Bathroom vanity counter - Ipe'?

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A friend has been redoing his master bath, as his time and energy allows. I've been helping him. He's good company, a wealth of knowledge, and has been a really good fellow for the 35 years or so I've known his family.
His wife got it into her head she wants a wooden vanity top. The base is red oak, which Stan has finished to within an inch of it's life. (Stanley's hobby has been making stringed instruments, for the fun of it.) So he asked about oak - could I help him put something together?
I hemmed and hawed about the materials, and suggested we find something more suitable. I've seen mahogany vanity tops, and teak, but I think that might just break whatever budget there is, and may not give the look they want.
Has anyone done ipe in this, or a similar application? Or another tropical? Something darkish, and not $15/bf?
Tooling isn't a problem, and we can get almost anything in the SF Bay Area, if we bring enough money. I'd like not to have to redo this one. That bathroom has been 'in progress' for 18 months, at least.
Patriarch
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Ipe is a very good. Very hard and heavy. Finishing is tricky but will be great for a vanity IMHO Dave

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On Wed, 23 Feb 2005 20:20:18 -0800, the inscrutable "TeamCasa"

Expand on finishing ipe, please. Why tricky?
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I expect because it's oily and dense. I'd use poly glue or epoxy, and seal with shellac before the topcoat of whatever. GerryG
On Thu, 24 Feb 2005 06:16:47 -0800, Larry Jaques

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Talk to me about finishing. All I've ever seen relates to oil, and I'm concerned that more would be needed. A film finish with some chemical resistance. Would the ipe hold it?
Outdoors is so much easier. Sandpaper and sunlight. Good.
Patriarch
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I would be concerned about the use of oil finishes for a vanity. The exposure to water (combined with soap, make-up and such) will tend to stain or discolor the Ipe. I would use a hard polyurethane. Several coats.
Dave

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Dave,
I am curious as to why you say water will be a problem for IPE. As it is primarily used as a decking material, I wouldn't expect water to be a problem. Is it because of the oil finishes you make the statement? I would agree with that.
I am planning to make a bench for our shower and my wife has suggested that I use some of the leftover IPE from our deck. At this point, I was planning not to finish it, as it will be getting wet on a regular basis. Since you mentioned the polyurethane, I wonder if a marine "spar" urethane would work better for this and the vanity project. It's designed to protect against salt water as I understand it, so the soap and water from a sink / shower shouldn't phase it.
David

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In the shower stall, as a seat, I'd use it bare, too. And be prepared to replace it, if needed, in maybe 5 years. No sweat.
Countertops need to be water tight, as well as resistant to all sorts of cosmetic and cleaning chemicals. Bare might not be what I'm going for here. And counter tops have substantially more material at risk.
I'm concerned about the film finishes. I don't want high maintenance. Maybe I don't want wood.
Thanks for the thoughts, Dave(s).
Patriarch
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David, What I said was combined with other stuff related to a vanity. I agree with Patriarch about its use in the shower, no finish. As a vanity top, some sort of -urethane will protect it from staining.
Dave

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A fellow attendee in the adult ed. class recently made a circular table top out of ipe decking, all surfaced down to 5/8" thick from 3/4" original and for the first time I could really see what it looks like as a color and a grain. It is kinda ugly. Small grain structures of varying colors from browns to reddish dark browns to yellows to greens, all tattered and somewhat "attacking" designs in the grain, from subtle to bright. I was lucky to get some good scraps of it. $2.70/LN locally = (2x 5-1/2" wide) $5/BF (or so), cheap enough.
So, I would say ebonize to a very dark brown if it can be done. I am no expert but it is the best decking there is that is not a composite board, to the tune of lasting 25 years outside. Hard as h*** and heavy. It would work well for a lady if colored right, merely as a "surface".
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On Wed, 23 Feb 2005 21:34:31 -0600, the inscrutable Patriarch

You get extra karma points on that one. ;)

Jarrah and purkleheartless jump to mind. Both are dark, with the jarrah being reddish brown (but FAR from RBS) and the purkleheartless being, um, purkle.
What's the size, and why is $15/bf bad? His instrument-grade woods are probably double that.
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<snip>

Hadn't considered jarrah, but that's a pretty good thought. The local purveyor of hardwoods (aka da pusher) has been stocking it lately, in various sizes.
At the adult ed, purpleheart shows up way too often in students' early projects, in ways that offend my taste. That, and it tends to make the machines complain loudly when a newbie is trying to thickness 3/32" off of a board, on a small Delta planer, with dull blades. Besides, purple was school colors for the rival high school, 'back in the day'.

Stanley is the ultimate wood bargain finder. He's got stuff he's been collecting for decades, several chunks at a time. At this point, late in life, he's unlikely to want to want to spend big for this much mahogany. And his health won't let him do fine work any more. Which is why I help with his projects, and he brings me gifts from his wood stash as thank yous.
Thank you for the thoughts.
Patriarch
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How about white oak?

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Thanks, David.
Patriarch, thinking that we seem to have a generous supply of Davids this week...
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I built a pair of adirondacks out of Ipe, and I just love the stuff. My wife really wanted to finish them because the wood came out so nice. I fought her a little on it, but she won (duh).
I ended up putting a "spar urethane" on it from the Borg, knowing it wasn't quite as good as real "spar varnish." When I was done, the chairs looked incredible. Like I could set them on the floor and Smith and Hawken and get $400 each for them.
Well, the finish has just been falling right off the wood. It started about a month after application, with some cracking. I'll be heading out there with a scraper to finish the stripping job that the wood started on its own. Shouldn't take long at all. I guess I win my fight with SWMBO after all, but it's taken two years for the finish to completely give out on us.
I've never seen wood shed a finish like this. It's like snake skin. The wood itself is doing awesome. I don't see how this stuff could be 10% of the way to its grave (25-year life). It just isn't aging (other than color).
Patriarch wrote:

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I have heard that Ipe will go 50 years outside with no protection.
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Leon wrote:

Yeah, I can believe it. The exposed portions are silver, but a light scratch with my fingernail exposes the original Ipe color. There is just no loss of integrity at all.
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I don't think you'll go much better unless you go to marine spar. Even then, only a light coat and prepare to renew it. Unless you have a pigment to block the sun, the oils in ipe will oxidize while the finish degrades from the UV, and the combination is what you described. SWMBO once had me try to keep some mahogony small patio tables brown. No clear finish worked, even with extra UV inhibitor, and a thick finish just peeled in time. Now, every two years I lightly sand down the surface, then apply a thin coat of wb poly to just seal the surface for awhile. The coat is thin enough that it doesn't peel, and refinishing takes only a hour or two, restoring the brown color. GerryG

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GerryG wrote:

Interesting. It sounds like Ipe just wants to be left alone. No bugs, no water, no stinkin' finish.
I guess I won't have to worry about it since SWMBO is on the "let it silver" bandwagon with me now.
-Mike
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On Thu, 24 Feb 2005 18:20:30 -0700, Mike Reed wrote

Actually I think it needs the UVs to silver. Chances are indoor Ipe will stay the original color.

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