I’m a new turner who’s been using the Clear Coat epoxy finish. I like it, but have ended up putting a final coat of wipe-on poly to get a glass-like sheen or a good satin finish. What are your thoughts on my technique? – Jerry K.
Tim Inman: Your question is really an aesthetic one. What you’re asking is really about the right “look and feel.” So, there is no right answer. I’ll share this: My favorite finish on fine turned items is a smoothly sanded wood, sealed with a nice sealer like shellac or sanding sealer, then completed by rubbing and buffing a good wax. Though wax is not a durable finish for hard use, it is beautiful and has a great feel. My friend, Bill Jones — who turned chess sets and other fine ornamental pieces for a living — used buffed shellac and wax as the finish on many of his finest pieces. Here is a Bill Jones twist, though. After the initial finishing on the lathe, take the work out of the chuck and put a soft, UNSEWN muslin buff back in its place. Use the buff to polish the woodenware. It gives a wonderful luster and sheen. One of my lathes I call my “Rockwell-Maytag-Bill Jones” lathe. It is an old Rockwell lathe powered by a Maytag motor. I have the motor wired so I have a choice of two motor speeds in any range, and the ability to reverse the direction of the lathe. I like to buff running the lathe “backwards” so I can work the buff on top of the wheel where I can see rather than on the bottom of the wheel in the dark — as you would do when the lathe is running the “right’” way. The Bill Jones part is an infinitely variable foot pedal clutch. That’s a story for another day.
Ernie Conover: System Three discourages mixing their Clear Coat Epoxy with other finishes. That being said, I would think poly would stick to it and that is key to this problem. I would not go crazy with poly coating over Clear Coat until you have six months to a year of time on a handful of pieces. If they hold up, you are good to go. If not, you don’t have a huge refinishing problem. System III is very helpful and I think if you go to their website you can email or call and they will be glad to help you.
Chris Marshall: Thanks for suggesting Clear Coat Epoxy as a woodturning finish, Jerry. If other readers are interested in trying it out, too, Ernie made a helpful video on this topic several years ago. You can watch it by clicking here.