Are You Wasting Money On Wood Finish?

I‘ve been working hard on my booklet project these past few weeks although I did manage to take some time off for family, the Thanksgiving holiday and to put Wood Chip Chatter together for this month.  I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving and got your fill of turkey and pumpkin pie.  We had 20 guests at our house and a 27.5 lb. turkey!  I was eating turkey and pies for days!

This month I’m pleased to say we have an excellent article from my good friend, Jack Loring with tips on how you can save money on your wood finishes.  There is some very interesting information here that I was never aware of.  I think you will find it intriguing.

It happened to me and I don’t want it to happen to you!

By Jack Loring

What happened?

I had a large quart-sized can of wood stain and one day I opened the can and saw that the stain had developed orange-colored flecks in it. I was always careful to seal the can well and also stir the stain before every use.  This stain had oxidized and it was ruined.  The can was mostly full and I had to throw it away. Wasted a lot of money!

If you’re a carver, woodworker, carpenter, or a DIY person like me, you probably use a variety of different wood finishes such as; varnish, stain, paint, and other oil-based finishes. Maybe you’ve had to toss out a can of finish that’s still half full because it has oxidized, thickened, skinned over, polymerized and become useless.

The problem is oxidation, once we open a can of finish the oxidation process has begun and the more finish we use the more the level of the liquid finish goes down creating even more space for oxygen to fill up.

 It’s a real problem and I’m here to share some tips (3 different methods) to help you save money by preserving and extending the shelf life of your liquid wood finishes.

Methods For Slowing the Oxidation Process

Method #1 – Rocks & Marbles

Sounds strange doesn’t it, how do rocks and marbles help to preserve wood finish?

This is an old school method of fighting oxidation.  By putting rocks into the can of finish we can use the rocks to displace the liquid finish, raising the fluid level and forcing the oxygen out of the can. Some people prefer to use marbles instead of rocks.


Method #2 – Bloxygen

There’s a product called Bloxygen (Blocks Oxygen), that is basically an aerosol can of Argon gas. Argon is an inert gas which means it’s not going to cause a chemical reaction when it comes into contact with other chemical compounds in your wood stain or varnish. How does it work?  Well it turns out that Argon is heavier (has more density) than oxygen – so to use the Bloxygen you spray the product into your can of finish, as the Argon goes in, it forces the oxygen out. You only need to spray for a few seconds and then immediately seal up the lid good and tight.


Although I’ve never used this product, I’ve talked with other carvers that told me it can be pretty effective. Argon gas has not been shown to harm the environment but you do need to use it in a well ventilated area.

The re-sealable paint can was patented by Sherwin way back in 1877.  Before the re-sealable can came along any unused paint had to be thrown away.  Although the cans are still the primary way to store paint and finish they do have their issues because it doesn’t take long for some of us to gum up the seal on a resealable can and Bloxygen requires a good seal in order to be effective.

Method #3 – Stop Loss Bags

My preferred method for preserving wood finish is to remove the finish from the can. Stop Loss Bags enable me to transfer my liquid finish from the can to a sturdy and clear plastic bag and then just squeeze out all of the air bubbles before sealing the bag for storage.

I start by writing the product name, date and other information on the bag before any liquid goes in.  The Sharpie marker erases easily with some rubbing alcohol which is important because you can refill the bag and write a new date on it.

Stop Loss Bag

When you’re ready to use some finish It’s easy to see the contents of the bag and mix up the varnish, stain, paint, etc. by moving the bag around a bit. Then just pour some finish into a container and you’re ready to go. I like to use plastic containers that my favorite cookies are packaged in.  What a great excuse to buy cookies!

A lot of woodworkers mix up their own wiping varnish by combining varnish with mineral spirits and I’ve used these bags for storing an antiquing medium made from a mixture of wood stain and mineral spirits. They work fine, no leaks or problems with the mineral spirits eating through the plastic. However – Stay away from paint thinner and lacquer thinner because the manufacturer warns against using them with the Stop Loss Bags.

I’ve even used one of these bags for storing my Howard Feed & Wax. If you’re not familiar with Howard products they have a full line of wood finishing products. You can find Feed and Wax in local hardware stores and online as well.

Remember the gummed up can lid issue I mentioned earlier?  Well that’s no longer an issue since we don’t need the can anymore. And unlike the can, the Stop Loss Bag is easy to open and close without any tool needed to pry open the lid.

If you’re going to give these bags a try I recommend that you also purchase the collapsible funnel because It’s designed to fit snugly over the spout of the Stop Loss Bag.

Funnel for Stop Loss Bags

It’s lined with silicone so you can let varnish dry overnight then turn the funnel inside out to peel off the dried varnish. You can also turn it inside out and clean it with a solvent like mineral spirits or alcohol.

What about you?

  • Have you ever had to throw away oxidized wood finish?
  • Have you tried rocks, Bloxygen, or Stop Loss Bags?
  • Do you have some other method for preserving finish that you would recommend?

Send in a comment to Wood Chip Chatter and share your thoughts and experiences.

Questions & Comments

My first comment comes from my friend, Jim Babcock from Columbus, Indiana who writes:


As always, very much appreciate the information you share on your blog on

techniques and products.   Congratulations on the book project with Fox Chapel,

I will keep my eye out for the book when it becomes available down the road.

Fully understand your decision to put the blog on a partial hiatus and will still

look forward to it, just not as often.

Best regards,

Jim Babcock

Columbus, Indiana”

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Jim!  I’m really excited to write this booklet and hope it will be well received by the woodcarving community.  I thought long and hard about making the decision to publish Wood Chip Chatter just once per month and I also hope my readers and fellow carvers will understand.  I truly value comments like yours as they give me confidence that I am doing the right thing, and inspire me to keep moving forward.

My next comment comes from my friend, Nate Streed who writes:

“Super timely and very helpful! Thank you so much. Nate”

I‘m glad I could help, Nate, and I hope to see some photos of the great creations  my readers carve using artificial snow.

Next we have a comment from carvnlad who writes:

“Hi Bob, Thanks for all the work you put into the “Wood Chip”. I learn something new from each one and save them all. Looking forward to your booklet.

Best regards, Richard.”

Thank you, Richard!  I’m happy to know Wood Chip Chatter is helpful, and everyone will learn some new tips and techniques from my booklet.

Next comes a question from my friend, Gary Baker on carving happy Santa faces:

“Bob, I have been carving a few Santa ornaments without any success getting a real happy face. What’s the secret ?”

Thanks for writing. The two most important factors that make up a happy face are the mouth and the eyes. Most carvers think it’s just the mouth. For the mouth, make sure you turn the corners way up. Exaggerate them if necessary. The eyes should not be big and round, but rather narrow and squinty looking.  And always make sure your pupils are large,  Many carvers make the mistake of making their pupils too small which gives the carving a scared or staring look   I hope this helps.

And finally we have an excellent question from my good friend, Greg Meece, about a problem he has noticed with using walnut oil.  Greg writes:

Hi Bob.

I hope you are not too busy with your book writing to answer a question from one of your blog subscribers. I switched from using boiled linseed oil to walnut oil as my pre-painting sealer, as you recommended. It has many advantages. One issue, however, is that I noticed that the oil tends to bleed from the bottom of the carving for many days. This photo was taken a week after I finished the carving and set it on this piece of paper overnight?


Greg Meece

Greg Meece Walnut Oil Problem

Thanks for writing, Greg.  I’m sorry you’re having problems with the walnut oil.  I’ve heard others complain of the same problem.
Walnut oil is a natural oil that is unrefined like many other oils such as boiled linseed oil.  Therefore, it doesn’t polymerize and harden like those oils do.  For this reason it takes much longer for walnut oil to dry.  This is why you may see it running out of the bottom for a period of time.
The only thing I can recommend is to apply the walnut oil lightly with a brush.  Less is more.  Remember, when painting you only want to treat the wood’s surface anyway.  Never soak your carving in walnut oil as this will add too much oil to the wood and definitely cause it to run out the bottom; and never brush oil on the bottom of your carving.  You might also want to try spraying the bottom with a sealer such as Krylon or Deft which may slow down the bleeding process.  For now, I suggest you keep your carving out on an absorbent paper towel which will help to wick the oil out.
I hope this helps. 

Carver’s Corner

This month we have another carving by my good friend, Tracy Czajkoski:

Hello Bob,

Please critique my latest carving:

I appreciate your words of wisdom to help me grow as a carver!

Tracy Czajkoski

Thank you for sending in your skiing dog photos, Tracy!  The carving is adorable and so very well carved and painted in every way.  You got great motion in the carving with his ears flying out and the scarf flying backwards.  Excellent work there!

Your painting is so beautiful too,  I love your choice of colors which make the piece very colorful and eye catching, a

nd the paint job you did on the sweater is mind boggling!

I’m really attracted to the skis and would love to know how you made them and what kind of wood you used.

Awesome work on this one, Tracy!  Congratulations!

Free Pattern

News & Announcements

Lancaster County Woodcarvers Zoom Meetings

(Informal meeting – Open to all)

Zoom: 417 966 8402


Tuesday, December 6 at 7PM

Tuesday, January 3 at 7PM

Come join the fun…and you might even learn something.

The International Association of Woodcarvers has upcoming Zoom meetings on the following Saturdays at 3PM EST with special guest presenters.  Check them out…

Zoom:  310-460-3575


12/3 – John Overby

12/10 – Jarrod Wood

12/17 – Neil Southerland

12/24 – OFF

12/30 – OFF



The Jersey Hills Wood Carvers (JHWC) club is a small but growing group of wood carvers sharing their time, knowledge and joy of woodcarving.  The JHWC generally meets from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursday of each month (when school is in session) at the Jefferson Township High School wood shop classroom.

Membership is “FREE” and open to anyone interested in woodcarving regardless of their ability.

JHWC’s Upcoming Meetings and Events

Dec. 15th

Jan. 5th, 19th

Feb. 2nd, 16th

Mar. 2nd, 16th, 30th

For more information contact:

Al Santucci  President

Bill Brunner  newsletter/website editor

Or visit:



Don’t Forget!

Even though I am posting just once per month now, I still need your photos, questions and comments to keep Wood Chip Chatter interesting and informative.  So please continue sending your contributions to  Anything and everything is welcome and greatly appreciated.

Upcoming Workshops

Raccoon Santa

Teacher: Bob Hershey

Dates: December 3, 4, 10, 11

Time: Sat, Sun – Sat, Sun – 1:30pm-3:30 Pacific /3:30pm-05:30pm Central / 4:30pm – 6:30pm Eastern

8 hours (4 sessions – 2 hours each day)

 Location: Online (Via Zoom)

Contact Bob Hershey:

Online Classes With Chris Hammack

Teacher: Chris Hammack 

Chris Hammack is offering a new series of online classes to help students learn and sharpen their woodcarving skills.  Individual and Group Classes are available through his web site

Whittle Wednesdays

Teacher: Dwayne Gosnell  

Dates:  Two – 2 hour classes each month on Wednesdays

Location: Online (Via Zoom) – Visit his web page and see learning opportunities.  

To sign up contact Dwayne Gosnell via email dagwood_76@carverbobk

The next issue of Wood Chip Chatter will be posted on Friday, January 6,2023.  Keep a sharp eye open for it!

Wishing everyone a Happy Hanukkah, a Blessed and Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!!!

Keep a sharp edge, and keep on carvin’!

Funny Bone

Published by carverbobk

I’m a self taught award winning wood carver who has been carving since I was a teenager. I enjoy instructing other carvers, especially beginners.

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