Hand Tools Archive

Subject:
Re: Hand finishing water-based poly.

Frank D. in Montreal
Hi Derek,

No, the main reason I have never gone with water-based poly (what I called "varnish") alone is that it doesn't change the colour at all, and it brings out no depth of grain whatsoever. I find it looks almost the same as freshly milled wood, which is nice enough but still a bit boring on a finished piece. I've seen some water-based varnishes that promise more of an an oil-like finish, but I've never tried them (they are few and far between). I agree that oil-based varnish often gives a darker amber colour to maple, not to mention the yellowing over time that looks bad on such a pale wood.

What changes the colour the most is the shellac. I used to use Seal Coat (Zinsser), but it's discontinued now. It was quite clear and only gave a slight amber tone to the maple, something which usually comes with age anyways. Now I use the clearest possible grade (like super-blonde).

Unfortunately I don't have any decent pics of stuff that I've finished that way. I think that if you like the shellac finish on maple, most water-based varnishes that I've tried (Minwax, Varathane or better stuff like Target or Saman) won't change the tones much at all when they're on top.

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