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Thread: Kitchen Table Finish

  1. #1

    Kitchen Table Finish

    I am planning to build a kitchen table for some friends — most likely out of red oak. I very often use a marine spar varnish for surfaces that take some use, but I am curious what other recommendations folks might have. These are not people who are likely to ever re-finish furniture, so I am inclined towards a film finish.
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  2. #2
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    The pores in red oak are numerous, large and deep, so if you use it, be sure to use a pore filler. Even multiple coats of poly won't seal them so they'll fill with food & gunk. Wipe on poly is very easy to apply & very forgiving. It will take more coats than brush on though.

  3. #3
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    Are you saying the finish has to last forever, or they will throw it away when the finish is worn out? If the finish has to last forever, use conversion varnish. If it only last till the finish fails, go ahead with the spar varnish.

  4. #4
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    Marine spar varnish is generally more soft and flexible than many interior focused finishes...which is necessary because "spars" bend. If you're going to hand-apply (brush or wipe) than any typical oil based varnish including polyurethanes are fine for this kind of project. Better quality products will likely be more durable than inexpensive "box store" products.

    If you're going to spray, there are a number of water borne options available to you that offer different properties including both physical and chemical durability. I personally use Target Coatings products and tend to their EM8000cv conversion varnish for this kind of project but would also consider their EM9300 polyester finish which is durable enough for exterior work, too. Both can be augmented with a cross-linker for increased chemical resistance. (cleaners, beverages, etc.) General Finishes also has some nice options for water borne finishes.

    BTW, I agree about grain filling. It's subjective, but if you want a smooth-smooth surface, you're going to have to grain fill.
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  5. #5
    If it were me I'd be using a 2K poly, but I have a spray booth. Regular poly is one of the tougher finishes around. Conversion varnish would be a poor choice for a tabletop. It would have lasting qualities but it would scratch pretty easy.

  6. #6
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    Leo, after nearly two years, the very large kitchen island top that I finished with the EM8000cv with crosslinker for a friend/client has pretty much zero scratches and they use the thing a lot for entertainment as well as prep work. And that's with a softer VG D-fir top, too. At least there are quite a few choices available these days!

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    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  7. #7
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    What about Waterlox, our kitchen table was refinished with this about 5 years ago and has held up very well. Its birch so no pores like oak has.
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  8. #8
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    Waterlox is a good brand...with multiple products.
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    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    Waterlox is a good brand...with multiple products.
    Oh boy, I guess I should be more specific
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  10. #10
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    I've had good luck with floor finish, but it typically only comes in large containers, and I have done dining table tops with leftovers. I even sanded a big one with my flooring buffer once.

  11. #11
    Thanks, guys. Nice thing about these forums is that people share so much knowledge freely. I am currently working on another project — a mid-dentury modern table for my daughter. I am featuring some lovely “tiger’s-eye” birch that pops like crazy under spar varnish — one of the reasons I use it.

    I have not been able to achieve the same “deep” look with the few polys I’ve tried. Is there a finish you would recommend for this purpose — to make it seem you are looking a quarter inch into the wood?

  12. #12
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    Warren, pretty much any oil based finish will "pop" that figure. So will using oil such as BLO followed by a barrier coat of wax-free shellac and a water borne top coat. Often, even shellac directly on the wood will do it. Z-poxy will do it and fill grain at the same time. SO many choices.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

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