Monday, May 16, 2016

Sweet Leaf Buttons : Wood Finishing Reference

 Feed N Wax on Apple Wood.

 Tung Oil on Aged Oak Rounds : Two Hearts

Left - Right :  Oak with Tung Oil - Apple wood with Feed n Wax - Lilac with Feed N Wax
Bottom row is virgin Lilac round, for comparison.

I've started making wooden buttons from sticks.

There was a guy who came to the Fox Valley Tech School Sewing Expo a few years ago selling the most gorgeous wooden buttons.  They were pricey, too.  I splurged and bought a few from him.  I use them on my handmade journals, so I only need 1 for a journal closure.  Not like knitters who need many more for a sweater ...  I guess that keeps it more economical -- for me anyway.  I've never seen him again ...

So out of necessity, I decided it would be easy enough to make my own wooden buttons.  The trick is finding just the right sticks.  Ones that have been properly aged -- even better if it has that meandering black line running through it.  But not too old, or they get "punky."  Hard woods seem to work best; fruit woods (apple and pear). oak, cherry. even lilac.  This is the perfect time of year, too, as people are pruning their trees. 

There are lots of tutorials on the web that explain how to make wooden buttons from sticks.

Easy enough to find the wood, and cut off rounds.  Easy enough to sand them down, and drill the holes.  It's been a good excuse for my husband to purchase a few new tools, too!

I'm definitely still in the exploration stage, choosing wood with interesting patterns and designs in it.
Choosing the finishes ...  There are so many options!

My journals won't be washed, so I don't have to worry so much about durability that way.
But if I sell them to other people, I'll need to find the right finishing techniques.  I also want to experiment and see what I tolerate best (fumes, mess, etc.)  To that end, I am creating a reference list of finishes.  Of course, it will also matter what type of wood you are starting with, as well.

*  Soaked in Olive Oil  [not fried] :

These buttons sat in a jar of olive oil for about 4 days.  That gave them enough time to soak up all the oil they wanted.  Then I took them out and let them drain on a paper towel for a day.  They look as nice as the orange paste-wax buttons but without the waxy smooth finish.  I'll have to see how they age, but for right now, I'm impressed with just plain olive oil.  The Olive Oil even made one of the blah mystery wood (top) (soft maple?) buttons look kinda of nice.  Like maybe it just needed the right finish to bring out it's personality and beauty.  The large white button on the right is untreated, so you can see what a difference the olive oil treatment made.

Tung Oil -  I've seen this recommended in several places, as the Tung Oil polymerizes into a hard finish that is water resistant -- which means if it's on clothing, it can be washed.

Doesn't smell bad, but you do have to be careful of the rags, as they could combust.  After a certain point (say 20 minutes) it does get sticky -- that must be when it begins to polymerize.  And you need to put on multiple coats.   I'm thinking this finish is more trouble than it's worth for my purposes.

These looked nice soon after application, but it also seemed to "dry out" and get dull after a few days.

Oak Rounds soon after Tung Oil application.  See the the original Oak Stick in upper right corner.
They almost look like they've been stained.

Oak Buttons with Tung Oil after 1 week.  These were quite a bit darker/richer upon initial application.  They really lightened up after a few days.   The original stick is at the top of the picture.

Found Stick Buttons with Tung Oil Finish, soon after application.  After 1 week, they lightened to this : 

 Found Stick with Tung Oil finish, after 1 week.  Really lost the luster and richness, unfortunately. 

 Lilac Wood with Tung Oil, after 1 week.  Untreated lilac round in upper right corner.

 Lilac Buttons with Tung Oil after 1 week.

*  Feed N Wax - a combination of paste wax, mineral oil, and revitalizing orange oil.  This is a nice finish, that combines the best of some of the individual approaches.  So far this is one of my top favorite finishes, as it has a staying power some of the others seem to lack.

 Apple Wood with Feed n Wax - Very nice!

Apple Wood Buttons with Feed n Wax after 1 week.  They still look almost as good as when I first applied the finish.

Apple Wood Buttons with Feed n Wax after 1 week.  They still look almost as good as when I first applied the finish.     Ther whitish button at the top has no fisnish, so you can see what a difference it makes.


Lilac Buttons with Feed n Wax after 1 week.  The round in the upper right has no finish for comparison.

Lilac Buttons with Feed n Wax, after 1 week.

 Side-by-side comparison of Tung Oil vs. Feed n Wax on Apple wood.
It's clear that the Feed n Wax retains the warmth and richness I like so much.
The tung oil really lightened up after a week.


Deep Frying
Found a video on this, and I was intrigued, so this was the first finish technique I tried.
I can't say I was all that impressed.  I used Canola Oil at about 350 degrees for about 2 minutes.   They did get darker -- maybe I left them in a little too long?  Over-cooked?  They came out smelling like fried plantains (Well, to be fair, it's the very same concept!) -- maybe if I had used a different type of oil?  They used olive oil in the video, not canola.

Pledge Revitalizing Oil - Orange
This one definitely brings out the richness in the wood in the short term.  And it smells nice! But it seems to be lacking something ...  and may need to be re-applied periodically, or used in conjunction with the paste wax?   I think this might be comparable to Lemon Oil. 

Paste Wax - This is the one I've had recent experience with on my triangle loom.   Before I started this experiment, I was leaning toward paste wax, but wanted to give the other options a fair try.  It looks wonderful as soon as you apply it, bringing out the natural beauty of the wood.  But it does "dry out" after a short time, and looses some of that wonderful luster.   The half-round at the bottom is untreated for comparison.

What else can I try?
Any other suggestions?

In the end, I think it's between the Feed n Wax and just plain olive oil.  These are the simplest solutions for me, with the nicest results.

Which wood finish is YOUR favorite?

Ending with some eye candy :

Three Hearts - Oak Rounds with Tung Oil.

1 comment:

The Idaho Beauty said...

Why you clever girl . . .

What an interesting experiment. Those "hearts" are really something.

I was going to suggest mineral oil, as that is what was recommended to keep my butcher block topped cart from drying out and cracking. It does have to be reapplied periodically but less so than on my wooden spoons that get washed. It always slightly darkens things initially. When I saw it was an ingredient in the feed n wax, I could see I was on the right track. But I think for these, you do need that added wax for a good finish.

Have only used tung oil on my Grace quilting frame that came bare wood with that oil recommended for sealing. It did little to change the color or highlight the grain and I can't imagine using it on something like this.

Of course, I would like the darker, richer versions of your stick buttons. Man, you will have so many you'll have to open and Etsy shop!