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Old 10-08-2018, 06:33 PM   #1 (permalink)
Join Date: Oct 2018
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Default Wood Feel Finish, 2018, in the US

This is a topic that has been discussed in several threads here before: how to get a natural wood feel on a wood pen, without the high gloss shine, but keeping the pen protected with a durable finish.

As I understand it, the problem with friction polish is that it doesn't last. Some people like the patina that results in time, others don't.

There has been reference to this 2007 article from the UK advocating for the use of Melanine lacquer, but the products mentioned don't seem to be available or in common use in the US.


There is this alternate brand, Mylands, that produces something called "Melamine Lacquer," but I haven't seen a review by anyone who uses it on pens:


Curiously, Woodturningz sells a friction polish set of products from Mylands, but NOT the Melamine lacquer:

Mylands 3 Step Finishing System - WoodTurningz

There's also a thread here somewhere about how to get a matte feel out of CA by sanding it, but the concern is that shiny spots will develop with use. Also, it seems like a pretty finicky process, prone to unevenness, cracking, allergies, and so on.

For reference, other products that seem to have been popular in the past (mentioned in this forum) include:

So, the question is, now that it is 2018, what products available in the US are in use for giving a natural wood feel finish, but that lasts well?
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Old 10-08-2018, 07:17 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Melamine lacquer is indeed available in the US. I bought mine right here from Craft Supplies USA. I also bought the Cellulose Sanding Sealer that is recommended to be applied as an undercoat for the melamine lacquer.

I bought the combination of finishes precisely for the "wood feel" purpose. I have only done tests at this point, but I have learned the following so far:
- It has quite a potent aroma. A ventilated space would be ideal.
- It does not seem to significantly darken the wood like an oil-based finish would do. Reminds me of a water-based finish. I honestly don't know what category the cellulose/melamine finishes fall under.
- The cellulose dries quickly, but the melamine less so. It dries to the touch quickly enough so that all of the coats can be done in one "session". However, curing to full hardness takes a bit of time.
- I don't want a gloss/semigloss finish for the pens I plan to use the melamine, so I have been using 0000 steel wool as a final touch. Gives me the perfect sheen (or lack thereof).
- I don't know how to demonstrate or measure wear or scratch resistance, but I am very confident it's up there with the CA finish I am used to applying. I firmly scratch at it with my fingernails and they slide right alone with no sign of wear. I've also lightly dragged relatively sharp metal objects like keys across the finish and don't see any effect.
- It definitely does have a "warm", wood-like feel. Not like a cool plastic feel you'd get from a thick CA finish.

I hope this helps! I am most looking forward to using this on bog oak blanks I have. I didn't want to use CA as I want the open grain to show, but I want the same protection. I also think this will be good for pens I just want to look more like raw wood without compromising the protection. Let me know if you have any questions!
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Old 10-08-2018, 07:26 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Johnathan, Not much has changed because alot of those articles you brought up are not that old. You mention CA finish becoming shiny. Lets realize one thing. If you make a pen that will see alot of use it will develop flaws and we call that character. If you make a pen that is a show pen or museum quality than any finish you use will be what it is over how long you own it. My point is the use a person gives a pen is an unknown quality so trying to do the impossible of preserving a pen as pristine as the day you finish it is IMPOSSIBLE. CA is a good sealing finish and will stand the test of time but wearing and burnishing to a shiny spotted pen is possible but it can be redone or refinished if need be. But over that time what happened to the components?? Did they tarnish, wear off some plating, become scratched and so on??

That is my take on the ever search for the perfect finish. I will add this note that does not get alot of play is a finish that I use all the time in my scrollsaw work and my woodworking. This is good old Danish Oil. I use Watco Danish Oil for over 30 years and of course my clocks and projects do not get handled as much as a pen, but what danish oil has going for it is the ingredients of polyurethane mixed in which is a film finish that is hard and durable. This mixture is thin enough to not build thick. It is definetly not as shiny. Its downfall in that instance is the dry time and there is no force drying time like accelerators or putting in an oven. But you can coat blanks and set them aside to dry and work on others. That would be my feel like wood finish of choice. I get many compliments on the feel of my projects that I sell.

The one down side it will yellow white woods but unless you are using Holly who cares?? It gives a warm feel which you are after with the idea of feeling the wood character.

Good luck in your quest.
John T.

Last edited by jttheclockman; 10-08-2018 at 07:30 PM.
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Old 10-08-2018, 07:29 PM   #4 (permalink)
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My understanding of a "natural wood feel" is that the open pores of ash and oak are not completely filled with finish. Not sure what a "natural wood feel" would be for very fine grain(and therefore very smooth) woods like cherry and bradford pear.

Another definition of a "natural wood feel" would be simply a relatively thin build of finish on top of the wood. This would also leave partially filled pores on ash and oak, but there would be a continuous build of finish on the wood.

Wonder if there would be a difference in feel if several different finishes were applied to a sheet of glass, so that the only variable would be the pure finish?

Wonder also if seeing a thick film finish on wood affects one's perceived feel?
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Old 10-08-2018, 08:53 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I have on my to-do list the testing on pens of some of the Polyvine dead flat varnish finishes, either "interior wood" or "wax". I use them for other projects, very satisfied with them and they do keep the wood feel, but I have only used them on maple and walnut. Someday I'll find some time...
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Old 10-08-2018, 09:08 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I would almost compare the desire for a “natural wood feel” in pens to the “natural wood feel” of fake wood flooring. The perception of feeling the grain and texture and knots and such in plastic surfaces, laminate or ceramic flooring to give it a “natural wood feel” is marketing strategy. The vast majority of real wood flooring is quite smooth and being able to feel any grain, checks or knots was considered a fault until it was sold as the preferred texture.

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Old 10-08-2018, 09:27 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I can't provide a definitive answer because my experience is only anecdotal. A definitive answer would require extensive testing - and I don't have time for that.

But let me muddy the water just a bit by noting that most 'friction polishes' consist of a combination of shellac and an oil - boiled linseed oil is most common, but other options include Tung oil and walnut oil. Denatured alcohol is also added to thin the mix so it was soak deeper into the wood. I suspect that the wear issue noted by Jonathan is attributable to the shellac.

However, there is another formula for 'friction polish' discussed in Russ Fairfield's extensive document on finishing for wood turners. That formula calls for lacquer rather than shellac - again in combination with an oil. To make it penetrate wood better, the solution is thinned using lacquer thinner. PSI sells a commercial version (actually produced by William Woodwrite), and I've used a shop-made version made by mixing equal portions of a brushing lacquer, Tung oil, and lacquer thinner.

One of the pens that currently resides on my desk was made from teak, and finished with lacquer-based friction polish. The finish looks and feels like wood, but it does have the protection of a lacquer finish.

By the way, I have another pen on my desk that was finished using ordinary water-based polyurethane floor varnish. After the varnish cured, the finish was lightly wet-sanded with micromesh, and then polished with a plastic polish. It looks as glossy and feels as smooth (and plasticky) as a pen finished in CA.

Just another option to consider - - -
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Old 10-09-2018, 09:21 AM   #8 (permalink)
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On certain wood pens that I want protection but not gloss finish I have used Doctors Wood products, Walnut oil and then Pens Plus. Gives protection and a rather natural matte finish. It may be worth a try for you.
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Old 10-09-2018, 09:56 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I use MinWax Satin Poly or WoodTurner's Finish (WTF). Both have given me decent results.
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Old 10-09-2018, 10:11 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Sand to 320. Apply sanding sealer and allow to dry. Add Yorkshire Grit (available from thewalnutlog.com) with the lathe off, the turn the lathe on and work the YG into the wood. Wen finished add your choice of microcrystalline (MC) wax. I have used Hampshire Sheen (see Walnut Log website), Dr.'s Woodshop's MC wax and Renaissance Wax. All are fine for the final finish.

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