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Questions on what finish to use on bobbins

I'm am looking for some helpful guidance. One of my co-workers made me some bobbins. He did very good for his first try. He tried to put shellac on them as he turned them but they snapped. He brought them to me unfinished because he didn't want to put a finish on them that would hurt the thread. They are such pretty wood (cherry, bubinga, teak) that I want to put a finish on them to bring out the grain. What do I use? Is there a particular finish to use or is there a oil?

Deborah Redman

Apart from suggesting that he not give up the day job, I would still suggest that he use the shellac. It will not harm the threads and I have learned a couple tricks to limit the breakage. :-) If he is concerned, Bullseye Brand makes a spray can shellac that works very well. Good luck with it.


Does anyone out there have any hints or tips on painting or decorating unfinished bobbins? What prefinish, paint, finish to use etc. GD just started BL and I would like to suprise her for her birthday. Thanks in advance.

Ruth in Arizona

I only use shellac on all of my bobbins. There are advantages to this as it will not affect the threads for your lace. It will also act as a sealer for the wood, and additional coats will 'melt' into the preceding ones. Also, if you mess up the pain ting work, you can remove it while the paint is wet or sand it if already hardened and not harm the wood.

While other synthetic finishes are available, the polyurathanes and lacquers will lie on top of the preceding layers and requires sanding in-between layers to create a 'tooth' for them to grip on to. If not done well, they can then begin to flake off one another. The advantage to shellac is that it is far more forgiving in these areas. :-)

Even if only used as a sealer, it will readily accept adhesion of any enamels or acrylics that you use to paint with, and will also accept adhesion of any of the polys or lacquers and/or paste waxes that you may finish the bobbin with.

Shellac is available at most paint stores or home improvement stores and Bullseye brand makes a premixed version available in half-pints, pints, quarts, and a spray can version.

Kenn Van-Dieren

Finally back after finishing our experiments. First of all I would like to thank every one who responded to my inquiry. DH and I have tested all suggestions except the one to replace the bobbins on the lathe and reburnish it. This we were unable to do. We tested each suggestion using a pair of bobbins and when dry wound them with thread----and waited three weeks. Here are the results:

1. Rubbed the neck with a rough cloth to remove any residue.
Result: the thread discolored BUT it was a lighter pink than before.

2. Coated the neck with clear nail polish.
Result: No discoloration. But would it eventually chip off???

3. Cleaned the neck with acetone.
Result: No discoloration:)

4. Cleaned with acetone and applied Tru Oil ( a gunstock finish that dries very hard-a variety of turpintine and linseed oil)
Result: No discoloration. Problem solved!

Now on to a white project.I'm a happy camper!

Audrey in Los Alamitos, Ca.

I got two dozen spangled bobbins in my beginner's kit, and would like to finish them, but don't know what would be best. I'd hate to finish them with something that would mess up my lace; I can do that for myself! I don't know what they are made of, if that makes a difference. Any suggestions?

Dorrie Beattie

If you use polyurethane paint I would suggest thinning it with 10% to 20% mineral turpentine and using a #11 artists brush to apply it to the bobbins. A gentle rub with a green pot scouring pad will remove any prills. If you like the matt finish from this go on and use the bobbins, they will last for years before needing to be refinished. If you prefer a gloss finish another coat of thinned paint will give it to you.

Because I make and paint hundreds of bobbins each year I use a thinned precatalysed lacquer applied with an artists brush to finish them. It resists wear very well and one litre lasts for a couple of years.

Neil Keats in Newcastle, Australia

Dorrie, I get unfinished bobbins and use wood stain then 2 coats of polyutherine. The bobbins come out very nice.

Linda in Virginia Beach, VA, USA

Dorrie, please try our method of waxing the teak bobbins. You generously wax your bobbins, leave them until the wax dried, then rub the bobbins until they shine. Repeat the process at least three times, you will get bobbins that are lovely to handle.

Janya Sugunnasil from Chiang Mai Thailand

Dorrie, I returned last night from the 106th Annual General United Daughters of the Confederacy Convention in Tulsa, OK, and am trying to simply read the 300 messages in my cyberspace that have gathered since I left last Thursday. Incidently, Tulsa will be a lovely place for the 2001 IOLI Convention.

In reply to your inquiry about finishing bobbins, I purchased a jar (220 ml) of Renaissance Micro-crystalline Wax Polish from Holly Van Sciver several years ago. I polish my unfinished bobbins with this. "A little dab will do you" is the rule. Just take a soft cotton cloth (t-shirt is great), barely touch it to the pot of wax, and rub the bobbin thoroughly until it is smooth and polished. You will have no residue on your thread, hands or anywhere. I love it. It is not inexpensive, but well worth the cost. I have shared it and still have almost 3/4 of the pot remaining.

Betty Ann Rice, Roanoke, VA USA

I have used this wax for a long time. It is great on furniture and wonderful on leather. A little does go a long way and it is worth the price.

Carla Bowlin

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