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How to finish African Mahogany

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I picked up some African Mahogany yesterday for a really great deal and got a small section planed down to use as handles on some knives. It is really gorgeous with a dark chocolate color, ribbon striping effect and natural shimmer to the wood without any finish coating. If I can find the camera tomorrow I will upload some pics. But my question is what kind of finish should I apply to this to keep the same effects or even bring them out even more? Other than a few practice wooden handles I haven't really done the finishing steps to handles and really want this to turn out nice.

And after all that I get to start making some sheaths to go with the knives, but that's a different project.

Anyway thanx in advance for all the help and advice.

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Echo what Thomas said. In addition, you may want to use some sort of filler/sealer. I haven't worked with "african" mahogany, but with other types of mahogany and it has some large pore spaces that will be a little bit difficult to fill with just the tung oil. Look at midway or brownell's for products for gunstock finishing and you'll find what I'm talking about. One way to try it without filler is to wetsand with tung oil for several coats, allowing to dry inbetween coats until the pores are filled, then go to coats of tung oil rubbed with very fine steel wool in between. Then finish off with paste wax.

Edited by mcraigl
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You might like the look of dewaxed shellac with a couple coats of polyurethane over top. The shellac will really give the finish some depth, like you are looking down into something three dimensional. Covered with poly it will highlight the features of the wood nicely.

On my mahogany furniture I do a couple of water thin coats of shellac, after vacuuming the sanding dust out of the pores, verrrry lightly sanding between coats. This helps fill the grain as well. Then the next day start putting thin coats of poly, sanding between coats. Gloss poly can be rubbed out with steel wool to get a soft finish, or rubbed out with automotive polish to get glass smooth. Either way you get a maintenance free finish that is durable and water resistant.

Here is one of my furniture projects I did like this:

sideboard on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Used the tung oil on the stacked one, and for the others and as for pics, look for them tomorrow morning sometime. The tung oil gave it a nice looking natural finish and really made the grain, color, and ribbon effect pop. It's getting dark fast here now and have to go out in a few minutes and my camera is at the church, so I'll get it when I go out. Finished up one knife Friday and one this morning. Need to re-polish one blade and put the final edges on them both, but don't need that for the pics.

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