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"3D" Finish

wood finishing

by Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher



Chatoyancy is a word used by gemologists to describe the optical reflectance effect seen in certain gemstones like tigers eye and cats eye. This luminous or "3D" effect can also be seen in most highly figured woods such as satin wood, mahogany, maple and many others. Also, up until the '70s virtually all furniture manufactures offered only "mirror finishes" which by far creates the most dramatic effect. Here are a few tips on how to achieve this shimmering "3D" effect.

  1. Sand the project to at least 320 grit paper.
  2. On very hard woods like rock maple, sand to 320, wet with water, let dry thoroughly and sand again with 320.
  3. I always start with "Minwax Puritan Pine" or "Golden Oak" to bring the grain figure to life. Let the stain dry completely.
  4. Enough finish has to be applied so the final finish is "proud" of the surface of the wood. This is a must to get the full luminous "3D" effect.
  5. Wet sand the final top coat and polish to a mirror finish for the most dramatic results.
  6. Gloss finishing materials create the most luminous "3D" effect.
  7. Satin finishes dramatcally diminish the luminous effect.
  8. Penetrating oil finishes will rarely produce any chatoyancy after drying.


Visiting Atlanta? Attend one of Alan's upcoming highly informative Highland Woodworking wood finishing seminars:


July 16, 2014  Coloring Wood
Aug 2-3, 2014  Antique Restoration
Aug 16, 2014  Finishing 101
Aug 27, 2014  French Polish Workshop



Visit Highland Woodworking's Online Wood Finishing Supplies Department




Alan can be reached directly via email c/o Alan Noel Furniture Refinishing at anoelfurniturere@bellsouth.net.


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