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Thread: Sam Maloof's finish

  1. #1

    Sam Maloof's finish

    I was looking for guidance on mixing up Sam Maloof type finishes

    Right now I am using

    1/3 Boiled Linseed Oil
    1/3 Minwax semigloss polyurethane varnish
    1/3 paint thinner

    My questions:

    Which is preferable BLO or Tung oil?

    What are the best varnish brands?

    Any opinions on gloss/semigloss/matt varnish?

    Is there an advantage to using old fashioned varnish rather than poly?

    Is any old off the shelf paint thinner acceptable, or are there better and worse choices?

    My SOP is to rag on the finish, let is sit for a few minutes, then sand off the first coat or two with wet/dry sand paper. Later coats get ragged on and wiped off without the sanding.

  2. #2
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    The tung oil will cost more, darken less and dry slow, other than that there is no advantage to tung oil.

    There are better varnishes than poly to use in an oil/varnish blend. Poly is for floors.

    Oil/varnish blends a.k.a. danish oil, Sam Maloof finish, Minwax antique oil, Watco, Teak oil, etc are all about the same; the cheaper brands use poly as the varnish because it's cheaper. More expensive brands use poly because it increases profit. (about same thing isn't it?)

    All will leave soft looking satin finish. A gloss varnish mixed with less BLO will give you a slighly shiner finish but not much. You can't build a film finish with oil/varnish blends.

    Paint thinners can differ; but they evaporate so the end result is they don't make a big difference in the oil/varnish blend.
    Scott

    Finishing is an 'Art & a Science'. Actually, it is a process. You must understand the properties and tendencies of the finish you are using. You must know the proper steps and techniques, then you must execute them properly.

  3. #3
    You really want to use mineral spirits; many paint thinners are naphtha - which 'lighter' mineral spirits, but will be fine for your finish.

    Tung oil is lighter than BLO.

    I personally like poly in the mix; it gets a bad rap around here, but Maloof's finish is in-the-wood (wiped off) so it does not build. As such the aesthetic differences between poly and other varnishes are minimized.

    Satin/gloss/semigloss is an aesthetic choice. Again, because the film is thin, the diff between the 3 is less than if you brushed it on thick. I usually use gloss because there's no flatteners to contend with, which I've always found tricky to 'rag' on.

    Wetsanding the first couple coats is a good idea. Wipe it all off.

    I love this finish.

  4. #4
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    The formula given here is not the Maloof formula. It is the standard oil/varnish mix formula while Maloof indicated that he used equal parts of a gloss varnish, tung oil, and BLO--extra thinner not mentioned. This would be softer than the standard In addition, because of no thinner likely more difficult to apply and wipe off. The basic look would be the same--after all the thinner evaporates in relatively short order anyway.

    I don't see that there is much difference in using naphtha versus mineral spirits. Naphtha just evaporates more quickly but otherwise would thin the mixture about the same.
    Last edited by Steve Schoene; 10-26-2010 at 9:24 PM.

  5. #5
    Thanks. You are right. I will give the "correct" formula a try, but I probably will still cut it with some mineral spirits so that I can rub it in more easily. I got some Pratt and Lambert glossy varnish, so I am weaned from poly.

  6. #6
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    Interested in the comment about poly being for floors. Is this about the gloss polyurethane, because I know that is advertised for floors also, but I didn't think it was exclusively for this. I see poly being used on numerous woodworking shows and it looks good and is durable. I understand its not the authentic old time finish for museum pieces, but it does have a place doesn't it?

  7. #7
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    Pat,


    I don't have a bias against poly; I do have a bit of a prejudice against poly manufacturers that continue to hype poly way beyond it's true benefits and merits. Poly is not the end-all-be-all finish. Poly is Less water-proof and vapor-proof; it is tough, it is NOT hard. Alkyd and phenolic resin varnishes are much harder than poly. They are also optical clearer, Alkyd is much less likely to yellow; phenolic resin varnishes are very UV stable. Urethane resins (poly) are HIGHLY susceptible to UV damage.

    So I ask you WHY do they make POLY varnishes for exterior use? Answer: PROFIT

    Poly is the cheapest varnish to make; 99% of all poly’s are made with linseed oil. Varnishes are made by cooking resin and an oil to make a new molecule --- varnish.

    The oils are linseed, tung and soya.

    Linseed dark and darkens with age; cheap works, well.

    Soya (soybean oil) is very light in color and will not darken with age.

    Tung oil is between in color and darkens slightly with time. Now here is where Tung oil gets it's real claim to fame....

    drum roll please....

    Varnish made with Tung oil produces a varnish that is better at waterproofing and better at stopping water-vapor.

    Phenolic is the most "UV" stable resin so a varnish made with Tung oil and phenolic resin will be FAR superior to any varnish not made with these products for an exterior spar varnish or marine varnish. An interior varnish made with Tung oil will be superior to any run of the mill poly in a bathroom or kitchen.

    Poly has a few traits the manufactures completely skip as they continue to hype the poly (reason is PROFIT) as the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    Linseed oil - cheap
    urethane resin - very cheap

    Phenolic resin - expensive
    tung oil - expensive

    Alkyd resin – some what expensive etc...

    POLY does not stick well to itself, or anything else for that matter. That's why directions say to sand between coats; if you don't you may have adhesion problems, the sanding gives the surface enough tooth for the poly to stick.

    Other varnishes sanding between coats is only if it's needed to make it smooth and flat.

    Poly is cloudy compared to other varnishes.

    Poly can't be buffed up; it's too tough, not hard enough.

    Poly doesn't blend well with itself.

    POLY IS my choice for floors and stairs!

    As for the woodworking shows and magazines saying it's the cat's meow of finishes and that all they use... THINK "advertising dollars" then think about the reason they SAY that they use it...

    Ditto for "Tung oil" as the oil of choice for an oil finish... Advertising money it pushing it. BLO does the same thing; costs 1/3 the money, and cures much faster.

    Sorry to get on my soap box; some people (I hope) want the truth!
    Last edited by Scott Holmes; 11-05-2010 at 12:35 AM.
    Scott

    Finishing is an 'Art & a Science'. Actually, it is a process. You must understand the properties and tendencies of the finish you are using. You must know the proper steps and techniques, then you must execute them properly.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Holmes View Post
    Phenolic is the most "UV" stable resin so a varnish made with Tung oil and phenolic resin will be FAR superior to any varnish not made with these products for an exterior spar varnish or marine varnish. An interior varnish made with Tung oil will be superior to any run of the mill poly in a bathroom or kitchen.
    Do you have any brand examples for these?

  9. #9
    Waterlox is a phenolic resin varnish

  10. #10
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    I also like the Sam Maloof mix. I have used it a number of times and have only found a couple problems.

    1. It is not the most durable finish for a harsh environment. Table tops that are subject to water or liquid spills
    2. It must be ALL wiped off or the it remaining finish will be like sticky honey
    Use a good light when wiping it off.
    3. Very slow to build if at all.
    4. Because of the poly it can turn a little yellow if prolonged exposure to the sun light. A number of other finishes can also

    My wife prefers the look as it is a more natural wood look without the plastic look some finishes can leave.
    I have used it on about a dozen projects and like it even with the disadvantages.

  11. #11
    Keith-
    You should try substituting the poly in Maloof's mix for an alkyd or phenolic resin varnish, if you don't like the look of the poly over time.

  12. #12
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    I have always used BLO, spar varnish, and turp. Always been satisfied, but I have been told by another Creeker - who knows a lot more than me - that I would like the results better if I used the Waterlox instead of the spar - thatsa what Ima gonna do .
    Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
    Or close the wall up with our English dead!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Holmes View Post
    Pat,

    Tung oil is between in color and darkens slightly with time. Now here is where Tung oil gets it's real claim to fame....

    drum roll please....

    Varnish made with Tung oil produces a varnish that is better at waterproofing and better at stopping water-vapor.
    I think you missed one of the best features of Tung oil. It smells wonderful! As much as I hate finishing, the smell of Tung oil alone, almost makes it fun

    I like give shellac a thumbs up for the same reason.

    Not a reason to pick anything that isn't going to perform well, but both of those do.

  14. #14
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    Jerome,

    Unfortunately tung oil alone is a terrible finish, even if the smell is pleasing.

    It does smell better than boiled linseed oil; however it doesn't perform any better...
    Scott

    Finishing is an 'Art & a Science'. Actually, it is a process. You must understand the properties and tendencies of the finish you are using. You must know the proper steps and techniques, then you must execute them properly.

  15. #15
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    Kevin,

    Here's a list of options:

    Alkyd (alcohol & acid) resin varnish made with Soya oil. Hard varnish finish

    - Pratt & Lambert #38 (my favorite)
    -McCloskey Heirloom varnish by Valspar Now owned and distributed by Cabot new product code is: 144.0018000.005 (qt. Gloss)
    -Sherwin-Williams makes an Alkyd varnish made from soya oil (Classic Oil Fast Dry Varnish). Better UV protection than Poly
    -Formby’s Tung Oil FinishAlkyd resin /soya oil wiping varnish. I don't use their products. (Deception in Marketing there is no tung oil never has been)


    Phenolic resin (Old yellowing radio cases). Hard varnish finish.

    - Behlen Rock Hard Linseed oil
    - Waterlox Original Sealer & Finish Tung oil (wiping varnish)
    - Waterlox Original High Gloss Finish Tung oil (also in satin)

    -Waterlox Marine Gloss Finish Tung oil Far superior to any polyurethane spar or marine varnish.
    Last edited by Scott Holmes; 11-05-2010 at 4:59 PM.
    Scott

    Finishing is an 'Art & a Science'. Actually, it is a process. You must understand the properties and tendencies of the finish you are using. You must know the proper steps and techniques, then you must execute them properly.

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