The finish is the finish – I paint on 5 wet coats all over with a foam brush, keeping it wet the whole time, the wood just soaking it up, until I began to see it slightly puddle- up on the sides. The end grain can soak up everything. Then I wipe down the wood with a cloth before it gets sticky, so it doesn’t dry shiny and wet looking. This warmed up the color and took away the dry look of the raw wood. I let it dry for a week, looking at it, thinking.
I used some ultra-secret 3000 grit sandpaper that comes on a thin foam backing, kind of like a mega-fine 3M pad (thanks Garry), to buff down the fine hairs and grain raised by the application of the first coat, especially around the equator of the piece where the grain is flat and difficult to chisel as sharply and cleanly as on the end grain at the top and bottom. The trick is not to dull the sharp edges of the chisel marks which are so nice, and this special sanding pad can do it much better that I could do on the practice piece with regular 2000 grit paper. This gave those areas a much “harder” surface, without the vaguely distracting fuzz of the loose hairs, which as hard as they are to see, still create a lack of visual sharpness.
I applied a second coat, this one thinned about 10% with mineral spirits and wiped on lightly with a cotton cloth – an old t shirt. This is all mostly automatic since of course I’d done some testing before. It is worth all that rehearsal so as not to be a nervous wreck when doing the real work. I like adventure, but I suppose I like most adventure which leads to success.