I have two favorite parts of working with diamond willow. First, I love the hunt. I love being in the woods and I really enjoy the thrill of finding a great stick. Second, I relish that moment when I put the first coat of varnish or oil on a stick. The colors double in intensity at this moment. It’s a real thrill!
There are several approaches to finishing your diamond willow. What I use most often is some type of polyurethane varnish. I prefer the satin finish over the semi-gloss or gloss. If your stick will be outdoors and wet on a regular basis (maybe you use it to
wade in streams), I would recommend a spar urethane varnish. This is a marine varnish which will provide great protection from weather and water.
If your stick will be indoors most of the time, you can go with an indoor polyurethane. This type of varnish dries more quickly and doesn’t smell as much. It is also cheaper than an outdoor product.
Some people like to use Varathane, another indoor product. It doesn’t yellow the wood quite as much, but it also doesn’t protect the wood quite as well as an outdoor polyurethane.
If you don’t like the shiny, plastic look of polyurethane, try something like Danish Oil. This will bring out the colors and grains in the wood, but it will leave the wood with more of a natural look. I’ve tried it and I really like the more natural look. Some people like to put a coat of clear Briwax (a furniture polish) over the Danish Oil to give a bit of a shine.
Before applying oil or varnish, be sure to thoroughly clean your stick. I blow mine with an air compressor. Other options are a can of compressed gas – the kind you use to clean a computer, or a clean rag and your lungs to blow out the diamonds.
Apply the oil or varnish according to the instructions. I like at least three coats of varnish. I’m usually impatient and put it on too thick, resulting in drips. If I catch them soon enough, I can brush them smooth. If they dry, a razor blade works well to remove them. Sometimes it’s hard to cover up the mark from the blade, so it’s best to avoid drips completely if you can.
Wow, the varnish or oil really makes your stick shine! You are almost done. Just an accessory or two remains.
The next step: Accessorize It: Let’s Not Overdo It!