The Most Eco-friendly Waterbase Finish I’ve Used

Unfettered by tradition or dogma, woodworking students can have occasional flashes of brilliance. To wit: During a class last week at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking, I noticed that two of the students were using a waterbase finish I’d never seen before.

The finish didn’t add much color, but it didn’t have the blue cast than many modern waterbase finishes do. It was in fact the most “water-white” finish I’d seen. It also was thin enough to be ragged on and had very low odor. Like all waterbase finishes, it cleaned up easily with water.

Downsides: You have to use quite a number of coats before you get any significant build, it raised the grain (of course) and – similar to a linseed oil finish – it has to be renewed regularly. Very regularly.

Another downside: Despite the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS to safety nerds), several of the other students in the class were worried if the finish was food-safe. The MSDS noted traces of chlorine, giardia and (surprisingly) fluoride. So perhaps you should just stick with walnut oil or salad bowl finish to be on the safe side.

And speaking of safety, while the students were applying the finish without nitrile gloves, I think it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Use the nitrile gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. And always dispose of your rags properly.

In any case, it’s another finish you can add to your arsenal, unless you live in California, where woodworkers are worried that the legislature might ban it.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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28 Responses to The Most Eco-friendly Waterbase Finish I’ve Used

  1. Shannon says:

    I’d never use that stuff in MY drinking mugs. I’ve heard too much of that stuff can KILL YA!

    • Shannon says:

      I prefer to use alcohol-based finishes for all of my drinking vessels. And I’m pretty sure that you do too.

  2. Vodka? Oh right water-based … Cheap vodka?

  3. Jonas Jensen says:

    Never mind the finish, but the schoolbox looks fantastic.

  4. Michelle says:

    So, what was the finish called?

  5. Gary Laroff says:

    Unless you are referring to the local Indianapolis water, I’m not sure what finish contains only water, Chlorine, Florine and giardia. Actually, they probably got that out of the tap at Lee’s Inn. Are you referring to a real product? Or are you still on tinidazole and metronidazole to fight the giardia infection?

  6. The Highlander says:

    Now you know why I drink my scotch neat.

  7. Scribe says:

    Sounds like they were using dihydrogen monoxide. Be careful, DHMO is tricky stuff. It is routinely used in nuclear power plants! It can also accelerate corrosion of many metals.

  8. ben says:

    Um…water? Which I must assume (based on this and the previous post) you are not drinking in any great quantity tonight?

  9. Dan says:

    I think I’ll stick to Linseed oil and shellac (If I want food safe)

  10. Peter says:

    Can we get a name for this product?

  11. joemcglynn says:

    I keep a large box of this on hand in the dehydrated form. I just add water to mix of a fresh batch anytime I need to put another coat on.

    • Patrick says:

      You gotta dump the dehydrated stuff and step up to the raw materials in gas form, A little harder to mix, but the results are worth it!

      • cmhawkins says:

        Lugging those cylinders of hydrogen and oxygen around get to be a hassle, but the reaction to make the final product is really cool (oops, I meant HOT.)

  12. Jay C. White Cloud says:

    You know Chris, I go to make a comment and the next thing I know, I’m a laughing to hard at what others have said to do to much of anything…

    Any how, for an added “natural finish,” I have been using for a couple decades but don’t here much about, have you ever tried “Land Ark.” I’ve used it on everything from exposed Timber Frames to butcher blocks. Let me know what you think?

  13. William Duffield says:

    Does the MSDS (now SDS, according to the new regulations) list drowning as a hazard?

  14. John Cashman says:

    Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe

  15. kv41 says:

    So, what’s it called–brand name, etc.?

  16. David Pickett says:

    Don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly after using this product.

  17. Devon says:

    Hmmmm. Can’t want to try this on my MDF jigs, I bet it will really change the way they operate…

  18. Tomfoolery says:

    Let me guess – was the finish called H2O?

  19. billlattpa says:

    California is the worst. I feel bad for the woodworkers who live there. I don’t know why any woodworker would go there voluntarily for any reason whatsoever.

  20. rwyoung says:

    …because it rusts pipes and fish make love in it.

  21. jason says:

    “Despite the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS to safety nerds), several of the other students in the class were worried if the finish was food-safe. The MSDS noted traces of chlorine, giardia and (surprisingly) fluoride”

    I’m guessing they didn’t and you just made that bit up.

  22. Stu says:

    Ok that’s two posts in a row that you’ve gotten me on. Good on ya! 😉

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