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Spray or brush carved furniture?

Hi all,

I've just carved my first chair, and am wondering how most chair makers finish carved pieces like this.  I would think spraying shellac or polyurethane would be the easiest way to provide the best coverage with the lowest risk of errors, what with all the crazy surfaces.  Does anyone have any opinions on how not to mess up my chair, now that's it's almost done?  Thanks for your feedback, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!


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Hi Rob,

It is looking beautiful! This is where I would hire a professional finisher 🙂 At least for advice, anyway. Are you a SAPFM member? http://www.sapfm.org. If you become a member, there is some incredible information shared on their forum about period furniture. I just hesitate to even begin to advise for finishing. Good luck!

You have to use Spray.

What did Chippendale do?

Thanks all!  Sorry, just saw this feedback, I must've missed the alerts first time. I ended up raising the grain w/ 320, spraying potassium dichromate to match my DR table (yech), sanding again w/ 400, then 5-6 coats of 1.5 lb shellac (sanding w/ 400 after the 3rd), then rubbing out with 2f pumice or rottenstone, with mineral oil and #4/0 steel wool, depending.  Since your comments I made 6 more of these, 2 arm chairs and 4 more side chairs, and am rubbing out the last two today; here's a pic of a finished one.

Like Ray Journigan and others in APF/SAPFM seem to indicate, PD is a bad idea as it ages/darkens mahogany such that the carvings don't 'pop'.  BLO, shellac, glaze, more shellac, then rubbout seems to be the way to go.  Live and learn, right?!

Trouble is, now I'm hooked on chairs.  I wanna try another crazy one like Ray's from APF 2018 (https://philamuseum.org/collection/object/213240), and work on backgrounding and Mt Everest type stuff like ball and claw feet, carved acanthus knees, etc.  I'm way down the rabbit hole now...!

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I think you discovered how to do it! It looks beatiful!