fingers, and then twisted a couple of times to make a pad. You can either charge the cotton wool before folding up the corners to make the pad or apply the Shellac to the outside, allowing the Shellac to soak into the wool inside which acts as a reservoir for the Shellac.

Boiled Linseed Oil can also be used to help lubricate the pad as you apply the finish to the timber by dabbing the pad into a small container holding the Boiled Linseed Oil.

When applying the Shellac, I like to use small circular spirals, working the Shellac into the Timber, and moving across the surface of the Timber. It's best to do many light coats, rather than less heavy coats, and slowly build up the layers of the Shellac, which helps gives more depth and shine to the finish. Keep applying more layers, and changing the direction of your circles to help with coverage.

That's pretty much all there is to applying a Shellac Finish, well, at least how I do it. I don't do the full French Polish using Pumice, as I've found for Wood Turned Items it isn't necessary.

I've also had success with the above technique using OB Shine Juice (explanation on how to make it below), and using the pad to apply the finish.

How do I make OB Shine Juice?

This recipe I got from one of Capt'Eddie Casteline's YouTube videos.

It's pretty simple, made up of 1/3 equal quantities of 2 Pound Cut Shellac, Methylated Spirits/Denatured Alcohol, and Boiled Linseed Oil.

Simply wiped on, and rubbed in, it gives a good shine and durable finish that can be enhanced easily by adding a fresh coat.

How do I make Frenchy's Shine Juice?

This recipe was taken from the WoodChuckers Facebook Group by Allen Mayles. I'm pretty sure I've also heard Kim Tippin on YouTube mention a similar recipe.

Frenchy's shine juice. 10%BLO, 30% Metho/Denatured Alcohol, and 60%shellac. Faster build-up.

How do I make Yorkshire Grit?

This recipe was taken from the Wood Turning Basics Facebook Group by Butters von Buttersworth.

For anyone that needs it, here is my recipe and process for making York Shire Grit. By volume 1 part mineral oil. 1 part bees wax, 1 part diatomaceous earth (food grade). Measurements do NOT need to be exact. Melt the bee's wax in the mineral oil stirring till it’s all dissolved. Then add the diatomaceous earth (DME) stirring constantly till it firms up. If you don’t, the DME will settle.
A few tips that I have picked up. An old large tin can works great for making and storing this stuff. I bring about 2” of water to a boil on the stove. I pour the mineral oil into the tin can and set the can in the boiling water to make a double boiler. I then add the wax and allow it to melt, stirring occasionally. When it’s melted, add the DME. Then I get a big bowl of ice water and move the tin can from the boiler to the bowl of ice water. This greatly accelerates the cooling process. But, you still need to stir it till it’s firmed up. Once it’s hardened up, you’re ready to rock. Super cheap and takes about 45 minutes total to make.

No guarantee that the above is correct, use at your own discretion.

How do I use CA Glue as a Finish?

Usually used for Pens and smaller items, CA (Cyano Acrylate) Glue produces a durable plastic finish.

By simply sanding the project to be finished to the desired grit, several coats of CA Glue can be wiped on and left to harden, or an activator used to reduce the time between coats. Then after several coats, most turners then use micro-mesh sanding pads to produce a high-gloss finish.

Alternatively, turners may want a satin look, and here's how I achieve that look.

Sand the project up to 240grit, then use Methylated Spirits/Denatured Alcohol to clean up dust and raise the Knapp (fibre of the timber). Then using a piece of paper towel place a few drops of thin CA on the towel, and a few drops of BLO (Boiled Linseed Oil) directly on the CA, then with the project spinning at a slow speed rub the CA/BLO into the timber until it starts to become tacky from the friction. I then allow that to harden without using an activator (I Usually leave between 15-20 minutes, a good excuse to make a cup of tea). What this does is gets the CA into and beside the grain deeper into the pores, helps with stability, and also brings out more of the Chatoyance in the timber. I then continue sanding, cleaning the dust between each grit, up to at least 600 grit which I find adequate for most timbers. I then start applying the Medium CA finish, I don't use the activator myself, but there is no reason to if you wish to speed the process up. I usually apply between 5-10 coats depending on how things look, then use micro-mesh to remove any scratches or unusual unevenness that can occur when applying the finish.


What do I do when I run out of Activator, or the lack of it?

There are various alternatives to using Activator, which I'll list below so if you find yourself without it, or can't acquire it and need to get that project done.

  • Glen 20 - Can leave a cloudy look to a finish. Might ok if the glue isn't visible, obviously no good if used as a finish.
  • Bi-Carb Soda - This has been used for decades esp. by model makers in the film industry as explained by Adam Savage, as not only does it accelerate the drying process, but it also acts as filler-making joints stronger. Adam also mentions using Bi-Carb Soda in his book "Every Tools a Hammer". I have also seen suggestions of dissolving Bi-Carb Soda in water and using it in a spray bottle as an accelerator.
  • BLO (Boiled Linseed Oil) - Used directly, it's not as fast as an actual accelerator, but it does work.
  • RC Nitro Fuel (without Castor Oil) - I'd like more information about this one.
  • Your Breath - The Carbon Dioxide in your breath can help CA to set.
  • Cigarette Smoke - Not that we condone smoking, but the smoke and probably with the help from the Carbon Dioxide from your breath can also help set CA.

How do I use Mineral Oil as a finish?

Quite often on various Woodworking and Turning Groups on Facebook, or Forums, the question of using Food Safe Finishes for Timber is asked, and most often the answer given is to use Mineral Oil.

Personally, I don't like to use Mineral Oil as a Food Safe Finish, and there is a lot of contention with most thinking towards Mineral Oil being Food Safe.

So, what is Mineral Oil made from? Despite its name, mineral oil doesn’t actually contain anything healthy. Nor is it the slightest bit natural. Mineral Oil is made from Petroleum. The crude oil is processed to remove impurities – this is why food-grade mineral oil is clear and odourless. However, this doesn’t make it healthy or eco-friendly. Also, not all mineral oil is food-safe. Personally, I prefer not to risk it with my product finishes, which are likely to come into contact with food.

There are a few issues with mineral oil you should be aware of before using it in the home.

  • If you’re using it on food surfaces, you’re potentially ingesting small amounts of petroleum. One thing you can do to help protect your food if you use mineral oil is to apply a coat of beeswax over the mineral oil after it dries.
  • Mineral oil that isn’t heavily refined will contain impurities, which can be harmful to your health. Even moderately refined mineral oils are classed as carcinogens and are not something you want in your body.
  • You’ll have to reapply mineral oil regularly – it’s not a long-lasting wood product like oil finishing products that are designed for wood protection.

Mineral oil does have a few advantages:

  • It’s relatively stable and won’t spoil when exposed to warm temperatures.
  • When applied to wood, mineral oil leaves a clear finish, making it a practical choice when you want a natural look.
  • Petroleum-based, highly refined mineral oil is considered to be non-toxic.
  • Refined mineral oil won’t give off any foul odours.

The majority, if not all of the above finishes are used on Wood Turning Projects, but this doesn't mean they can't be used on other types of Wood Working.

I'll update and add more as time permits, or if you have suggestions or recipes you would like to share, please comment, or contact us.

Happy Finishing

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