How To Finish Mahogany
Mahogany is a durable, open-grained wood with a gorgeous, rustic reddish-brown colour. Woodworkers love mahogany for these qualities - it’s rather easy to work with, and it’s quite porous, making it an excellent choice for all kinds of finishes.
In this article, we take a look at the qualities of mahogany that influence the kinds of finishes you’ll want to use, the different products you can use to finish mahogany, and a couple of simple techniques you can use to create a beautiful mahogany piece.
Things to consider when working with mahogany
There are two key things to keep in mind when working with mahogany: Preserving (and accentuating) its natural colour and grain and ensuring that you can even out the uneven surface created by the open grain. The techniques we’ll describe below will allow you to do both, letting the natural beauty of your mahogany shine through, all while creating functional, long-lasting pieces.
The types of finishes you can use for mahogany
Mahogany’s porous, durable nature makes it a great choice for any number of different finishing products and techniques. Finishing products you can use on mahogany include:
- Fillers (water or oil)
- Stains (water or oil)
- Finishing oils
- Finishing glues
- And more
You may want to avoid certain types of stains. Gel stains, for example, can obscure the grain of your piece. Mahogany’s striking open grain is one of the best things about it, so we’d recommend avoiding gel stains - but it’s up to you!
While mahogany is fairly forgiving, your standard finishing rules apply. Sand your lumber down to about 180-220 grit. Be sure to work in a well-ventilated room when using chemical finishes, and wear a respirator when you’re sanding.
Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s take a look at a few finishing techniques you can use to make your next mahogany piece pop!
Our favourite mahogany finishes for beginners
There are all kinds of stellar ways to finish mahogany. One of our favourites involves all kinds of finishing products: Dyes, wood fillers, topcoats, and more. Today, however, we thought we’d keep it simple with two finishes that take just a few basic products you may already have lying around. Don’t have the products you need to finish your mahogany wood piece? Don’t worry - we’ve got great finishing products in stock for you.
A simple mahogany finish
Simple finishes are an excellent choice for mahogany - they allow the grain and natural colour of the wood to shine through. You’ll start by using a wood filler - water-based or oil-based is fine. You’ll probably be able to find a water-based wood filler that’s colour-matched to mahogany. With oil-based wood fillers, you may need to add a bit of an oil-based stain to tint it to the right colour.
You’ll thin down your wood filler with water or oil (depending on whether you’re using a water or oil-based filler), then apply it to your mahogany. With water-based filler, you’ll scrape off the excess, sand down your piece, then apply more filler if necessary. Oil-based fillers are similar, though instead of scraping off excess, you simply wipe it off.
Once you’re done, use almost any finishing product you’d like - shellac and lacquer are two great choices. Sand between each coat of finish you apply, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful mahogany surface! Simple but effective.
A single coat finish
Rubio Monocoat offers a number of products that can finish and protect your mahogany piece. We recommend trying their Oil Plus 2C Colours line, which offers a mahogany coloured finishing oil that can really make your piece pop.
To apply Rubio Monocoat, prepare your wood very carefully. Any sanding flaws become readily apparent when using Rubio Monocoat, so you’ll need to do a thorough job. Between grits, we highly recommend water popping (wiping the surface down with a wet shop towel). Then, inspect every inch of your mahogany to look for sanding flaws.
Once you’ve finished sanding your piece, blow off any excess dust with compressed air. Rubio recommends using their Raw Wood Cleaner to remove any stubborn dust, but you can also use mineral spirits - they seem to work just as well.
Now that the sanding and cleanup process is complete, it’s time to apply your Rubio Monocoat. Follow the instructions on the product in order to mix it. From there, apply it to your mahogany with one of Rubio’s Applicator Pads (or some other tool, like a trowel). We recommend applying the product in sections if it’s your first time. Rubio works quickly - you apply the oil, let it sit for 3-5 minutes, then immediately wipe off the excess with a shop towel. You’ve got a window of about 10-15 minutes to remove excess - if excess oil sits for longer than 15 minutes, it can ruin your project.
Once you’ve coated every part of the surface of your mahogany with Rubio Monocoat, perform a final, thorough wipedown with a shop towel to ensure all excess is removed. Full cure time takes about 5 days, but under ideal conditions your piece can be lightly handled within about 24-36 hours.
Maximize your mahogany’s magic with KJP Select Hardwoods
Looking for more tips and tricks on how to finish mahogany (or any other kind of wood)? Let us know - we love to get feedback on our content. Check out our other posts for even more woodworking tips, and check out our online store. We’re constantly adding new products, new wood, and more - we’re excited to see what you’ll make next.