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    A Complete Finish in a Day


    Oil, shellac, and wax are a foolproof combo for a quick finish

    by Jeff Jewitt

    I’ve had to learn to do quick finishing jobs and make fast fixes in my refinishing business. This method is both fast and attractive, whether you’re working on a gift on Christmas Eve or you just prefer no-fuss finishes. I came up with the technique based on necessity, but I’m sure it will save you when time is tight.

    This finish is ideal for a low-build, “in-the-wood” look, where durability is not the key factor. However, you can build the shellac to increase the level of protection. The ingredients—boiled linseed oil, denatured alcohol, a can of amber shellac, and a few rags—are easy to find. The wipe-on technique avoids the hassle of most oil finishes, which can take days to complete. In fact, it works so well that it might become your favorite finish.

    A thin coat of oil lays the foundation

    For surface preparation, scrape, plane, or sand the wood with the grain to P220-grit. Wipe with naphtha or denatured alcohol to remove dust, dirt, and sanding debris. The solvent will highlight potential problems like glue spots and scratches.

    Applying boiled linseed oil is the first step in French polishing, a more time-consuming technique from which this finish is derived. In fact, you could call this a “down and dirty” French polish.

    I’m a big fan of boiled linseed oil for this step, because it contains driers that cause it to cure faster than tung oil. Pour a small amount onto a small cotton cloth. Apply just enough to make the wood appear “wetted,” about a teaspoon per square foot depending on wood species. Don’t use the “flood on, let sit, then wipe” method. If you do, the oil will seep from figured areas through the thin shellac that is applied in the next step.

      Becuse the finish does not provide time for the oil to dry, compensate by using a whisper-thin coat—just enough to bring out the beauty in the wood.  

    Remove excess oil with a clean rag, then lightly buff the surface with a gray synthetic abrasive pad such as 3M Scotch-Brite or Mirka Mirlon. The pad will pick up residual oil and will smooth the wood surface further.

    Immediately remove any residual oil with a clean, lint-free cloth.
    A good rubdown with a synthetic pad will smooth the surface and add a nice sheen.