View Full Version : dining table finish

tom blankenship
05-20-2005, 3:09 PM

I am completing a table made of red oak. I am nearly in the onerous position of applying a finish. I wish to use an oil based stain (some Minwax color). I do not intend to fill the grain.

The problem is the top coat. I want a fairly durable finish. Previous efforts at brushing on polyurethane were not satisfying. On other red oak projects (coffee tables, etc.) I used a mixture of Minwax polyurethane/mineral spirits/boiled linseed oil (1:1:1) as a wipe-on finish. Results with this have been adequate, but this finish is not very durable (damp hands leave permanent smudges) and is a problem to apply streak-free due to the oil seeping out of the pores.

What about using standard Waterlox? How about the wipe on polyurethane from Rockler?

Thanks in advance.


Tom Jones III
05-20-2005, 3:22 PM
My wife likes wipe on poly. Sorry don't know the brand but she would have bought it a Home Depot. It does not leave smudges. I don't know if it is going to give you as much protection as you may want.

Carl Eyman
05-20-2005, 3:28 PM
Tom: I think it would help us to know if you plan to fill the grain. If you are looking for a smooth as possible finish - something I believe a dining table should have -, You can either use a filler for smoothest results or use a number of coats of varnish with sanding between. (see recent posts on subject) Using this method you can sand down your coats of varnish after each coat. This eliminates dust specks and brush marks. Then you can finish with a few coats of wipe on polye which doesn't have brush marks and usually not bubbles or dust either.

Do look-up that thread, though.

Ted Shrader
05-20-2005, 5:28 PM
Tom -

I have "home-brew" wipe on on my dining room table (about 15 years old) and it has held up well.

The first two coats, I used a mixture about like you explained. The proportions were slightly different. For the final coats (about 8) the mixture was poly and naptha about 50/50 depending on the humidity. Recommend not using the oil for the last coats.

Good Luck,

Jim Becker
05-20-2005, 5:33 PM
Adding oil to your "brew" makes for a softer finish. For pure wiping pleasure, just thin your varnish 50/50 with mineral spirits (or naptha if the piece is small as it flashes off quicker) and apply. Remember you need to do 8-12 coats of a wiping finish to get the same film as you will with two-three brushed on coats. And if the mixture is made with polyurethane varnish, you must lightly sand between coats if more than a couple hours have passed--recoat just after tacky goes away to avoid sanding. If you don't you'll get flaking since poly hates to stick to anything, especially itself. The cure for that is to use an alkyd (Sherwin Williams Fast Dry, Pratt and Lambert #38, etc) or phenolic (Waterlox) varnish.

Tim Sproul
05-20-2005, 11:28 PM
durable finish almost always translates into a film finish. Use of a film finish is almost always best done on a flat surface....that is, you should probably fill the pores.

Get out the shellac... :)

I'm going to Woodcraft tomorrow to pick up a few cans of Rockhard and try it. If Per and others can successfully use Rockhard on commercial bar tops, it must be "durable."

Why Woodcraft? My local one is have a "bag" sale.

Dennis Peacock
05-21-2005, 12:10 AM
I agree with Mr. Becker.....adding oil to your brew only softens the overall film finish. You will have much better success with Poly if you mix 50/50 Poly and Mineral Spirits....or you can substitue Mineral Spirits for Naptha to allow the finish to dry faster. Apply two coat of this mix. Next mix up a 70/30 mixture of poly and mineral spirits or naptha and apply two more coats. You can easliy brush these coats as the poly will flow more evenly and will have better flattening properties. Here's what I would do:

1. Surface prep is the key to any good finish.
2. Apply your oil based stain and allow to dry for at least 24 hours.
3. Apply a 1 pound cut of dewaxed blonde shellac to seal in the stain and help fill the grain.
4. Apply the first two coats of 50/50 poly / MS or naptha and allow to dry between coats for at least 12 hours.
5. With poly, you'll need to sand between coats since poly requires a mechanical bond.
6. Apply two coats of 70/30 poly / MS or naptha and allow to dry as before.
7. After your last top coat, allow that to dry for about 3 weeks and then rub the finish out if you so desire. I rubbed mine out with Johnson's Paste Wax and 0000 steel wool. Let haze over and then buff.

I have 4 kids and after 2 years of the new kitchen table? She's holding up just fine. :D