Maple and Cherry Chest Plus Finish Recommendation

Viewer Project - By Mathew
Added on January 12, 2010

This project was submitted by Mathew and comes in two parts, first a question and then the finished project. For a first project, it is awesome!

Mathew first asks: This is my first ever project and your video on raised panels and many of the others have helped me a ton. I have one problem though. I have this chest made of maple and cherry, and I want a warm finish but don’t want to dye or stain the wood. I’ve been told to use shellac diluted, just deft finish and Danish oil. Any help would be so awesome. I would love to share the finished project that you have helped me make with the time you spend on the videos. Thank you very much.

And here’s my response: There are a number of things you can do with the finish. All depends on what you are comfortable applying and what kind of look you are going for. All the finishes that were recommended to you will work just fine.

Personally, I have two suggestions for you. And both will make use of shellac as a sealer coat. Both maple and cherry exhibit blotching when hit with oil-based stains and finishes. So the shellac sealer coat prevents that to some extent. And if you use an orange or garnet shellac, you could add a good bit of color that will have the effect of a very light stain. If you topcoat with something like Danish oil, you have to be careful not to put too much shellac on the surface. If its sealed off, the Danish oil will have trouble curing. So I recommend a single coat of 1lb cut shellac. Sand it smooth afterward, and then rub in a couple coats of Danish oil for a nice hand-rubbed look. But be sure to practice on scrap because you need to find the balance between the shellac concentration, the danish oil, and the amount of blotching that appears.

Now if you want some more protection, I recommend using a simple varnish. Wiping varnishes like Arm-R-Seal or Minwax Wiping Varnish are both good options. Another advantage of using a varnish with no oil in it is that you don’t have to worry too much about how much the shellac seals the surface. The varnish will dry either way. So you can seal the surface as much as you want, avoiding blotching completely.

You mentioned Deft finish, and I am assuming that is Deft lacquer. This is also an acceptable topcoat if you are comfortable applying lacquer. The project looks great so far and I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the above finishes. Good luck!

And here is Mathew’s finished project:

I finished the project a couple of weeks ago for my cousin’s wedding gift. It is a chest made of maple and cherry. When it came down to the finish, I used a mix of 50/50 bullseye shellac as a base layer. Once it dried, I lightly sanded the entire piece. I then used some Danish oil and rubbed in one coat. I then used one coat of DEFT clear wood finish in a semi-gloss. I sanded with 300 grit paper after and then sprayed another layer of the DEFT. I sanded that with 800 grit paper and then sprayed another layer. I sanded that very lightly and then sprayed one last layer. I then buffed it out and that was it. Took about a week. I don’t know if it was the best way to go about it, but it came out nice and smooth.

I can’t complain for my first project. I have always wanted to start doing this on my own, so I bought a few tools and this is what came out. I spent several hours on The Wood Whisperer website watching videos and talking with other members in the chat room. I can’t begin to tell you how much everybody helped me. Thank you everyone for all the advice and thank you, Marc for the help and inspiration to try something new.