I spent a little time yesterday in Woodcrafters in NE Portland looking at finishes for the keys. They shelve an amazing and completely confusing array there of finishing products that run the spectrum from oils to varnishes to lacquers to general finishes that is a bit mind-boggling. This is not a good thing because Owen Daly had recommended Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil Gun Stock Finish and, frankly, at this stage of the game, I should be listening to everything he takes the time and effort to tell me. Instead, I chose to consider my options.
While fumbling my way around the finishes aisle at Woodcrafters, I started talking with a couple of dudes - one works there and I should know his name by now because I've chatted with him at least a dozen times and the other was John Hauser, a general contractor here in the Portland area. I had two issues they helped me with: 1) A general finish for the naturals and 2) a stain and finish for the sharps (remember, they're quarter sawn oak).
John highly recommended General Finishes' Salad Bowl Finish and I believed him when he said it would leave a highly durable, non-toxic finish that would last for years, yet I had Owen's recommendation in the back of my mind all the time. Fortunately, they sell Tru-Oil at Woodcrafters, so I decided to stick with my ostensible mentor's advice and went with the Tru-Oil. No disrespect for John's experience or advice was intended. When I arrived home, I went ahead and applied a layer of Tru-Oil to key 51 and set it aside to dry.
The first key above is without, the bottom with, and you can see how shiny the application left the key. Tonight, I will wipe it down with a towel and buff it with #0000 steel wool, which Owen tells me will leave a nice sheen that will last for many years, even under the abuse of my own marginally-talented fingers.
As for my second issue, choosing a stain, John Hauser recommended I go with an oil-based General Finishes stain for the quarter sawn oak anywhere on the instrument. This left me with yet another quandary - which color? Since I'm artistically challenged in this area, I've asked for my wife's help in choosing the stain. We'll visit Woodcrafters this weekend where she will point me in the right direction. Again.
As a further test of the Tru-Oil, I scraped and sanded a walking stick I had made for a buddy about three years ago before applying a layer of the Tru-Oil. The stick was a special order that included a "man-sized handle." Because he leans on it quite a bit, the larger, flatter handle is more comfortable for him. The woods are African mystery wood, padauk, and white oak, all from Woodcrafters scrap bins.
The real test will be tonight when I rub both the stick and key down with a towel and then burnish them with #0000 steel wool.
Speaking of burnish, I though I'd talk a bit about card scrapers. In the photo below, I've got the scraper set up in a vise to file and then burnish it using a fine file and a burnisher designed specifically for that task.
These scrapers have been used for a very long time by woodworkers who want a smooth-as-glass finish to their work. The process of resharpening a scraper involves using a file to remove any burr left (there shouldn't be much, which is why you needed to sharpen it in the first place) and adding one back using the burnishing tool. The burr left on the edge give the card a nice bite into the wood you're working on without removing too much per scrape. I love these darned things.
The next project steps will be to rub down the test stick and test key to see what kind of finish I can get out of the Tru-Oil. After that, it's staining the sharp key tops and arcades and getting some sort of finish on them, as well.
Until next time...