The Finish

Bowled Over Wood Turning


The Finish

Beech finished with food safe walnut oil


As important as the piece of wood is the finish. At last count there were 9,743 ways to add a protective and eye catching finish to wood. Well, not really, but there truly is a bewildering choice of ways to coat your final piece. I only have a couple of considerations. Firstly, does it look good? Secondly, does it do the job it's supposed to do?

Ash finished with Danish oil and wax


For most of my turnings I use a wax over either an oil or shellac base coat. The oil in particular brings out the grain while a shellac friction polish puts a good, quick seal on smaller items. A wax coat over the top adds a further layer of protection and can be buffed up to a good shine. The wax is easy to reapply as time goes by and is readily available - pretty much any wax furniture polish will do. I use something called microcrystaline wax for larger objects and a blend of beeswax and carnauba wax for smaller things like wine stoppers. But that is probably too much detail. Like many wood turners I am constantly fiddling to find a better finish but so far these have served me very well.


Maple finished with walnut oil

I have a couple of variations for items that are to be used for food. There is a straight mineral oil food safe finish, basically liquid paraffin, but I'm not too keen on it. It does the job of adding a protective layer but it can make the wood look dull and lifeless. I've recently started using walnut oil which is simple to apply and is much better in my view. It's also easy to get hold of and add a coat yourself if your bowl ever starts to lose it's shine.


I have just started using another finish which leaves a food safe, very tough, shellac finish which I'm increasingly impressed with. It will take a wax layer on top but I haven't found the need yet, and this is definitely now my favourite finish.


If you want a tougher finish I do use a melamine laquer. Once cured it offers good resistance to both heat and moisture, though don't run it through a dishwasher! Some say that the melamine is food safe, others are not too sure, I'm on the fence. There are other food safe laquers out there, I haven't used them but if you want a hard food safe finish I will get some and try it out for you.

Blackheart Ash finished with melamine laquer

"Wood does not need embellishing, merely revealing"

All text and images copyright Toby Murcott 2013.

"Each bowl is unique The feel of the tool on the wood, the aroma of the shavings, the shape that emerges is always different.

My speciality is simple, clean lines and elegant curves. No harsh angles and no unnecessary detail. Wood does not need embellishing, merely revealing."