How to treat Indian Rosewood


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I bought a table made of sheesham wood.  A little research showed that it's probably Indian Rosewood.  It's overall color is a blue/purple gray with some brown streaks.  It has an ashy tone that I wish I could warm up a bit.  However, if this is a highly porous wood, I don't want to do anything to damage it.  I made the mistake of rubbing a walnut over some minor scratches and the wood really grabbed it.  Is there a way to add warmth?  Also, what are some tips for cleaning and polishing it?  Thanks!

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Mike, how can I tell if it already has a finish?  I thought it had a gray stain on it, but when I looked online at photos and descriptions of Rosewood, this bluish gray is a feature of the wood.  I am attaching a photo.  The dark area on the lower right is a shadow.  In person, the gray is more prominent.

Brendon, I don't know what ARS oil is.  Is it safe for rosewood?  I thought I read that some oils should not be used, either because the wood is very oily or maybe because it is so porous....I don't remember which was true.

Rosewood.jpg

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Brendon, the label identified it as Sheesham wood and I looked up that term which pointed me to Indian Rosewood.  Just now, I found the table here:  https://www.mebelkart.com/four-seater/5519-dining-table-with-4-chair-jali.html

It's exactly the same table, even down to the embellishment just under the top, except my table is gray and this one is brown..

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Your best bet for adding warmth would be to use a pigmented wax.  The table is already finished (nearly all factory furniture comes with a film fimish).  Adding a wax on top of the film finish will deposit some color into the pores (which are already partially filled by the existing finish) and give the table some patina.  

do some google searches for "wood paste wax" and see what you find.  I will look later as well.  liberon, briwax and johnsons are some brands to look for.  

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6 hours ago, Brendon_t said:

Eric on here made a box from Chechan not too long ago and of course finished with ARS. The oil will do a lot to warm up and bring out even more colors. 

Actually I finished that box with Tried & True Original (linseed and beeswax)...

DSC_0115.jpg

 

But that's not rosewood even though it's a decent fake.  This is a bowl I did out of E. Indian rosewood...and if memory serves, I believe I finished this with T&T as well...

 

DSC_0059_1.jpg

 

However, the pics posted by OP don't really look like any kind of rosewood to me.  If I had a gun to my head I'd say lauan...but they're pretty bad pics, so don't hold me to it.

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Eric, actually the photos really are bad.  I almost didn't upload them.  It looks more like this: http://blog.myakka.co.uk/2009/11/sheesham-wood_9135.html

From what I've been reading about Indian Rosewood, although it's very attractive and durable, it's not an expensive wood.  More designers are recommending it for the home because it is affordable.  That said, I'm not sure why anyone would feel the need to fake it?  Or maybe there are different grades of it.  Your bowl is very pretty.

Mike, thanks for helping me look for a paste.  I just read that one should stay away from silicones.

 

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Well I wouldn't call it inexpensive, but no, it's certainly not the price of other rosewoods such as Brazilian, or even cocobolo, which is still fairly common but sells for $40 per board foot and up.  No one is "faking" East Indian rosewood...but dealers throw around the word "rosewood" with marketing gusto in order to excite those who don't know the difference.  Certain rosewoods are rare and very valuable, others not so much.  There are also a number of species that are called "rosewoods" in the industry but aren't related in any which-way...just marketing BS to make an ordinary species extraordinary in the eyes of a consumer.  Chechen is referred to as Carribean Rosewood, bocote as Mexican rosewood, bubinga as African rosewood.  Guess what?  None of them are rosewoods.  LOL  That doesn't mean that any particular species isn't beautiful, it just means that it doesn't have as much value in the market.

Now, for the finishing...

As alluded to earlier, if your table has already been finished then it will need to be stripped/sanded back down to raw wood.  Which creates another layer of complication if this table is veneered, since you could easily burn through that veneer and be left with a ruined surface.

"ARS" is woodworker jargon for Arm-R-Seal, a varnish made by a company called General Finishes.  It's loved by hobbyist woodworkers for its ease of application and the balance it strikes between a fair amount of protection and a very natural look.  You have a million options when it comes to finishes, but with any of them you'll be making a compromise between how natural it looks (pure oil) and how protective the finish is (straight polyurethane).  And everything in between.  ARS finds a good middle ground, and it's easy to work with.  It definitely brings out the richness of darker woods and "brings them to life," so to speak.  It's highly recommended for a vast array of projects, your table included.

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Thanks for the info!  This may not mean much, but it was never represented as rosewood, but sheesham wood.  I'm the one calling it rosewood since that's what I learned from my research.  I had never heard of it.  I just liked the look and got a great deal on it.  I don't think it has a veneer, but I don't want to strip it down, anyway.  I just want to "warm up" the wood.

Today, I ran into a hobbyist who works at Home Depot.  He was singing the praises of Watco's natural oil finish.  I see that Watco has Teak Oil specifically for dense woods and mentions rosewood on the label.  It's supposed to bring out the luster of the wood and give definition to the grain.  He thought I might like it since I want to warm up the flat gray.  It's probably comparing apples to oranges, but I'm wondering how it stacks up against ARS for what I'm wanting to achieve.

 

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Any oil-based finish is going to "warm up" the wood.  The oil quenches its thirst and pulls out the richness of darker species.

However, you said you "don't want to strip it down," but if it has finish on it already and you don't strip or sand back to raw wood, there's nothing you can do to change anything except maybe wipe some lemon oil on it to clean it up a bit and refresh the wood.  You can't just lay new finish on top of old finish.  You haven't told us if this table is finished or not.

If it's not finished, the Watco teak oil will surely make the wood look nice, but it offers almost nothing for protection.  I'm not that familiar with that particular formula, but my guess would be it's either pure oil or an oil/varnish blend with just a trace of varnish, similar to Watco Danish oil.  Either way, it won't protect your table really at all.  Oil finishes look great but I reserve them for objects that won't be used and abused.  Decorative pieces.

That's why ARS was suggested...it will "warm up" the wood just as nicely as any of the Watco products but will offer quite a bit more protection.  It's slightly more complicated to apply than oil, but not by much.

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The table is surely finished (I can't imagine being sold an unfinished dining table) so there is nothing I can do to enhance the wood grain or warm it up, except possibly the wood paste wax.

One more thought.....that walnut I foolishly rubbed on the scratches certainly penetrated whatever finish is on the table.  It stained it.

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Rubbing the walnut husk over a scratch may have resulted in a chemical reaction with the exposed wood. Raw walnut 'stain' like this can be quite powerful.

As stated above, the best way to bring out color and grain patterns would be to strip it and apply an oil-based finish. Barring that, the tinted wax is a viable option. The only other choice I can think of would be to add a coat of shellac, which acts as a barrier coat that most finishes will adhere to, and also comes in various shades of orang-ish brown. That could add some color tone, but would require top coating with something like polyurathane to provide more wear resistance.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Do not use a drying oil on rosewood! The driers in the oil severely oxidize the wood and really darken it, getting rid of almost all the distinguishing grain patterns. Pure oils work fantastic, but rosewood is so oily naturally , you can simply buff it with a microfiber cloth. The paste wax is iffy, as the grain can trap the wax and be a nightmare to clean out . 

I would ultimately recommend a "pure" oil, but those can be pricey and they take quite a long time to dry properly. 

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  • 3 years later...

Hi, looking for advice and found this topic. I have a sheesham wood dining table, that the Mr's decided she wanted to change its colour and tried sanding it by hand. To be honest she's not really took much of it, other than making the surface duller than before, you couldn't tell. I'm now wanting to reinstate the shine it previously had , hopefully without having to go to town on it and sand it all the way back. Its a mine field with all the different options. I thought I'd settled on just applying a couple of Coats of a good bees wax with a little wire wool rub in between, but then stumbled on this forum. 

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