I usually have an idea in my head about how it should look. I often get these ideas from pictures in books or from museums.
The finish usually includes dye staining the color. In this case, I am trying to make it look a reddish brown like old leather.
I cut a piece of wood from the mahogany that I used for a sample. The samples need to be finished just as I would the entire piece.
The routine that I used was to sand the mahogany to 180 grit. Then I wiped the wood with warm water to raise the grain. After it dried I sanded it with a gray scotch brite pad to knock the fuzzies off. Wiped off the dust and then sprayed a 1/2 pound cut of shellac on the whole piece. If you cut Zinsser sanding sealer by 50% you get a 1/2 pound cut.
After drying I sanding again with a gray scotch brite pad to get it smooth.
Now I applied a water based aniline dye from Lockwood English Brown Mahogany and some Scarlet Red to the color that I want. As the dye was drying, I used a wet cloth to lighten the areas that were too dark. Particularly the end grain.
After the dye was dry I rubbed the surface with a white scotch brite pad.
Now it is ready for final finishing. Mahogany is an open grain wood and often filled before applying finish. I do not like the look of a filled finish so I use the shellac to partially fill the grain.
Below are samples of the color that I like with 2 coats of 2 lb. cut shellac sprayed on.
I tried many mixes of colors before settling on the color mix that I like.
Following the procedure above, you can see that I have applied the dye and sprayed the first coat of 2lb. cut of blonde shellac.
After each coat is sprayed, I sanded the surface with 400 grit sand paper. This levels the surface and partially fill the grain. I do not sand the carving, I use the gray scotch brite pad on the carving.
I repeat the process of spraying and sanding until I get the amount of grain filling that I want. In this case I sprayed 5 coats of 2lb. cut.
Then it was ready for final finishing.
I wet sand with 600 grit sand paper with mineral spirits an then wipe off the residual. I wet sand until the finish is very smooth. I have to be very careful not to sand through to the color.
After the wet sanding I apply a good paste wax with 0000 steel wool and wax and then buff to the sheen that I am looking for.
It is a lot of work but this is the result. I finish does shine but there is a glow to the surface. It does not look plastic.
This completes the project. On to the next.