Ask any older person with solid wood, natural finish furniture. They’ll tell you using mineral spirits on wood is the best way to bring out the beauty and the grain. I’ll explain how to go about doing this to wood carvings in this article. But first, I’d like to start with a little theory so we know the why’s of the ins and outs.
What are mineral spirits and are they safe to use?
Mineral spirit factories distil their products 100% from pure petroleum. This produces a clean, clear product primarily used for thinning oil-based paints. However, folk have found loads of alternative uses, including lighting charcoal barbecues.
So I would say from my own experience, best be in well-ventilated space when working with mineral spirits on wood. And definitely no smoking if you have the habit. I personally don’t like the smell on my hands so I wear an old pair of plastic dishwashing gloves.
Using mineral spirits on natural wood
With a little practice, I made a paying hobby of renovating natural finish, unvarnished wood furniture. You could be surprised to know what a restored, solid kitchen table is worth. In fact, that project paid for more than a few of my best wood carving tools. And if I can do it, I can assure you it’s certainly a very accessible skill for almost anyone willing to give it a try
Cleaning by applying mineral spirits on wood that’s looking tired
It’s amazing the instant benefits you get when you know how to use mineral spirits on wood. Apply the first layer of liquid like you see in the excellent video below. Prepare to be amazed at the muck and dirt that accumulates on your cloth. Wipe the surface with a clean, lint-free cloth.
Now repeat the process several times. Before I forget you’ll have similar benefits using mineral spirits on bare wood floors, but that’s for another post on another day.
Top coating mineral spirits on wood furniture
I find I get the best results if I leave my work for a couple days after applying mineral spirits on wood. I like to let the material rest and show its true personality as the mineral spirit coating soaks in.
I then tidy up any hairs and other defects before I decide whether to tint. Now I would never do this to a piece of old furniture the maker wanted ‘au naturel’ of course. However, I have achieved remarkable results with pieces I made myself, by applying mineral spirits on wood before staining, and then adding a top coat of tinted stain.
Using Mineral Spirits on Wood Carvings to Perfect Your Work
I’ve touched on restoring plain wood furniture, and explained how to clean wood floors with mineral spirits. Now we understand the basics, let’s consider how to use mineral spirits on wood carvings we make ourselves.
Applying Mineral Spirits on Bare Wood
I often wipe mineral spirits on a piece of wood before starting work. That’s because it helps me see the contours and grains more clearly, while I decide what the wood is destined to become. I believe it is important to work within what the wood can achieve. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that’s the wood worker’s calling!
This is also a useful tip of you find an off-cut at a local sawmill you can use. Applying mineral spirits on wood after sanding does more than simply remove loose dirt. Another thing mineral spirits do for wood is remove any resin the saw released. And it does this quickly without leaving any smears…
I also like using mineral spirits because they don’t damage my power carving tools. If anything, it lubricates the moving parts and avoids corrosion if I am on holiday near the ocean. That’s why I recommend using mineral spirits on wood projects. Mineral spirits don’t damage wood floors either!
Using mineral spirits on wood before staining
I seldom leave my wood carving raw. That’s because I like to bring out the beauty and the grain of the timber. However, I like to complete my wood carving first (although I may have lightly applied mineral spirits before I started). Here’s the process I often follow:
- Sand down the work to get rid of carving marks and the odd bumps and knocks.
- Use mineral spirits lightly on the wood to gently wipe away the dust and grit.
- Study the work from every angle to make sure the work is perfect as I can get it.
- Apply a final layer of mineral spirits on the wood. Decide whether it needs a stain.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article
Woodwork and wood carving are such fascinating topics. I feel I learn something new every time I explore ideas to share here. Even something as simple as using mineral spirits on bare wood, is rich with fresh ideas for what I plan on carving next. Now tell me, what’s your next carving project going to be?
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