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Thread: Cherry Coffee Table Finishing Opinions

  1. #1

    Cool Cherry Coffee Table Finishing Opinions

    I am approaching the final stages of the cherry coffee table build. I recently wrapped up a metal bed frame, with cherry inserts in the head and footboard and I love how it turned out. I have made matching satin black powder coated legs for the remainder of my furniture projects for my house, and coming into the coffee table I knew the EM6000 + shellac I used for the bed project wasn't going to fly.

    I have narrowed the finishing down to 4 options I believe, but I am hoping you folks can weigh in. I do own Bob Flexners book, I have referred to it, to try to help narrow things down, and I am not interested in Polyxoil, Odies, or Rubio Monocoat. I am trying to work on my finishing protocols for my upcoming items (cherry dining bench, and cherry dining table).

    1. Arm-R-Seal. I am looking to do a satin finish. I know it takes a little while to fully cure. I have read a few threads on SMC about using this finish and how to apply it, I just don't know how well it will hold up and if it really is my best option.

    2.Saman water based flood varnish. I purchased this when I didn't think my EM6000 would be any good because it was shipped to me and lost in transit temporarily during a bad storm this winter. I have never used it. I imagine lacking oil will mean it won't give the same depth as the Arm-R-Seal.

    3. A combination finish, such as the purported two stage finishing Mr.Maloof used to use. The respective blends I have found online. I believe it will give the depth in the finish I want visually. I don't know if they will have the resistance to water, heat, and certain chemicals (alcohol) and my stinky feet being put up on the table.

    4. Finally, I am getting into spraying finishes. I sprayed the EM6000. I was thinking I would throw down a coat of shellac, or some other undercoat to give a bit of depth to the cherry, and then spray on EM7000 with the crosslinker, or some Waterlox. I don't own either of those finishes, I was hoping I could get the EM7000 in Canada from Ardec, but it may have been discontinued.

    Ultimately, I want my cake and to eat it too. I want the depth of oil, with the durability of these new film finishes. I am too new to finishing at this standard to know right away, so I am hoping to draw on some of the group's experience please and thank you. I forgot to mention, I would like to rub the finish out to a satin finish, but if that isn't an option so be it.

    Thanks to anyone who chimes in!

    Edit - Forgot to share bed.

    processed-e1a7fcac-4ab9-4187-aed9-dc47661ec958_8WO3hLgr.jpg
    Last edited by Rick Hickman; 04-05-2022 at 4:10 PM.

  2. #2
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    For sprayed finishes, I mostly use Target Coatings products including EM6000, EM7000, EM2000, EM8000cv. For cherry, I tend to oil and seal with was free shellac and use whichever coating is appropriate for the project. Keep in mind that EM2000 and EM8000cv have a "warmer" color already and the crosslinker can be used with either. The EM8000cv is very durable with the crosslinker, too, once it's fully cured.
    --

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

  3. #3
    Thanks Jim, it was your past posts that encouraged the use of the EM6000.

    You oil, then wax free shellac, then which coating in your experience would you use for a coffee table? It's just myself and my girlfriend, the odd get together but no kids or frequent family potlucks to endure. What oil are you putting down first? Tung oil or BLO?

    NEVER tried to build a finish like this before. My dad built a coffee table once, he used poly, but it didn't hold up great and he never rubbed out the finish the way I want to.

    Thanks

  4. #4
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    If you want depth and protection your best options are Arm-R-Seal or Waterlox. Both are proven performers. Both can be rubbed out after curing. If you want to rub out the finish then start with gloss, let it cure, and then rub it out to whatever sheen you like. You'll have the most clarity possible at whatever sheen level you take it to.

    John

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    If you want depth and protection your best options are Arm-R-Seal or Waterlox. Both are proven performers. Both can be rubbed out after curing. If you want to rub out the finish then start with gloss, let it cure, and then rub it out to whatever sheen you like. You'll have the most clarity possible at whatever sheen level you take it to.

    John
    Thanks John. Will a coat of shellac under the Arm-R-Seal add any real value? Or not likely? I have gloss Arm-R-Seal, I'm not really set up to spray what is a relatively large table for what I'm used to, but I would be willing to fight through it if shellac then EM8000cv or 2000 was going to give me a better finish.

  6. #6
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    Don't spray ARS or any other OB finish. The over spray will make a sticky mess of everything it lands on. If you are going to rub out the finish you can apply ARS and Waterlox with a brush, at least for the first 3 or 4 coats until you have a real film. Once you have a thick enough film, let it cure for several days, sand it dead flat, and then apply 3 or 4 wiped on coats. Let that cure at least 2 weeks and then rub it out. If you goof on one of the last few coats, let it cure another couple of days and then sand it flat again, then continue on. You'll get the hang of it soon enough. It doesn't have to be absolutely perfect, just close, if you are going to rub it out at the end. That's how beautiful table tops were done before spray equipment was invented. There are lots of articles in FWW and other places about applying varnish by hand. An article several years ago by Frank Pollard (I think) comes to mind as an excellent reference.

    Better finish? I guess that depends upon your definition. Durability wise ARS and Waterlox are about as bulletproof as anything, certainly equal to EM-8000CV, and that's the highest durability WB product I've used. Warmth and clarity favor ARS and Waterlox, too. I see no benefit to using shellac under either of them unless whatever little color shift it imparts appeals to you. My vote is keep it simple.

    John

  7. #7
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    Rick, I use BLO for the oil...it can be just basic BLO...wipe on/wipe off...barrier coat of wax free shellac the next day (although I have used Jeff Jewitt's "same day" technique in the past) and then spray. Really good durability for a "coffee table" can be had with any of the Target finishes with the addition of the crosslinker, but EM8000 is very worthy for such things. EM9300, which is a polyester finish, might be even more durable, but I haven't bothered to try it. The kitchen continent (island) top I finished for a friend/client a few years ago with EM8000 still looks like new and they really do use it.
    --

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

  8. #8
    Cherry coffee table with a coat of SealCoat with 3 coats of thinned Minwax Satin Poly(more or less the same thing as ArmRSeal). So far my teenager has not been able to stain it or damage the finish despite 2 years of leaving food, milk spills and the like on it.

    Cherry Coffee Table.jpeg

  9. #9
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    For cherry I would definitely go with an oil based finish. Waterlox is good. I usually use 1/3 oil based satin varnish, 1/3 tung oil or boiled linseed oil and 1/3 turpentine with a few drops of Japan dryer.

    I have used spar varnish in the recipe above for some pieces and it leaves a softer more flexible finish than I would want for a table top so I would go for regular oil based varnish.

    I have never used the EM6000 or EM7000 finishes so I can't really comment on them vs an oil based finish.

  10. #10
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    I would default to John and Jim who have much more experience, but if you go with an oil based finish, one reason I would consider spraying a first coat of shellac is to minimize a potential blotchy appearance.

  11. #11
    Spraying is the easiest - if you have sprayed before. There can be issues putting down a coat of shellac followed by target if the shellac is thick or not fully dried. If you are not comfortable, then the easiest would be to sand to 600 grit and then apply arm r seal or Waterlox original finish (original formula). Both of these are wiping varnishes. Both will give an amber case but Waterlox will be darker.

    If you choose a wiping varnish, we can give you advice on application techniques.

    I would skip the sealer. Imho Sanding is the best way to address blotch - not eliminate it.

  12. #12
    I sealed this one with a tinted shellac (sprayed), then applied ArmRSeal. I despise BLO b/c of the smell and drying time.

    IMG_1339.jpg

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Mueller View Post
    I would default to John and Jim who have much more experience, but if you go with an oil based finish, one reason I would consider spraying a first coat of shellac is to minimize a potential blotchy appearance.

    I thought a coat of Sealcoat before ARS would help prevent blotching on cherry, too, but it didn't on the test samples I tried it on. And BLO was just awful on cherry.

    I would do some testing before committing.

    John

  14. #14
    Sounds like you have your direction, and glad you're going that rout.
    However, in the FWIW department, I used to keep a large sample of cherry ply with 3 types of finish to illustrate how poorly water based finishes react to Cherry, over time.
    First was a pre-cat, solvent based lacquer, with expected results. Second was shellac-sealed, followed with Sherwin Williams Chem-Aqua topcoats. Third was straight Chem-Aqua. You could see the deterioration of depth as your eye passed across each line. In a year or so, the straight water-based had gone a dull, lifeless, gray-green tone, more like a semi-opaque plastic laid over the top vs. a finish "in" the wood. Grain depth and coloration severely compromised. The shellac sealed version was right in the middle.

    Just something to watch for as you develop a favorite coating for cherry. Most water-borne finishes react very poorly with the tannins in cherry, and slowly degrade over time, as described. Not saying don't use it, just that I would not ever do so again, as today's acceptable results on a sample are not a true picture of that long-term reactiveness.

    Yes, I am a strong advocate for more environmentally friendly products (for the planet and me personally), just realize that sometimes they're not the right fit. In fact, this week is the first time in 2 years that I'm applying a solvent based clearcoat (conversion varnish for a bathroom expected to see less than friendly treatment).

    Carry on.

    Jeff

  15. #15
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    Thanks, John. Appreciate that input.

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