A Simple Varnish Finish Promo

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We are very proud to announce the release of our very first DVD production, “A Simple Varnish Finish”. Many of you have requested I review my “go-to finish” process in detail and that’s exactly what I did. It’s nearly 40 minutes of content devoted specifically to my wiping varnish finish method. Every step is demonstrated thoroughly with lighting and camera angles that ensure you see ALL of the detail. I also go into a few other variations of the finish as well as tips and tricks that will save you time, money, and headaches. After you watch the main feature, you will probably want to review just the finish steps alone. So I’ve included a second feature on the DVD that simply recaps the entire process in about a minute. Very handy!

The DVD is available NOW in our store: CHECK IT OUT!!

Category: Finishing


  1. Gatorbait (http://) April 2, 2008

    Marc – it would be great if these DVDs were available for download as well. I think more people would be apt to buy them if they were immediately available. I know I would.

  2. Pat April 2, 2008

    Ordered mine and a mug as well! Always want to learn as many finishing techniques as I can! Great price point too!

  3. I’m in for one. This is a no-brainer purchase for me… supporting the site and getting Marc’s insight into wiping varnish. I’m one of those people that doesn’t want to figure out the ins and outs of various finishing methods on projects that I have invested time, money, and energy on. For me each project deserves the best possible finish that I can give and not be the subject of experimentation. I like the idea of the recap on the dvd as well… sounds like it will be a helpful refresher down the road to review right before subsequent finishing tasks until the process is fully ingrained. Looking forward to this DVD!

  4. i second the download request. can you put them up on the itunes store or are there a lot of hoops to jump through?


    I hear ya guys on the download thing. There are some technological hoops to jump through and we are looking into our options. One such hoop is the fact that no matter what I do, some people have trouble with the videos. And when its free content, I try to help the best I can but ultimately I am only responsible up to a point. If they PAY for the content, I will feel much more obligated to get these videos working perfectly for them. DVDs on the other hand, just work. :)
    So we have a few options. One of which is to simply password-protect a page that contains the video in exactly the same presentation we give on our blog: two download links and a Flash version. But there would be one master password for the page and, well, you know how that might go.

    We will keep you posted.

  6. Bill (http://) April 2, 2008

    Mark ,
    I ordered the video and a tee shirt- but you really have to improve that shopping cart process—–it is definitely not user friendly.

    Also try and make the check it out a little more prominent, it took me a few minutes to figure out where I could order off this page……loose the red and go with a blue link .

    Love the show and your sense of humor – keep up the great work!

  7. i hear you on the hoops – that is a PITA, but the reality is I am too lazy to fill out a bunch of online forms, pay you $15 for a DVD and wait 6 days for delivery. this is 2008 i need instant gratification. (plus i am in the middle of a finishing project and need the information NOW).

    I’d happily pay $20 for a d/l but understand if thats not in the cards.

    PS – i dont care if you dont approve this for the comments section, i just wanted to get you the message and dont feel like opening up my mail client. LAZY!

  8. Ryan (http://) April 3, 2008

    Gotta get the download going. I’ve download full length movies off iTunes. Does requiring users to play through iTunes help or just create more hoops?

  9. Steve Carter April 5, 2008

    I received my DVD today.

    Anyone who hasnâ

  10. Just finished (pardon the pun :D) watching my new A Simple Varnish Finish DVD. Great information! I’ve known it was possible to achieve a phenomenal finish in a wipe-on, but every wipe-on I’d seen by
    local people left me never wanting to go there. Thanks for showing me the correct process for a great wipe-on finish and how easy it actually is to create.

  11. Paul April 7, 2008

    Wow! I ordered my DVD on Wednesday and received it on Saturday. Now that’s what I call service!

    I was very pleased with the video, Marc, and your timing couldn’t have been better. I just completed a project and had purchased the exact product(s) you used in the video. Now I feel confident I won’t screw up the finish!

    Thanks again,


  12. Tburn April 7, 2008

    I received my copy Sat AM . What a great Day. LOVE THE DVD.
    $20.00 a small price to pay to help support the work you do.
    I know ive spent more on advise from “store experts”.
    Thanks for sharing .

    When & where is the Autogragh session?

  13. Todd April 7, 2008

    Got my DVD Saturday and watched it last night. Very nice DVD. I do however have a question. You are using General Finishes Seal-a-Cell and you put 4 coats on. Doesn’t the can say to just put one coat and then follow wil Arm-R-Seal? I had heard that especially on dark woods that more than one coat of Seal-a-Cell could cloud. Is this not true?


    Hey Todd. I apologize for the confusion. If there was one thing I could change about the DVD it would be the fact that I showed Seal-a-Cell being used for the first coat. If I happen to have Seal-a-Cell on hand, I will usually use that for my first coat, which is pretty much what the manufacturer recommends. I will then follow up with coats of Arm-R-Seal (as shown in the video).
    Using Seal-a-Cell for all 4 coats is usually not recommended because the resins are a bit soft and they don’t make an ideal topcoat. In fact, the more I work with Seal-a-Cell and Arm-R-Seal, the more I realize there is little to no need for Seal-a-Cell in my work. If I plan on top-coating with Arm-R-Seal, I believe I am just as well-served using Arm-R-Seal for the entire process. In addition, I will only have one can of material to purchase at that store.

    To address the clouding issue, I have never heard of that. Im not sure why it would cloud. Its just varnish. But if I do use Seal-a-Cell on a project, I rarely apply more than one coat before switching over to Arm-R-Seal. The times that I have applied multiple coats, I haven’t seen this clouding issue you describe.

    Hope that helps.


  15. Dean April 7, 2008

    Just downloaded and watched your video, nice. Just a couple of questions though….

    1. When applying the wipe on finish, are all coats “with the grain” and is the sanding between coats “with the grain” as well?

    2. I have never seen Arm-R-Seal where I live, so will probably use whatever poly is local. When you opened the new can of your local poly, you poured half into another can and cut it with 50/50 Mineral Spirits – both cans. When you did your finish coat you cut the poly with naptha 75%, was this poly from the premix you previously made or did you use new poly?

    3. You said about 4-10 hour to dry for the wipe on finish. What is the approx time when you add boiled linseed oil to the mix?

    4. Will the 1 minute recap be avail later for those who downloaded the video?


    Excellent clarification questions Dean.

    1- Lets put it this way, if you always go with the grain, you will never really go wrong. But, do you always have to go with the grain? No. The first coat of finish gets absorbed so deeply, that the direction in which you apply it doesn’t really matter much. But once you start to build a finish, its a good idea to go with the grain just in case there are any visible marks or streaks. These will be a lot less noticeable if you go WITH the grain.
    Now for sanding, its a different story. Raw wood is sanded with the grain. The first coat is sanded with the grain. And techically, by the 2nd or third coat of varnish you can sand in any direction you want. The sanding is so fine that the scratches are not visible. So its ok to sand in any direction. But again, to be safe, its not a bad idea to go with the grain.

    2- I was working with Arm-R-Seal for every coat after the first. So when I diluted the mix even further with naptha, I was actually diluting what was already a wiping formula. In other words, its pretty darn dilute stuff. But that’s the point. You just want a very light film that will dry quickly. If you need to make this final batch from full-strength poly, I would maybe aim for a 10-15% poly/naptha solution. These aren’t hard and fast numbers so feel free to play around a bit.

    3- If I add boiled linseed oil to the mix, I usually wait at least 24 hours. The oil adds significant amount of time to the curing process.

    4- As of now, no. Not because I don’t want to but because of the logistics. I’m really not sure how the heck I would pull it off. I might, at some point, release it as a “podcast”. I’m not 100% sure though.

  17. Todd April 7, 2008

    Thanks for the clarification on the Seal-a-Cell. But, what do you mean if you could change one thing about the DVD?? You are the creator and can therefore change anything you want. Just call it the second edition. :)

    Thanks again for a great addition to my DVD collection and keep up the funny intro’s to all of your weekly shows.

  18. Michael April 12, 2008

    Marc –

    I just got my DVD today and have already watched it through. I wanted to congratulate you on your first DVD release and say that the quality of production and information is top-notch.

    I’m a novice at all this and find it frustrating to get a decent finish after spending so much time building a project. Your techniques and tips during the video were awesome. I especially like that you can give simple, basic information in such a way that it doesn’t seem like you’re “talking down” to your audience. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you are one of the best natural teachers I’ve seen.

    Thanks so much for all you do – we love the Wood Whisperer!

  19. Jeff January 16, 2010

    Ok, so I’m late to the party on the comments here…

    Mark- I enjoyed the video a lot and I’m using it on a couple of end-tables in Mahogany this weekend. The finish is coming along just fine, actually. Your grain-fill technique is drying tonight, in fact…so I’m anxious to get started on the second half tomorrow. There just are two things I’d like to know, beyond what you told me in there.

    1) Since I’m doing a table top separate from the assembled table legs and skirt, I can follow the instructions to the letter on the table tops. However, are there any helpful hints or changes you would make for doing the same bang up job on the vertical leg surfaces. I’m winging it a little bit and basically just trying to get finish to not run all around.

    2) When you did the video, you are using a squared up piece of figured maple right? But if you had a detail on the outside edge to contend with…would you finish the edge BEFORE the sequence on the top or at the same time? Is it TOP surface first and then detail or ? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Just curious about what you do.

    Thanks for the video man…bummed I can’t be in your class next week…we’re just up the street. I’ll send a picture when we get all done.

    Thanks for your help.


      thewoodwhisperer January 16, 2010

      Glad it helped you out J. Obviously the video covers the best case scenario. And usually the flat table top is where things need to be perfect. So on the rest of the piece, you just do your best and fortunately, those parts aren’t under the same scrutiny as the top.

      That being said, you still want to make it as perfect as it reasonably can be. So on a table leg, I would probably do one pass with a pretty wet applicator right down the center of the legs, making sure I don’t really hit the edges. If you hit the edges too soon, you are likely to cause a drip at the corner. So on the second pass, I widen the stroke a little and spread the finish on the rest of the leg. During the second pass, the applicator is not as well so when you hit the edges, you get a nice thin layer of finish and nothing more. 3-4 passes in total then I move to the next fact of the leg and work my way around.

      Now concerning a decorative edge, it depends on the profile and the size of the table top. Most times though, if you hit the proile first, you are likely to have lots of drips coming down when you do the top. And on a bigger table top, that could be a problem if the profile has already started drying on you. So I would most likely finish the top first, spreading any drips as I see them. Then when the top is done, I’ll take a nice pass around the edge. I usually find that to be the most effective. You just need to be careful not to disturb the top, which shouldn’t be much of a problem.

      Hope that helps.

  20. Marc,
    It seems that Rockler is trying to dump your vidoes. I have resently found your site and have been follwing since, along with Matt. Here is what Roxker is doing: http://www.rockler.com/product.....dwhisperer

    I’m more than happy to buy it directly from you at the same price. Please let me know how.

    Fellow relocated Jerseyite.

  21. Chad Eichler October 30, 2010

    Marc, I’m about to start my first finish job on a large walnut/birdseye art easel for my mom and bought the download version of this DVD. On the video, there’s no sanding mentioned between the 1st and 2nd coat but then after the 2nd you sand with 320. Do you sand any after the 1st coat and if so, what grit would you recommend? I think you clarified that you sand after the 1st in your answer to Dean above but just want to double-check and see what grit would be best. Thanks for everything! – Chad


      Many times, I do sand after the first coat. But you really don’t have to. That first coat is typically absorbed so deeply that there isn’t much finish left at the surface. Its usually not till the second coat that things start to build and sanding becomes essential. So honestly, either way is fine. And if you do sand after the first coat, go ahead and use 320 there too.

  22. Brad October 15, 2013

    Hi Marc,
    I’m just a hobbyist and finished a small end table project. I used African Mahogany which was very porous and was at a loss as to how to make it as smooth as possible. Finishes and stains are equally confusion to me. So like most plebeians I surfed you tube for some cheap solutions. After watching several of your videos I downloaded “A Simple Varnish Finish” for 20 bucks. I came home today, after watching it all day at work (of course ;)), and felt like a finish obi wan. The table is beautiful after just one coat and your technique for grain filling was ingenious. Can’t wait to see what 2-3 coats or 3-4 coats brings. (As you where indecisive in the amount of times:)) Thanks for making my project the best it could be!
    Maybe your next one could show more on rubbing out finishes, which seems simple, but I’m sure has some pitfalls.
    Best regards,
    Denver, CO.

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