How to finish mahogany wood

Updated February 21, 2017

Mahogany is one of the most common hardwoods in use. It's easy to work with because of its soft, straight grain and consistent quality. As these characteristics serve it well when building, they can also detract when it comes to finishing. The grain tends to splinter, peel away and scratch. There are many kinds of mahogany but the most popular is Luan, or "Philippine," mahogany. It's a light grey, very straight, somewhat characterless wood. But you can bring it to life if you know how to finish it properly.

Set up two sawhorses in a garage or well-ventilated area. Cover any surrounding areas with dust sheets to prevent making a mess. Make sure the temperature is between 15.5 and 32.2 degrees C (60 and 90 degrees F).

Examine the mahogany for any nicks or gouges. If you find gouges, putty them. Cut a piece of 100-grit sandpaper and place it on the sanding block. Hand sand the wood using steady strokes with the grain for approximately five to 10 minutes. Take off the 100-grit paper and replace it with 180-grit paper. Sand for another five minutes. Hold the piece up to the light, sighting across the surface while tilting it back and forth letting the light reflect off the surface. If you observe any scratches, sand and check again.

Dust off the mahogany by blowing across it. Don't use cloth to dust it; cloth will leave invisible fibres that will show in the final finish. Pour a small amount of the Danish oil stain on the cloth and immediately rub the mahogany with it. If it doesn't cover the entire surface pour more stain on the cloth until the surface is saturated with the stain. Continue to rub the mahogany with the cloth, turning the cloth over and over until the wet look is gone from the mahogany and it's evenly stained. Let dry overnight.

Shake the aerosol can of lacquer for one minute. Holding the can 30 to 5 cm (12 to 14 inches) from the mahogany, press the button and make steady passes over the mahogany until a wet sheen of lacquer is consistent over the surface without any streaks or dry spots, but try not to get the coat of lacquer too heavy. Use just enough to cover the surface evenly. Let dry for 15 to 20 minutes.

Fold the 400-grit sandpaper in half and gently sand over the dry lacquer with the grain for approximately two minutes. Dust off by blowing lightly on it. Pick up the can of lacquer and using steady even strokes, spray the surface of the mahogany again, covering it evenly and leaving no dry spots. Let dry overnight.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand-sanding block
  • Putty knife
  • Wood putty
  • 100-grit sandpaper
  • 180-grit sandpaper
  • 400-grit sandpaper
  • Old cotton T-shirt
  • Danish oil light walnut stain
  • Aerosol clear satin sheen lacquer
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About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.