The Proper Finish for Cocobolo Wood

Overview

The intricate grain and rich color of cocobolo wood make it a popular choice for decorative pieces. But amateur woodworkers soon learn that cocobolo cannot be finished like any other wood. Cocobolo is an oily wood that secretes a resin and oil once cut. When traditional finishes like varnish and polyurethane are applied to cocobolo, the oil in the wood retards the drying time. To avoid a sticky mess, use a finish designed for oily woods like cocobolo. Heavily used pieces like tables should be finished with shellac. Decorative pieces that will not be handled frequently can be finished with paste wax for a more natural look.

Shellac Finish

Step 1

Use a rag or a dry brush to wipe all of the sawdust off the finished piece of wood.

Step 2

Dampen a rag with acetone and wipe down the surface of the wood to remove any oil.

Step 3

Mix 3-lb. cut clear shellac with an equal amount of denatured alcohol (enough to apply two coats to your piece).

Step 4

Brush on one coat with a natural bristle or air brush. Allow it to dry for two hours then apply a second coat. Leave the second coat to dry for 48 hours.

Step 5

Sand the surface of the piece lightly with 400 grit sandpaper--just enough to create a rough surface. Wipe away the dust with a lint-free cloth.

Step 6

Apply one coat of natural resin varnish with a foam brush. Allow it to dry for 24 hours. Lightly sand the varnish with 360 grit sandpaper--just to create a rough surface. Apply another coat of natural resin varnish and allow it to dry for 24 hours.

Paste Wax Finish

Step 1

Use a rag or a dry brush to wipe all of the sawdust off the finished piece of wood.

Step 2

Dampen a rag with acetone and wipe down the surface of the wood to remove any oil.

Step 3

Rub the colored paste wax into the surface with a lint-free cotton cloth using a circular motion.

Step 4

Leave the paste wax on until it develops a haze (becomes cloudy).

Step 5

Buff the wax away with a clean, dry lint-free cotton cloth.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not use varnish that contains polyurethane.

Things You'll Need

  • Rag
  • Brush
  • 3-lb. cut clear shellac
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Natural-bristle brush
  • Foam brush
  • Air brush
  • 2 lint-free cotton cloths
  • 400 grit sandpaper
  • 360 grit sandpaper
  • Colored paste wax

References

  • Advantage Trim and Lumber Co.: Cocobolo
  • Robert's Plywood: Cocobolo
  • County Floors: Cocobolo (Rosewood)
  • Antique Restorers: Finishing Oily Woods
  • Fine Woodworking: Mixing Shellac
Keywords: cocobolo finishing, wood finish, shellac with cocobolo

About this Author

Emma Gin is a freelance writer who specializes in green, healthy and smart living. She is currently working on developing a weight-loss website that focuses on community and re-education. Gin is also working on a collection of short stories, because she knows what they say about idle hands.