Joshua H

Finishing Sapele... I'm totally lost!

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So I'm getting ready to start a project with a good friend whose a carpenter... They'll be the brains for sure. I'm mediocre at wood work at best so I needed to bring in outside help.

I've got the design and total in board feet figured out. So I'm moving to the finishing and looking to get all the material. 

I'm starting with a general purpose desk atm  - secretary desk for lack of a better descriptor. 

I'm not really looking for that high gloss look which means (From my understanding) I'll stay away from Lacquer.

I plan on pore filling the top but wasn't completely sure if the remaining pieces of the desk will still look or match.. OR if everything, Legs, underside, and shelving needs to also be pore filled.. ??

(Looking at water based grain/pore filler). 

I thought using oil would be best and more economical and if pore filling the entire project would be required - what if I took my sanding from 220 - 600 or higher to ensure the flat level surface(without pore filling).

I narrowed oils down to Teak, Tung or Linseed.     I'm not sure if dying is really needed as I do like the natural look BUT I also have read since the wood's natural that there can be visual differences between one board and the next... So advice? 

After oiling - or alternatives - I'm open to sugestions... What sealer would your recommend?

 

Thanks for any advice / help. I do appreciate it!

 

 

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I have done a few projects recently with Sapele.  I didn't do a pore fill on any of them and my finish is a simple one.  I sand to 180 grit then one coat of garnet shellac NOT the pre made stuff, I mix my own flakes, after it drys I block sand lightly with 400 then I spray 3 coats of General Finishes High Performance Satin, this is a water borne finish, lightly sanding between each coat with 400.

Here is a picture of a chair I finished this way and a close up of one of the arms to give you an idea of the finished look.

IMG_5928.thumb.jpg.e018bc95164a216774422b0932ee556b.jpg

IMG_1813.thumb.jpg.84a1a4ac93aeba44b4f454560b4f3520.jpg

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Bottom picture looks more brownish.. top redish.. I'd assume the camera's changing the actual tone a tiny bit.. Does it appear more redish brown or Brown redish.. If that makes sense?

 

Dude, Awesome looking chair and that' finish is beautiful... You used just  garnet shellac.. not dewaxed shellac correct? 

What cut ratio did you use? 

 

Thanks for the reply and examples too!! 

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The top picture was under lest then ideal light and the bottom was under shop lights, it was for the detail of he pyramid.  The picture below is probably the best example of how it looks overall but as the light moves the color and highlights change.  If you are familiar with Sapele it can be hard to describe the color because of the ribbon pattern

I always use de-waxed shellac flakes.  If you use shellac that isn't de-waxed you can have problems with your top coats not wanting to bond.  I generally use a 2 pound cut but I mix in small usable portions, it has a decent shelf life but I would rather mix for the job.

I get my shellac flakes from Wellermart they are the cheapest I have found.   https://wellermart.com/t/shellac

IMG_1785.thumb.jpg.192ae6518f9b6601a84670124492d1a8.jpg

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I think it would be a shame to use pore filler, which flattens the surface & hides the beautiful grain texture of that wood. If the wood has is very open pored, like red oak (you could lose pens & paper clips in those pores), then there is good reason justification for filling. Most finishes are available in various sheens from glass like all the way to flat. You certainly can't argue with Chet's schedule; the results are spectactular, but you need spraying equipment for that. Curing oils are easy to apply and look great, but don't offer a lot of protection, especially for a desk or table top. Wiping poly is super easy to apply and give goods protection.

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I agree with @drzaius, if you don't want a high-gloss finish, there is really no reason to fill the pores. Since I have no spray gear, I stick with wiping poly for furniture that sees real use, and with great success. A bit of patience during application can net you a smooth, clear, beautiful finish, with protection that no curing oil can match.

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I've two different minds on the pore filling. I've used water based finishes, not thick stuff, and I've used AquaCoat as well, which is pretty thick. I still see the grain with AquaCoat, and I see pores with the water-based poly.

Chet's solution looks really nice though, so my next sapele project just might use that. In fact, the Pennsylvania spice box I'm building might get that treatment. Really nice, and AquaCoat doesn't work for everything. I used it on a sofa table I built this summer and I think it looks great. It's also durable and won't get damaged with water stains etc.

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I asssume hat, for a deask top, you want a very smooth surface regardless of the sheen you choose.  I would take a scrap piece and try you finidh of choice with and without using a pore filler and see which results you prefer.  I have used aqua coat and find that it really does even out the surface any better than a  sponge applied coat of Arm R Seal.

If you decide to use a pore filler, I see nothing wrong with using it only on the top where you want the smooth writing surface.

One option is to use Arm R Seal:  Apply to the top with sponge applicator and wipe/off on the rest of the desk.

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16 hours ago, drzaius said:

 

I'll probably spend more on finishing supplies that I'll have spent on the wood itself by the time I'm done! 

 

Figured everything said is great advice and I plan on cutting a couple 4"x10" pieces - maybe 6 or so to try different looks. My biggest issue with a pore filler was I wasn't sure if it would have the top vs shelves looking so absolutely different - it'd then look tacky. Main reason for pore filler was that I might use this desk for reloading on occasion - which the pore/grain may not be anywhere large enough for a paper clip to disappear - I know powder would! 

 

On my sample boards I might take the final sanding down a little further to see if that'll smooth things up enough and after recommended coatings - I'll waste a little powder and see what happens. 

- Side note- 2nd reason for grain fill was perhaps tinting the grain for a deeper / darker grain without affecting the board as a whole.  - Seal board  - tint grain filler - sand - finish... But the more I thought of this the longer the project would take.

 -Seeing Chet's finish - I see the grain or pores definitely stand out.. 

@Chet - Would adding an oil before the shellac darken it more? 

Thanks all!! 

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3 hours ago, Joshua H said:

@Chet - Would adding an oil before the shellac darken it more? 

If you want it darker I would just put a second coat of shellac, but sapele will darken on its own over time so I think I would be cautious about getting it too dark in the finish process.

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I have seen a dark (almost black) pore filler used on mahogany and the result was very appealing.  Since the pours are small you don't see any areas of filler muchlalrger than a sharp pencil tip but there are a lot of them..  It would be worth a try on a samle board to see if you like it.

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Ran into some family issues here lately.. I hope to get my project back on track before the end of the month. I'll post pictures or ask questions as the time draws closer! 

 

thanks again for all the advice so far! 

 

-Josh

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