I made a welcome return to the Dukeries Woodturning Club in Nottinghamshire this week. It was good to see so many friends there, and to hopefully make some new ones as well. Thank you everyone for the very warm welcome, and if you signed up to the Newsletter as a result of my visit, thank you and welcome aboard.

Quite a lot of our customers, it seems, make wooden jewellery of one type or another; pendants, rings, that sort of stuff. We get asked which finish can be used on them. Various criteria are mentioned, but being acceptable for skin contact is one that comes up a lot, as is the ability to resist sweat and the like – in general, the finish needs to be hard-wearing and water-resistant.
Most finishes should be safe for skin contact once dry, unless the wearer has some particular sensitivity to certain compounds. There’s no test that we know of that would declare the finish as hypoallergenic, but we figure that if a product is tested as ‘toy-safe’ then it should be fine for skin contact. As a rule, we suggest our Acrylic Gloss Lacquer for this sort of use; it’s toy-safe, dries to a solid film, and is very hard wearing, making it able to stand up to a lot of abuse. I’m sure there are some exceptions, where it wouldn’t be suitable, but we haven’t heard of any yet.

Another question recently was about finishing veneer. Normally, the veneer is glued to a board, and pretty much any finish can be used – it’s still wood. But in this case, the veneer was being used as wings on angels, so I imagined that some flexibility would be needed. Sadly, the wings wouldn’t flap, but they might still move slightly, so a stiff lacquer wouldn’t be a good choice as it could crack. An oil or a wax would be a good choice here, as both have a lot of give in them and would move with the veneer. Of the two, I think that a wax would be best as this offers the greater degree of flexibility and will stay in place even better than the oil, in this situation.
In normal use it takes a lot to crack a lacquer, they are very hard-wearing, but sometimes this can be a disadvantage, and a more flexible coating is better.

Maintenance is another topic that comes up from time to time, and I think I’ve covered it in previous Newsletters. It still bears another visit though…
In most cases, the question relates to what to advise a customer who has purchased a wooden item. The best maintenance is to look after the item well enough that it doesn’t need any extra work, but this isn’t always possible.
Often, a buff with a soft cloth is enough to revive a slightly tired looking finish. If that doesn’t do the job, the easiest and safest advice is to apply a good quality wax – by which I mean a paste wax such as WoodWax 22, not a silicon-loaded aerosol wax. There will be no compatibility problems, it’s quick, and it’s easy.

If an oil has been used, and there is opportunity, more of the same oil can be applied after a quick clean of the surface, to freshen up the piece. We’d always recommend using the same oil, as sometimes mixing them doesn’t work. If in doubt about which oil was first used, go with the wax option.

When I visit clubs, I always ask how many people get the Newsletter every week. There’s always a good number, but there are also a lot of people who have never heard about it. If you enjoy these weekly ramblings, and find them useful, please feel free to spread the word to anyone else who might be interested. I don’t think you can ever have too much information!

And I’ll be back with more of it next week!