I like my timber finish to have a shine but not a gloss. I find when selling pieces, that the buyer often enjoys wax polishing fine decorative woodwork and, I suspect, is a selling point in many cases. The problem is how to get a high sheen onto the timber with a wax finish.
Just applying wax will not do the job, especially on open grained timbers although Canauba wax applied to a small box made from a dense timber such as gidgee can give a beautiful finish and I tend to use Shellawax for this sort of thing. Large Camphor Laurel bowls, however, are a different thing altogether so how do I approach these things?
The first point I want to make is that I never finish large pieces on the lathe. Once the piece is sanded, sealed and the bottom turned, all subsequent work is done off the lathe.
Once the piece is sanded and all blemishes are gone, I will seal the wood with a sanding sealer. I have tried cellulose sealers but prefer Feast Watson Sanding Sealer which I thin down a little with turps. With the lathe stopped, apply the sealer with a rag, rubbing it well into the surface ensuring that the entire surface has en even coating. Leave it for a few minutes and then wipe off the excess with paper towel or rag getting as much off as possible. Spin the lathe and remove more of the sealer, only applying light pressure and turning the cloth frequently. When you feel that the grabbing has finished, use a clean rag and friction polish the surface by applying a little more pressure to the rag. When it is done correctly, the surface will have a reasonable polish, there will be no streaking and the surface will be touch dry. I will reverse the bowl at this stage, usually on a vacuum plate, and turn, sand and seal the bottom. The bowl is taken off the lathe and set aside for a few hours. The piece will not be put on the lathe again.
The next step is to spray the piece with lacquer, Mirotone 886 full gloss by choice although other nitro-cellulose lacquers will be fine. The idea here is not to get a gloss lacquer finish but to provide a good surface for the subsequent waxing so a few very light coats are all that is needed. (I use a CIG Easyspray but it is only just adequate, a decent compressed air spray system would be better). After spraying, the piece is left for a few hours to cure.
Now for the fun bit.
The surface needs to be lightly cut back with 0000 steel wool to remove any dust which has been picked up and then cut back further with an abrasive wax such as U-Beaut EEE after which the surface is buffed up with a soft cloth. As this is pretty tedious stuff, I find it is best done in front of the TV with a good woodturning movie showing.
The final stage is the waxing which is pretty routine stuff. My wax of choice is U-Beaut Traditional Wax but pretty well any good paste wax will be fine. I will usually give two applications at this stage with further waxing done at a later stage. The later stage is more often than not immediately before a showing or during a craft show when a bit of activity will draw spectators.
The result is a piece with an attractive and durable finish which is easily maintained and will improve with age. I read once that when a piece is freshly lacquered, that is the best it will ever look in its life whereas a regularly waxed finish will get better and better.