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Thread: Popping the Grain: BLO a Myth??!??

  1. #1

    Popping the Grain: BLO a Myth??!??

    I think it is pretty much "common knowledge" that BLO pops the grain, particularly on figured boards. However, I was putting together a test panel of curly maple veneer to try out various dye stain colors and finishing schedules for a jewelry chest I will be making soon. I tried various stains, and used BLO on half of those, while just using shellac on the others.

    Frankly, other than slightly darkening the wood, I don't see that BLO pops the grain any more than just using straight shellac. Is it just me, or have other people noticed this as well?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Andersonville, TN
    I have not tried a test myself, but I do seem to recall a recent article that reports results that are similar to yours.

  3. #3
    Homer....I use a lot of BLO for "popping the grain". In my experience, it does pop the grain especially on medium to dark woods. I've been warned not to use it on lighter woods as it will darken them. It does. This evening I turned several wine bottle stoppers one of which is birdseye maple. It did pop ...add an increase of contrast to the birdeyes.........It also darkend some of the areas of what I suspect is softer grain in the same piece of maple. I use it a lot and on some things I probably shouldn't but a majority of the seems to do what it's touted to do. I've accidentally left it off and used shellac and/or lacquer on an item and it just didn't appear the same as a piece of the same block of wood finished with BLO. JMHO.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Brentwood, TN
    In an addition of FWW they did a scientific analysis of this and found exactly what you did; that is, that BLO didn't do anymore to "pop" the grain than any film finish like shellac in most wood and in fact, it tended to make the figure look murky in darker woods and made all woods look darker. The only thing I even consider using BLO on for any grain effect is maple these days. FWW did find that BLO accentuated the pattern of curly maple.

    I vote "myth"

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Smithville, TX
    Maybe it is just me, but I have had great success with wipe on poly. No mixing, no fussing -- straight from the container to the rag. Plenty of popping. Sure simplifies. It also makes a great sealer coat before spraying.
    Mini Max Tool Acquisition Mediator.
    "An old man to most kids and a young man to those who are dead."

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    My limited experience matches Sam's...the wipe-on poly seems to have about the same effect as BLO, with a faster drying and curing time. I also see mineral oil pop the grain nicely on the face grain cutting boards I make. (In fact, LOML likes for me to wait until she can watch me oil the wood, 'cause she also likes seeing the grain pop.)

    BTW, I like your sig line, Sam. Nicely done. "Acquisition Mediator" indeed.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Central Illinois
    Nothing against Poly, but I like to feel the wood, not plastic.

    I use oil to "POP" the grain, but not BLO. The only one I've found that pops the grain without visibly changing the color of the wood is a transparant oil like Butcherblock oil. It has given me what I want under the French Polish finish I use for my work.


  8. #8
    BLO to "Pop" the grain is something I heard a few years ago. I have been in the WWing game for over 45 years of my wasted life. All through College studying the trade and in my teaching experiences the use of BLO as a wipe down to enhance wood was ignored but by a few old fellows who preferred homemade finishes. Any way you wet the surface will "Pop" the grain (what is that term anyway?) If you want to see what it will look like finished just wipe with a wet cloth and it will "Pop" the colors of the grain and you can see if you need to stain or match the color some way.

    I personally am against the practice unless you are going to be using an oilbased finish. I know all the arguments and such but it is a chemical fact that Solventy based finishes as well a WB finishes will not adhere to oil based finishes for a long time after application. so If you are planning on using Shellac or Lacquer as a top coat, most know not to oil the wood before application. sure it dries in a few days as well as oil based stain dries but true adhesion cannot occur between oil and solvants.

    My humble onesided opinion

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