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How to Make a High-Gloss Finish While Turning on a Lathe with Friction Polish

A collection of finish polishing products There are a lot of good friction polishes that create a nice, clear finish on both natural wood and wood that's already been stained. I just can’t deny it — I am an instant gratification sort of woodworker. So, when I am looking for a clear finish on my turned pieces — and I predominantly turn bowls — I almost always reach for a friction polish. They are easy to apply, build up quickly and look great.
What’s a Friction Polish?
[caption id="attachment_10769" align="aligncenter" width="385"]Apply friction polish to a bowl while turning on a lathe Apply the friction polish to your bowl as it turns on the lathe, here, the friction and turning motion will help spread and polish the piece. A friction polish is designed to be applied to wood and then burnished to make the product flow — to be smoothed out over the prepared surface. Burnishing (rubbing vigorously with a cloth or piece of ultra-fine steel wool) can be hard work on a flat piece of wood. But it’s pretty easy if the wood is spinning on a lathe. For that reason, friction polish is a real favorite for turners. Common formulas for friction polish feature a combination of shellac and a wax of some type. They can be formulated in a liquid or found in bar form — like the widely used HUT™ Products Bar.
Just Do It
[caption id="attachment_10770" align="aligncenter" width="330"]Creating a high-gloss finish with friction polish The friction polish, once it is applied, will create a very high gloss finish on both fresh pieces, like this maple bowl, and pre-stained woods. There are a couple of ways to apply a liquid friction polish. You can wipe on a light coat while the piece is stationary on the lathe (or off of the tool), then spin the piece and use a cloth dampened with the polish to smooth out and flow the finish evenly across the piece. This is an instance where light applications are better than heavy coats. As a “plunge right in there” type, I prefer the second method: applying the finish with a soft cloth right to the spinning bowl. I use a moderately fast speed and just wipe it on. I like to have a strong directional light aimed at the piece, so I can see the change as I apply the product. Different brands of friction polish vary a bit as to the proper mode of application — so read their instructions and experiment in order to get your best results.