I recovered three tree-ring disks from a 100+ year old tree
that was recently cut down. I've sanded the disk down smooth
and the rings and rays look really good. I would like to apply
a finish to the tops to really enhance the tree rings while
offering some form of protection at the same time.
I've used Varathane in the past on wood projects but these
rings will be seeing a lot of hands-on activities so Varathane
might not be the best idea.
Any ideas or suggestions would be grand!
Varathane just happens to be one variety of varnish (one containing
polyurethane). I'd use varnish, but instead of Varathane, I'd use a good
marine spar varnish (like McCloskey). Even tougher; a couple of coats
ought to stand up to any amount of handling.
Don't use an oil finish as someone else suggested: too soft, and the
wood will pick up dirt from handling. Varnish is the way to go;
completely covers the wood, doesn't absorb dirt or oil, can easily be
cleaned, and can be recoated later if needed.
Washing one\'s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the
powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.
1. Spar varnish is great stuff for spars, not so great for anything else.
It is good for spars because they bend and spar varnish has a higher than
normal amount of oil - the oil makes the dried film more flexible than
normal but it also makes it softer.
2. Surface film depends on the amount of solids in the coating material and
the thickness with which it is applied; however, two coats of anything other
than catalyzed, poured material is insufficient to give a decent film that
will last and protect for a reasonable amount of time. That is doubly true
on end grain which is what the OP has.
Spar or Marine rated is the only thing that will hold up against UV
rays and take the expansion -contraction that happens outside, for
doors its the best. I have jobs that 20 yrs later P&L marine is fine,
a door in winter can go from 0f-70f when the sun hits it in winter in
an hour, expanding the door measurably.
Yes, a "marine" spar varnish would be good for that application since
hardness can be sacrificed for flexibility. If you're getting 20 years
though, you are lucky. Very lucky. I used to have a sailboat with a yard
(horizontal spar), always finished with a high grade "marine spar" alkyd
varnish. The top of the spar was good for maybe 6 months in tropical sun.
AFAIK, spar varnish need not have UV inhibitors. Not likely since it is
generally used in an environment that needs to have UV filtered. When a
manufacturer tosses in the word "marine" it is generally to indicate that a
UV filtering material has been added. Given the propensity of manufacturers
toward puffery, it is always a good idea to check the label for the actual
I ued to use P&L the stuff that cost $70 a gallon in the early 80s,
alot of churches and school doors. On boats I worked on life was
maybe 2-3 years since it is a harsher invironment with near full day
sun and constant flexing. McClosky and others only lasted me 5-10
years. Do you apply it in sun or a hot surface by chance, I know on a
boat its hard to get proper shade to varnish, even sun to soon after
is hard on it. I would have though by now chemistry would have
improved upon P&L marine.
Wait till it dries-months, maybe 6? or get a moisture meter and wait
till near 15% or anything will peal. Gloss finishes are clearer
alowing more grain to be seen. Marine poly if it will see sun outside.
1. Someone suggested waiting til the wood was reasonably dry. Good advice.
Someone else suggested mineral oil. Not good advice as mineral oil *never*
dries. Other oils such as linseed, tung, et al are possibilities but not
great ones as they are pretty soft and don't offer much protection. Someone
else suggested spar varnish; again, soft and not a good choice for this
2. Since you are interested in eye appeal and protection, oil based glossy
poly (such as oil base Varathane) will give you both. The following steps
will give you an eye catching finish...
a) wait until the wood is dry
b) make sure the wood is really well sanded - no swirl marks, feels silky
smooth. Remove all sanding dust.
c) apply at *least* four coats of oil based gloss poly. Follow the
directions on the can but usually you can recoat without sanding as long as
the next coat goes on about four hours later. If you wait too long you need
to let it dry completely then lightly sand before applying another coat.
d) let the last coat dry at least 48 hours (longer is better) then rub it
with #0000 steel wool. Do so until all glossy spots are gone. If you cut
completely through the finish anywhere, stop, apply two or more additional
coats, let dry another 48 hours then steel wool again.
e) apply one more coat of finish. The only purpose is to bring back the
shine so apply it thinly - thin a bit and either brush or wipe it on.
You could do the same thing with either regular alkyd varnish or lacquer.
Both are less scratch resistant than the poly and lacquer will not "pop the
grain" as much; the latter is also true of water based poly.
Dunno, never done it. Best guess is poor adhesion and failure as the wood
dries and shrinks.
Not AFAIK, I do it. Not as easy to rub down as lacquer or alkyd varnish
though. I also do it with #400 or #600 wet or dry silicon paper used wet.
The advantage (?) of steel wool is that it conforms to surface
irregularities (they always exist) and you are less likely to cut through.
Be sure to get any steel fibers off, a magnet is useful. People advise
against steel wool with *water* borne finishes because any residual pieces
of steel will rust.
it depends on indoor or outdoor use.
for outdoors;use a marine finish,that will have UV protection.
indoors;shellacs and oil finishes will not protect against water rings from
you probably want to apply some sort of stain first,to enhance the
grain,then seal with urethane,lacquer,or varnish.
Remember you are dealing with END grain.
it will soak up a lot of finish if not stained/sealed first.
the first coat will probably raise the grain,and then need a bit more
They'll be used for classroom exploration in a 2-3 combo class.
As a result, I want something that will assist in keeping the
rings pen(cil) free, while also enhancing the durability of the
wood. I remember seeing a tree disk from a redwood that had
this clear varnish finish all around it when I was a young kid;
me and several classmates spent many a fun hour counting rings,
and working with it. It was almost a self-contained theme
lesson: history, math, science...
The downside is the disk weighs in at 20 pounds so if I add too
much more weight to it, I'm simply asking for someone to get
Thanks for the reminder about end-grain soaking up unless
sealed; I'd forgotten about that lesson the last time I learned
Your project might benefit from applying some boiled linseed oil to
accentuate the ring pattern before proceeding with finishing. You apply
and wipe off after 5-10 minutes. Let dry several days, longer if the
weather isn't so good. This is standard with pine/shellac finishing. I
think it might be beneficial with varnish as well and your wood. If you
have a surface you can experiment on, so much the better.
Assuming you use varnish, I'd recommend at least 3 coats. What you
choose depends on the usage. Will your pieces be exposed to weather/sun?
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