Ted’s creations involve several steps: he designs the project, prepares the wooden blank, turns it on the wood lathe, and applies finish. The last step is the most time-consuming. Recently Ted tried a new finishing process on a white ash and rosewood pepper mill. He was very pleased with the results. It saved time to use sanding sealer for finishing. The sanding sealer also preserved the natural color of the wood, which is critical for light-colored woods.
Ted turned a white ash pepper mill with a contrasting top of East Indian Rosewood. The two woods present as much contrast as is possible without the use of stains or dyes. There are few white-hued woods. American holly is one, but it is outrageously expensive and better suited for accent work. White ash is more readily available in the dimensions required for a 10″ pepper mill. White ash also has visible grain in the wood, which is lacking in American Holly.
The Finishing Process:
Ordinarily, Ted uses Watco brand wipe-on polyurethane as his “go to” finish. This is an oil-based finish that penetrates into the wood. It is an excellent finish. However, it tends to darken light-colored woods. It takes a dozen or more coats to produce a flawless finish.
To preserve the natural color of the white ash, Ted applied three sequential coats of Minwax Sanding Sealer. The sanding sealer is water-based and does not penetrate the wood. He sanded between coats with 400 grit sandpaper.
Ted sanded after the third coat and applied the first of three or four coats of Watco polyurethane finish. The sanding sealer cut down on the overall time spent applying finish and, as was the goal, preserved the natural white coloration of the ash.
White ash is a very versatile wood. It is hard and turns well. Ted sometimes applies an analine dye to white ash, especially if a customer requests a pepper mill in a specific color (red, green, brown, and black are the most popular). Or, as in the case with this mill, it can be left to show off its natural color. The turning blank in the photo below, on the left, has not been altered except for sanding.