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Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood? (Read 1,436 times)
 
Chris Gunsolley
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Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
May 26th, 2016 at 10:41am
 
I've got a load of rather large cottonwood pieces that have a gorgeous red heart center. Due to its light weight, I'm thinking these might turn out some nice big yet light family-sized salad bowls, 10 to 17 inches in diameter...

I'd like a nice shine on the finished product. So, one concern I have is that, since it's soft, cottonwood reportedly has a tendency to fuzz up when you sand it. To remedy this and hopefully achieve a shiny food-safe surface on my final product after sanding, I'm considering food-safe finishing methods for 'hardening' the cottonwood.

At the moment, I'm leaning toward working to 220 grit, then applying a generous layer of walnut oil on the bowl, letting that sit for 10 minutes, wiping away the excess, then sanding again on down to the final grit. Presumably, as the oil soaks in, it would 'harden' the cottonwood, thereby giving be a better medium for achieving a shine through sanding with finer grits. 

Do any of you have experience with food-safe methods of 'hardening' cottonwood (or any other soft wood)? Or, perhaps even with this method? If so, what exactly did you do, and how did it work out?

Apparently, walnut oil can take a while to cure. Do you think there is a better 'food safe' oil to apply using this method for this purposes? If so, what? And, if you recommend a different method of application (drying times, etc.), what exactly would that be?

Also, do you think it's necessary for the oil to completely dry in order to 'harden' the wood?
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« Last Edit: May 26th, 2016 at 10:48am by Chris Gunsolley »  
 
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Mike Nathal
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #1 - May 26th, 2016 at 1:50pm
 
I wet sand with walnut oil all the time, although have never done cottonwood.  The goal is to use enough oil to produce a slurry, not a sludge.  After sanding through 400 grit, I would wipe off the excess oil/slurry and let it cure.  Curing can be accelerated by leaving the bowl in the sun for an afternoon or two.  In the winter I cure walnut oil in the oven  at 140 degrees F for a few hours.  After curing, the bowl has a matte finish.  Beall buffing increases the gloss nicely but probably not worth it for a salad bowl.
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Chris Gunsolley
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #2 - May 26th, 2016 at 2:00pm
 
Mike Nathal wrote on May 26th, 2016 at 1:50pm:
I wet sand with walnut oil all the time, although have never done cottonwood.  The goal is to use enough oil to produce a slurry, not a sludge.  After sanding through 400 grit, I would wipe off the excess oil/slurry and let it cure.  Curing can be accelerated by leaving the bowl in the sun for an afternoon or two.  In the winter I cure walnut oil in the oven  at 140 degrees F for a few hours.  After curing, the bowl has a matte finish.  Beall buffing increases the gloss nicely but probably not worth it for a salad bowl. 


Nice insights here. You say after curing, it will have a matte finish... What if after it cures, you re-mount it, then finish sanding down to finer grits? It should shine then, correct?
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« Last Edit: May 26th, 2016 at 2:01pm by Chris Gunsolley »  
 
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #3 - May 26th, 2016 at 2:22pm
 
Chris Gunsolley wrote on May 26th, 2016 at 10:41am:
I'm considering food-safe finishing methods for 'hardening' the cottonwood.


All wood finishes are food safe once the finish has fully cured.
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #4 - May 26th, 2016 at 3:28pm
 
I just finished a cottonwood bowl and it sanded just fine. I used a bit of butchers wax on the various grits of sand paper and reversed the lathe to sand in the other direction.

I took it to 800 grit and it is smooth as a babies bum. Smiley

I then put 4 coats of Dr. whomever's mix of walnut oil, shellac and carnauba wax. Smells nice and looks great. Very satiny.
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Chris Gunsolley
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #5 - May 26th, 2016 at 3:33pm
 
Ron Sardo wrote on May 26th, 2016 at 2:22pm:
Chris Gunsolley wrote on May 26th, 2016 at 10:41am:
I'm considering food-safe finishing methods for 'hardening' the cottonwood.


All wood finishes are food safe once the finish has fully cured.


You do realize that you're saying all wood finishes are safe to eat, don't you?

People usually use utensils with bowls, so inevitably some finishing products is likely to either scrape or chip off. So, you'd better make sure it's safe to eat. (This is what "food safe" means.) I wouldn't recommend peppering your food with lacquer chips...
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #6 - May 26th, 2016 at 3:51pm
 
Once CURED Yup!

You ingest shellac all the time and don't even know it.

And if you are really worried that I'm wrong, the best finish is no finish for bowls.
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« Last Edit: May 26th, 2016 at 3:53pm by Ron Sardo »  

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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #7 - May 26th, 2016 at 4:02pm
 
Solvents are the major toxic issue with finishes; they flash off as the finish cures and leave little to worry about from an ingestion standpoint.  Most finishes will be damaged by food or utensils or both.  The only real reasons to prefer oil finishes are that they are easy to apply, and can be maintained in the kitchen with no hazard, particularly if you stick to Walnut oil and beeswax polishes
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #8 - May 26th, 2016 at 5:35pm
 
Chris, same comment to your post regarding faceplates.
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #9 - May 26th, 2016 at 7:03pm
 
Dwight...
I'm going to add my vote to yours.  Smiley
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Chris Gunsolley
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #10 - May 26th, 2016 at 10:42pm
 
Ron Sardo wrote on May 26th, 2016 at 3:51pm:
Once CURED Yup!

You ingest shellac all the time and don't even know it.

And if you are really worried that I'm wrong, the best finish is no finish for bowls.


Actually, I love they way they look without any finish, after sanding with a very fine grit. I like to use oil for finish, but it seems they loose a bit of the shine after it's applied, perhaps due to the fibers raising a bit. I'm considering re-mounting then sanding to a very fine grit again after the oil is completely cured and dry.
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« Last Edit: May 26th, 2016 at 10:50pm by Chris Gunsolley »  
 
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Chris Gunsolley
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Reply #11 - May 26th, 2016 at 10:48pm
 
Alan Hollar wrote on May 26th, 2016 at 4:02pm:
Solvents are the major toxic issue with finishes; they flash off as the finish cures and leave little to worry about from an ingestion standpoint.  Most finishes will be damaged by food or utensils or both.  The only real reasons to prefer oil finishes are that they are easy to apply, and can be maintained in the kitchen with no hazard, particularly if you stick to Walnut oil and beeswax polishes


Walnut oil and beeswax are what I've been sticking to exclusively lately. I'm going to try out some raw linseed oil once it arrives (had to special order it), to see if I can notice any sort of enhanced effect on the grain appearance compared to the walnut oil. Have you ever tried raw linseed oil?
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #12 - May 27th, 2016 at 5:54am
 
Chris Gunsolley wrote on May 26th, 2016 at 2:00pm:
Nice insights here. You say after curing, it will have a matte finish... What if after it cures, you re-mount it, then finish sanding down to finer grits? It should shine then, correct?


I doubt re-sanding will  help appreciably.  I would go directly to buffing, which will improve the shine nicely.  But  the shine will diminish after use as a salad bowl
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #13 - May 27th, 2016 at 6:49am
 
I believe that lacquer is what makes your prescription pill shiny. It would probably be ok to use ... but will be tough to keep looking nice.
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #14 - May 27th, 2016 at 6:49am
 
I believe that lacquer is what makes your prescription pill shiny. It would probably be ok to use ... but will be tough to keep looking nice.
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #15 - May 27th, 2016 at 7:16am
 
Chris Gunsolley wrote on May 26th, 2016 at 10:48pm:
I'm going to try out some raw linseed oil once it arrives (had to special order it)


Any art supply store carries this, just be aware that raw linseed oil takes months or depending how thick years to dry.
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #16 - May 27th, 2016 at 7:50am
 
I tried a woodturning walnut oil once - after 3 weeks it was still leaving an oily ring on the shelf so I gave the bottle to another woodturner.

I once turned cottonwood, two blanks from opposite sides of one section of log.  The first turned out well, cut cleanly and sanded smooth.  The other side of the same section of log wouldn't cut cleanly, after drying the same amount of time wouldn't sand smooth.

Often a turner wants to remove the tenon before beginning to apply finish.  If removed, difficult to remount later and sand again.

Rather than asking advice and then challenging response, you might consider doing some reading and experimenting.
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #17 - May 27th, 2016 at 8:22am
 
Gary D Baker wrote on May 27th, 2016 at 6:49am:
I believe that lacquer is what makes your prescription pill shiny. It would probably be ok to use ... but will be tough to keep looking nice.


Not lacquer, Shellac, which is a natural product.
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Reply #18 - May 27th, 2016 at 9:10am
 
Ron Sardo wrote on May 27th, 2016 at 7:16am:
Chris Gunsolley wrote on May 26th, 2016 at 10:48pm:
I'm going to try out some raw linseed oil once it arrives (had to special order it)


Any art supply store carries this, just be aware that raw linseed oil takes months or depending how thick years to dry.


That's the major drawback of it, it seems. Months, perhaps I'm willing to do if the effect is impressive enough. Years would scare me away. I'll have to check the local art supply stores, thanks for pointing that out. I didn't realize that they carry it, and that will save me a special order that takes weeks to arrive.
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #19 - May 27th, 2016 at 9:44am
 
Chris Gunsolley wrote on May 27th, 2016 at 9:10am:
Ron Sardo wrote on May 27th, 2016 at 7:16am:
Chris Gunsolley wrote on May 26th, 2016 at 10:48pm:
I'm going to try out some raw linseed oil once it arrives (had to special order it)


Any art supply store carries this, just be aware that raw linseed oil takes months or depending how thick years to dry.


That's the major drawback of it, it seems. Months, perhaps I'm willing to do if the effect is impressive enough. Years would scare me away. I'll have to check the local art supply stores, thanks for pointing that out. I didn't realize that they carry it, and that will save me a special order that takes weeks to arrive.


I use Raw Linseed Oil only on outdoor items - Raised vegetable beds, wood shovel handles and such.  Imparts a nice but temporary amber finish on Cedar, but it will eventually gray... Good natural preservative, but not a great woodturning finish. Boiled, however is a good finish for woodturned items. Low sheen, repairable and smells old timey!
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #20 - May 27th, 2016 at 9:50am
 
Raw linseed oil will not dry
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #21 - May 27th, 2016 at 10:00am
 
Chris Gunsolley wrote on May 27th, 2016 at 9:10am:
That's the major drawback of it, it seems. Months, perhaps I'm willing to do if the effect is impressive enough. Years would scare me away. I'll have to check the local art supply stores, thanks for pointing that out. I didn't realize that they carry it, and that will save me a special order that takes weeks to arrive.


Artists that paint with oil paints use linseed oil to help blend/layer colors, increase the shine and slow down the drying time.

Boiled linseed oil BLO was once linseed oil that was heated to speed up polymerization (drying). Today cobalt driers are mixed in linseed oil to speed up drying.

All oil finishes starts with oil from plants.
The majority on the market use BLO but lately there is a trend to use soybean oil because its cheaper.

IMO better oil finishes use tung seed oil (not to be confused with Formby's Tung Oil Finish products).

Walnut oil finishes (not to be confused with walnut oil you buy at the local supermarket) are polymerized using the same method as modern BLO 
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« Last Edit: May 27th, 2016 at 8:38pm by Ron Sardo »  

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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #22 - May 27th, 2016 at 8:06pm
 
Shelac is what keeps M&Ms from melting in your hand.
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #23 - May 27th, 2016 at 8:30pm
 
Just in case someone doesn't know, never never never try to boil raw inseed oil to make BLO. You WILL most likely end up in a burn ward.
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Re: Using oil to 'harden up' cottonwood?
Reply #24 - May 27th, 2016 at 8:37pm
 
Thanks Chris, you are so right about this.
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