Have you ever opened a jar of wood finish that you mixed months ago, only to find that it looks like this? A semi-solid gelatinous mass?

Solidified bottle of wood finish

While it looks cool, and feels cool when you touch it, it also means money down the drain. When most wood finishes are exposed to oxygen, the finishes become ruined over time. For many years I would just crush the cans inward to reduce the amount of oxygen that could stay in the can. But this method just delays the inevitable. I’ve still got a number of cans with ruined finish sitting on my shelves.

empty cans of wood finish including waterlox, minwax antique oil finish and watco danish oil

Several years ago I researched other methods for displacing oxygen in the wood finish cans. I didn’t feel comfortable adding kerosene to the wood finish, as some people suggested. Some manufactures sell plastic squeeze bags that looked promising, but seemed a bit expensive over time. Bloxygen sounded like the most popular & safe method, so I tried that for awhile. Bloxygen is a can of compressed argon gas, which apparently settles below the oxygen in the container, extending the life of your wood finish (you can read more about Bloxygen here).

Hand holding a can of bloxygen argon gas for finish preservation

Like many people, when I tried the Bloxygen, I thought they sent me an empty can. The manufacture assured me that there was indeed argon gas in the can. So I was finally able to hear a bit of argon gas coming from the can. But for some reason it only lasted for a few cans of wood finish. Maybe I did something wrong? So at $13 a bottle, it was costing me several dollars each time I opened a can of finish. It would be cheaper to just let my finish go bad. So I did some more research, and came across a contraption of the 1990’s used by people to preserve food in jars, called the Pump-N-Seal®. I even found their cool infomercial from the 90’s…Rad!

I tried emailing the company with questions, but wasn’t able to get a response. But, my order did go through just fine, and now it’s my go to way to preserve wood finishes. You can find the Pump-N-Seal® pump here, for $34.95 (including shipping). The way I figure it, that’s the cost of a quart of Waterlox varnish, so it should pay for itself P.D.Q.

Pump-n-seal sitting on a jar of wood finish with other colorful jars next to it

The pump is quite easy to use. I use glass canning jars that are left over from when we preserve peaches or pickles or salsa. You can even recycle pasta sauce jars, jam jars, or peanut jars. Just make sure the metal lid has a functional rubber seal.

thumb tack pushed a hole in a ball canning jar

Punch a tiny hole in the top of the lid (they even provide a thumb tack), the place the little yellow sticker (called a “tab check”) over that hole. Press it down firmly.

pump n seal yellow sticker over hole on ball canning jar lid

Place the pump over the hole, and then start pumping away (10 times seems to work fine). The pump can be easily removed by pulling up on the suction cup tab.

Pump-n-seal sitting on a jar of wood finish with other colorful jars next to it

The wood finish lasts a long time, and the lid can be sealed over, and over again, without having to replace the yellow tab check. This is a major benefit over argon gas, which has to be sprayed each time you finish up using the wood finish. That’s it!

What do you do to keep your wood finish from going bad? Please comment at the bottom of this page to share your ideas. Also, here are some upcoming classes at the Wood and Shop Traditional Woodworking School:

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David Ray Pine adding finish to dovetail wood box

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