Finishing: Wet Sanding With Penetrating Oils
By Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher
Way way back in college I worked for an antique business in their
restoration shop before I knew what restoration really was. At the
time I was going to be a rock star and had to support myself. I found the job
at this shop listed on the student center bulletin board. Having taken
woodworking in the eighth grade I thought this would be a good fit since I still
have my first ever project hanging over my desk. Here are some tips on a very cool technique I learned at this restoration shop that actually accomplishes
several things at the same time:
This type of wet sanding is not for very course grained woods like oak or ash.
Tighter grained woods like walnut, mahogany, crotch cut and burls do very well.
There are many brands of penetrating oils to work with, I like Minwax Puritan Pine
or Minwax Natural.
First, wet the (unfinished) area to be sanded with oil liberally to keep it completely wet
at all times. (1-2 sq.ft.)
Using a sanding block with 1200 wet/dry paper, sand in a circular motion with moderate
pressure. Sand the area thoroughly keeping the surface wet at all times.
Wipe off the oil and take a look at the piece in raking light. If you see the grain
pours/pattern then repeat this again until there is no grain and the surface is completely
Wipe down the surface again and check the results. Repeat as necessary until the grain is
completely smooth and the surface is reflective.
Once dried for several days, apply a topcoat of your choice.
This technique accomplishes several steps at once. Sanding the surface very smooth,
applying a sealer coat, making the grain come alive and lastly, forcing the oil/sanding
dust mixture into the pores acting as a pore filler all at once.
As always, be sure to practice on scrap and safety first!! Place all oily rags in water!!!
Alan can be reached directly via email c/o Alan Noel Furniture Refinishing at
Visiting Atlanta? Attend one of Alan's upcoming highly informative Highland Woodworking wood
Sep 21, 2016
French Polish Workshop
Oct 12, 2016
Finishing the Finish
Oct 22-23, 2016