Well, I'm feeling more rested than I did last night so it's time to bring this project to a conclusion.
I think that choice of finishes should first of all be based on the eventual use of the item. As I make primarily kitchen ware, finishes have to be durable and food safe. I used to use a lot of oil and beeswax which is pretty and easy to apply but it washes off easily and doesn't protect the item particularly well. So I've stopped using that type of finish. I have begun using more salad bowl varnishes, which are food safe after they have cured. This is durable and protects the item. A good way to go.
As this project will be used for holding loose tea and not for making or serving food, durability is not quite as critical a factor. So my second criteria for a finish is appearance. I want something that will enhance the color and grain patterns in the wood. My third and last criteria revolves around the hardness of the wood. Soft woods like evergreens-pines, douglas fir, poplar, and silky oak in our case-really don't do well with oils. The wood is soft and it tends to absorb oil and soften the surface. This makes it look muddied. In this case we need a finish that sits on top of the wood and adheres well to it.
So my selection for this is lacquer. It has a number of good qualities-it can really make the color and grain in wood pop. It is also very easy to apply as it comes in a spray can (there are brush on lacquers you can purchase if you prefer this). It dries rapidly so multiple layers can be applied in a short period of time. And it polishes beautifully. So lacquer it is.
Here we go:
First I took the tea box and put all of the parts back on the lathe for a final sanding with 400 grit paper:
And then I got out the secret weapon: old, soft, nylon scrub pads. The kind you wash dishes with. This will clean off any fuzziness on the surface of the wood without damaging it or cutting into it like sandpaper:
And then I began spraying the ends of the box parts. The wood here is the end grain and end grain soaks up finishes like a sponge. These areas will need at least 2-3 coats of lacquer:
I'm going to let these harden for about an hour and then go down and spray the sides of the box parts several times and then let them dry for several more hours. Late this afternoon, I'll put everything back on the lathe one last time and turn it on as fast as is safe and polish the the surfaces with the nylon pads and polish them with a hard wax. I use parrafin for this last step.
Come back later today and I'll post the finish photographs.