What’s the best finish for bird’s eye maple if you want to really highlight the grain?
Rob Johnstone: I get great results with these steps. First, sand the wood very smooth. I recommend 400 grit sand paper or higher. (I like the wood to shine a bit even without finish on it.) Then, an even seal coat of thinned orange or amber, dewaxed shellac. After it’s cured, rub it down with one of those really fine 3M abrasive pads. I prefer laquer as the top coat but just because I can spray it effectively and it dries quickly. I like to build up the finish with several coats.
Michael Dresdner: The easiest way to dramatically pop the grain in bird’s eye maple is to soak the raw, sanded wood with boiled linseed oil. Flood it on and leave it soaking wet. If the oil absorbs in and looks dry, add more, but keep the surface wet for at least ten minutes. Then wipe off all the oil that has not absorbed and leave it in a warm, dry area to cure for 24 hours. Once the oil is dry, you can go ahead and finish it with whatever you like. Oil based varnish or polyurethane, shellac, or lacquer will all add clarity, but I’d avoid water-based coatings on this one.
Simon Watts: I often use several coats of good quality spar varnish. Rub it down between coats with finer and finer grits until the last time around. On that last pass, use 600 grit wet/dry paper lubricated with linseed oil thinned with turpentine. Be sure to wipe the surface clean with a lint-free (cotton) rag before applying the final coat. And put the cat – or any other furry pets – outdoors!