General Finishes Wood Turner’s Finish

Article - September 9, 2011

A few weeks ago, I got my hands on some of General Finishes new Wood Turners Finish. Its a waterborne product derived from their Enduro-Var line (as I understand it), but it is specifically formulated for turnings. The product can be wiped on or sprayed and is supposed to provide a warm oil-like tone. Numerous coats can be applied within an hour and the product can be rubbed out to your desired sheen.

Even though I don’t do much turning, I still wanted to try this stuff out. A waterborne product that claims it can be wiped on is quite intriguing to me. So I tried a small test board. I applied about 6 coats to a small mahogany cutoff using nothing more than blue shop towels. After two coats, I lightly smoothed the surface with 320 grit and then continued adding coats. Within an hour, I had a reasonable build and a very pleasing finish. Having used General Finishes EnduroVar line in the past, I can say that this stuff is definitely thinner. I imagine that is what allows for wiping as well as faster-drying coats. But ultimately, I was quite impressed and I wouldn’t hesitate to use this stuff on a turning or a small box project. Unfortunately though, I have little experience with how this finish compares to those typically used by the target audience: turners. So I asked my buddy Bill Akins to give me his opinion on the product. Here’s what he has to say:

Bill’s Review

I have been enjoying wood working as a hobby for about 5 years now and I have been turning bowls and pens for 3 years. For finishing my turnings I have used a wiping varnish, but I don’t feel it food safe and takes too long to dry between coats. I have tried salad bowl finish which is expensive thinned down shellac. I have even used BLO with a coat of wax. My favorite go-to finish is a quart of shellac that I thin down with alcohol. As I apply this finish, I hold my application device (a square of old t-shirt) firmly against the spinning bowl until it heats up and it dries within 2 to 5 minutes. Next I lightly sand with a high grit, possibly wet sandpaper and follow up with a coat of EEE Polish. I finish the project with either a coat of Shellawax Cream or Renaissance Wax, buffed to a high sheen.

I was very excited when I was asked to test General Finishes new Wood Turners Finish (WTF). My first project was a bowl turned from an apple tree cut from my Aunts yard in the North Georgia Mountains two years ago. Here is a video of me applying the finish to this bowl:

I applied 6 coats of WTF, sanding with 400 grit after 2 and 4 coats. After 6 coats I sanded with 2000 grit wet sand paper. I then used EEE Ultra Shine and finished with a coat of Shellawax Cream. I also tried WTF on red cedar, walnut and cocobolo pens. Also with polish and wax. A week later I turned 20 pens at the Mountain Heritage Festival using WTF, polish and wax.

All of the items turned out beautiful. I learned a few things about WTF while using it. An application rag works well, a paper towel disintegrates. It takes a few more coats than I am accustomed to applying. By wiping on a coat and rubbing it in while turning to heat it up doesn?t work well as in a friction finish. Apply a thin coat and allow it to dry on its own which is extremely fast. I am very sensitive to strong odors, which is why my wife can?t wear perfume and I leave the house on cleaning day, and I had no problem using WTF without a respirator. It claims to be food safe which is always a bonus.

All in all, I recommend trying General Finishes Wood Turners Finish.

Bill Akins


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