How to Finish Jatoba Wood in 8 Simple Steps

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Properly finishing Jatoba wood is essential to enhance its durability and protect it from scratches, dents, and other forms of damage. Due to its density and natural oils, Jatoba wood can be resistant to absorbing finishes, which can pose challenges during the finishing process. 

However, with the right techniques and products, you can achieve a beautiful and protective finish on your Jatoba wood projects. 

So, in this guide, I will provide valuable tips and insights on how to effectively finish Jatoba wood, ensuring that your projects maintain their integrity and aesthetic appeal.

About Jatoba Wood

Jatoba wood is a highly sought-after hardwood that originates from the dense tropical rainforests of Central and South America. 

This expensive exotic wood species is widely renowned for its exceptional durability, hardness, and resistance to rot and termites, making it an ideal choice for various applications, including flooring, furniture, cabinetry, and even shipbuilding. 

Jatoba showcases a rich reddish-brown hue with a fine interlocking grain pattern, which over time, deepens to a more intense color, adding character and warmth to any space.


One of the key advantages of Jatoba wood is its impressive strength, measuring around 2700 to 2820 on the Janka hardness scale, which is significantly higher than many domestic hardwoods like oak or maple

What’s Brazillian Cherry Wood?

Brazilian Cherry Wood is a type of hardwood from the species of tree called Hymenaea courbaril, which is native to Central and South America, including Brazil. It is also known as Jatoba or Courbaril. 

Brazilian Cherry Wood is valued for its durability, resistance to wear and tear, and beautiful reddish-brown color with a distinctive grain pattern. It is commonly used in furniture making, flooring, and cabinetry.

It’s important to note that the name “Brazilian Cherry Wood” is a misnomer, as the wood is unrelated to the cherry tree and does not produce cherries. The name comes from its similar appearance to the color of the fruit.

Is Brazilian Cherry Similar to Jatoba?

Brazilian Cherry (also known as Jatoba or Hymenaea courbaril) is indeed often used interchangeably with the term Jatoba. When people mention Brazilian Cherry, they are typically referring to Jatoba wood.

Brazilian Cherry

Is it Possible to Finish Jatoba Wood?

It is possible to put a finish on Jatoba wood. However, it can be difficult to do so because the wood is very hard and dense, which extends the amount of time it takes for the finishing coats to dry. 

Also, there may be an oily or greasy residue on the surface of the wood that can impede the finish’s ability to penetrate the wood fibers, making it even harder to protect the wood. 

So how to finish Jatoba wood properly? You must first make a solution to eliminate the oily residue and create a protective topcoat to shield the wood from environmental damage. 

Applying a grain filler to even out the surface is also necessary due to Jatoba’s open pore structure. Finishing Jatoba will increase its durability and appearance while protecting it from insect damage, UV light, rotting, water damage, and moisture.

What is the Best Finish for Jatoba?

The best finish for Jatoba wood depends on personal preference and the intended use of the wood. However, a natural clear finish is popular for showcasing the wood’s natural color and beauty. 

Jatoba wood, Danish oil and wood grain filler

You can achieve this by using an oil-based grain filler with stain,  a Danish oil or Linseed oil, or a water-based grain filler. To finish and seal the wood, apply coats of lacquer or varnish using a brush or spray. 

Should You Use Grain Fillers When Finishing Jatoba?

To properly finish Jatoba wood, it is essential to use a grain filler due to its open grains and visible pores. Applying the grain filler helps to cover these pores before applying a sealer, ensuring a smooth and even surface.

Grain marks can also lower the project’s value. A grain filler can provide a more uniform and smooth glossy surface. Covering the pores with a filler prepares the surface for a wood sealer or finish.  

If you desire a Jatoba wood with a glossy finish, applying grain filler before sealing to fill in the pores is recommended. While some people may not prefer the change in the wood’s surface that comes with grain filler, most people find the result to be an improvement. 

wood grain filler

Ultimately, the decision to use grain filler is up to personal preference, but it has provided positive results in the experience of many, particularly with Mahogany, Oak, and Jatoba.

Finishing Jatoba Wood Using Oil-Based Filler, Water-Based Filler, & Oil Finish

Necessary Tools & Materials (Using Oil-Based Wood Filler)

Necessary Tools & Materials (Using Water-Based Wood Filler)

Necessary Tools & Materials (Using an Oil Finish)

Step #1: Cleaning and Preparing the Wood Surface

Keeping jatoba clean and well-maintained is crucial to preserving its beauty and durability, whether used for furniture, flooring, or other applications. Here are some guidelines for cleaning jatoba wood:

Jatoba wood with and without grain filler
  1. Regularly vacuum or sweep the wood to remove debris, dirt, and dust. To avoid scratches, use a soft-bristle brush attachment with your vacuum cleaner.
  2. Use a damp cloth or mop — designed for hardwood floors to clean the wood if it appears dirty or dull. It’s important to use cleaning products that are safe for use on floors and avoid any cleaners that contain abrasives or harsh chemicals, as they can cause damage to the jatoba wood’s finish.
  3. Clean up spills immediately using a dry cloth, and use detergent or mild soap diluted in water for tough stains. Always test cleaners in an inconspicuous area first.
  4. To prevent scratches and protect the jatoba wood’s finish, it’s advisable to place protective pads made of felt or another soft material under the legs of the furniture.
  5. Enhance the natural luster of jatoba wood by polishing it with a quality hardwood floor polish every few months.

Step #2: Sanding and Removing Sawdust

To prepare Jatoba wood for finishing, removing any residue, dirt, and previous coatings from the surface is important. This can be done by sanding the wood using 220-grit sandpaper, which will also help to smooth out imperfections such as streaks and bumps. 

sanding block

Because Jatoba wood has a distinctive grain pattern, sanding it is relatively straightforward – just be sure to sand along the grain direction to avoid leaving marks or scratches.

Once the sanding is complete, remove sawdust using a dust collection pipe system or clean the surface with a rag.  This sawdust can interfere with the process and even cause skin irritation, so it’s crucial to remove it thoroughly.

Step #3: Preparing the Wood Filler

The initial two steps are the same regardless of whether you’ve chosen a water-based filler, oil finish, or oil-based filler. However, once you’ve completed those steps, the process diverges depending on the type of finishing method you’ve selected.

Suppose you’ve finished the Jatoba wood with Danish or linseed oil. In that case, you can proceed directly to the application stage without any preparation steps, as these finishes can be applied directly to the wood.

mixing wood filler

However, if you’ve chosen a water- or oil-based filler to fill the grain, you’ll need to prepare the wood filler before applying it to the Jatoba wood. Preparing the wood filler will differ depending on whether you use an oil- or water-based filler.

Preparing Oil-Based Grain Filler

Oil-based wood fillers are typically light in color, which can be problematic when filling the grain of darker-colored woods like Jatoba. To overcome this issue, it’s necessary to tint the oil-based wood filler with a dark oil wood stain before applying it to the Jatoba wood surface.

To do this, combine one part of oil-based wood stain with two parts of oil-based wood filler in a plastic container. Stir the mixture thoroughly using a scoop or spoon until it’s well-blended and ready to be applied to the Jatoba wood.

Preparing Water-Based Grain Filler

If you prefer to avoid oil-based due to their messiness, you can make a grain filler using a water-based filler instead. To make a grain filler using a water-based filler, you will need to use a water-based wood filler that matches the color of Jatoba wood.

The water-based grain filler for Jatoba wood will resemble a thick putty and must be thinned down with water for grain filler.

CrystaLac Clear Wood Grain Filler

To prepare the grain filler mixture, pour an appropriate amount of water-based wood filler into a plastic container. Add a small quantity of water to it and thoroughly mix until the resulting consistency resembles that of ketchup.

Step #4: Applying the Grain Filler or Oil

If you use prepared water- or oil-based grain filler, apply it to the Jatoba wood surface using a paintbrush or clean rag along the wood grain direction. 

The grain filler will fill the grain by compacting it into the pore structures of the wood. Allow it to rest for around 15 minutes and create a protective coat. 

If you have opted to use Danish oil or linseed oil to fill the grain of the Jatoba wood, begin by applying a thick coat of oil all over the wood surface along the wood grain direction. 

applying wood filler

Next, take 220-grit wet-dry sandpaper and sand the wood. As you sand, the wood dust generated will combine with the applied oil, effectively filling the pores. If required, apply more oil before repeating the sanding process. 

Afterward, let it dry for approximately 30 minutes, then use a clean cloth to wipe away any excess oil.

Step #5: Dry and Cure the Coat

Once you’ve filled the Jatoba wood’s open pores with Danish oil, grain filler, or linseed oil, it’s important to give the coats enough time for at least 24 hours to dry and cure completely. 

The duration of the drying process will depend on the humidity level in the environment and the thickness of the coats.

Step #6: Sanding the Surface Lightly

After allowing the coats to dry and cure properly, the next step is to lightly sand the entire surface of the Jatoba wood along the wood grain direction using 220 grit sandpaper. 

BLACK+DECKER Random Orbital Sander

Be cautious not to apply too much pressure, as this may harm the previously applied coats of grain filler.

Step #7: Finishing Coats Using a Sanding Sealer

Apply four coats of Shellac and sand lightly with 320 grit sandpaper between each coat to achieve a flawless finish. Allow each coat to dry and cure for four hours before sanding. 

Avoid sanding a wet shellac coat, which may harm the wood surface. Additionally, waiting at least four hours after applying the final coat is recommended before moving on to the subsequent sealing step.

Step #8: Spraying Varnish or Lacquer

Now that you know the preceding steps on how to finish Jatoba wood, the last step is to apply three coats of either varnish or spray lacquer to seal it off. Each layer must be allowed to dry and cure before the next coat is applied. 

The sealing process is the same, regardless of whether you’ve chosen oil- or water-based filler, linseed, or Danish oil. 

spraying lacquer on tabletop

The coats of varnish or lacquer create a barrier that protects the surface of the wood from insects, water damage, rot, and UV light [1]. Forming a seal, varnish, or lacquer prevents moisture and other weather elements from penetrating the wood.

Will Jatoba Hardwood Change Color?

Yes, Jatoba wood is known to change color over time. When freshly milled, Jatoba hardwood typically has a reddish-brown color with some variations in tone. 

However, with exposure to light and air, Jatoba hardwood will gradually darken and deepen in color, usually becoming a darker reddish-brown or burgundy color. 

Is it Advisable to Stain Jatoba Wood?

Staining Jatoba wood is a subjective decision that hinges on individual tastes and preferences. Jatoba wood boasts inherent natural beauty and a rich color, which may lead some individuals to opt not to apply any stain.

opening gel stain can

However, staining can be an option if you want to achieve a different color or a more uniform look.

Tips for Finishing Jatoba

1. Start sanding with coarse-grit sandpaper and work to finer grits to achieve a smooth finish. Make sure to sand with the grain of the wood, and remove all dust and debris before applying any finish.

2. Jatoba wood has natural oils that make it difficult for finishes to adhere to and penetrate the wood fibers. Applying a pre-stain conditioner before the finish can help ensure an even application and prevent blotching or uneven coloring.

3. Jatoba wood can be finished with various products. Each type of finish will have different properties, such as color, sheen, and durability, so choosing the one that best suits your needs and preferences is important.

4. When applying the finish, use a clean, lint-free cloth or brush to apply the product evenly, following the grain of the wood. Avoid applying too much product, leading to drips, runs, or an uneven finish.

staining Jatoba wood

5. Jatoba wood can take longer to dry than other types of wood, so it is important to allow ample drying time between coats of finish. 

Is Jatoba Wood Rot Resistant?

Yes, Jatoba wood is known for its natural resistance to rot, decay, and insect attack. This makes it popular for outdoor outdoor applications such as decking, siding, and furniture. 

However, even rot-resistant woods may eventually decay if exposed to harsh environmental conditions and moisture. Proper maintenance and regular sealing can help extend the lifespan of Jatoba wood.

More guides for you: 


Mastering the art of finishing Jatoba wood in eight straightforward steps is a valuable skill for those seeking to elevate the beauty and resilience of this exotic hardwood. From surface preparation to the final coating, you can unlock its vibrant color and remarkable grain patterns. 

It’s important to note that while these steps are simple, they demand meticulous attention and patience, as each phase plays a pivotal role in shaping the ultimate look and durability of the completed work.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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