George Vondriska

Using Mineral Spirits to Show Wood Grain

George Vondriska
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Duration:   1  mins

It’s a magic moment…when finish hits your project for the first time and the grain starts to pop, glow, show you just what you’re going to get, it’s soooo cool. Here’s the problem. As you build your project or, even more importantly, as you select your material, you may have a hard time knowing how things are going to look when you get to that magic moment. What will that bees wing walnut or quilted maple or quarter sawn white oak look like when you apply finish? You certainly don’t want to apply finish to a piece of wood BEFORE you incorporate in your project. What’s the solution? Simple. Mineral spirits.

What Mineral Spirits Provide

What makes wood look good under finish? Finish makes wood look wet. What we’re getting from mineral spirits is the opportunity to give wood that wet look, temporarily. unlike finish. As the mineral spirits dries the wet look goes away. But it’ll stick around long enough that you can get a great idea of what the project will look like under finish.

After Effect

Once your “science experiment” is complete, be sure the mineral spirits is completely dry, and do some light sanding to any areas that had mineral spirits on them. As long as there’s ample drying time after you the mineral spirits and before finish, you’ll be fine.

Finishing can be tricky

There’s no easier way to mess up a project than by not doing the finishing steps correctly. It’s a great idea to practice your finishing on scrap before you get to the real project, and also a good idea to let us help you out with more wood finishing tips. For example, you could use homemade wood stain on your next project. Yep, there’s lots of finishing info out there.

Share tips, start a discussion or ask one of our experts or other students a question.

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10 Responses to “Using Mineral Spirits to Show Wood Grain”

  1. David

    I use Naphtha - flashes off quicker, doesn't raise the grain, and leaves no residue at all. Smells better than mineral spirits, too. ;)


    I have used mineral spirits on a wormy maple and then soon after applied a coat of Danish Oil... the result, I suspect is inconsistent oil penetration into the wood... how long should I have waited for the mineral spirits to dry? And what would you suggest to fix the issue? I can send you some pics if it helps ... thx

  3. Megan Watkins

    I heard that you can use either acitone or charcoal lighter fluid as a replacement. In California and other states it's almost impossible to get mineral spirits

  4. Chris Maher

    The other main advantage of using mineral spirits other than previewing the grain, is that it is a good way to get rid of any dust that settles down in the pores of the wood. It is also great for seeing if there is any traces of glue left behind before doing final finish work. Finally, yes it is know as white spirit in the u.k.

  5. im

    Here in California you can’t get mineral spirits as it’s been deemed too hazardous. What is an alternative to it?

  6. cfwpterry

    Would using water be a problem ?

  7. Doug Welch

    Maybe a silly question...Why not just apply a light coating of water?

  8. Paul

    Here in Great Britain we have Methylated Spirit which has a purple die in it to prevent abuse by drinking it! What other mineral spirit would you recommend please?

  9. anthonybyrde

    Would that be 'White Spirit ' in the UK, used for thinning conventional paint? (Sometimes known as 'White Paraffin' - a light kerosene-like material)

  10. Amanuel Zeleke

    I like this page

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