Cherry-Walnut kitchen countertop finish?

Gentlemen and you know who you are,
I am building a countertop with alternating cherry and walnut strips glued together. Due to the sink in the middle there will be some water splashing around. I like the natural look of walnut and cherry so no staining. Planning to use many coats of polyurethane for both top and bottom surfaces. Water based or oil based? Anything better? Since I have little experience with wood finishing, please do not skip any steps you deem as obvious.
Peace.
Jim
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Good.
I've tried water-based poly now several times, from several different manufacturers, and have been very unhappy with all of them. Doesn't have a good gloss, it's not "flat", it's just muddy. Also, it's soft. I put some on the wood around my shower enclosure, and it needed re-doing in 3 years; it basically dissolved, didn't peel or anything, just _went away_.

As much as Poly is a less-than-perfect finish for many applications, a kitchen countertop is a very demanding location and may be appropriate for it. How wide are your strips going to be, by the way? Anything less than 2 inches or so may look _very_ busy, and all you'll see is pattern rather than the grain of the woods.
Also, I wonder if Poly has UV inhibitors which will prevent the cherry from darkening normally? If so, you might want to give it some quality time in the sunlight or other UV-source before putting the finish on. I'm sure someone here can talk to that part of the issue.
How are you planning to join the strips together? Glue/biscits maybe?
Dave Hinz

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What about and oil-based poly? Or is spar varnish appropriate for this, like they use on boats?
-- -Jim
If you want to reply by email its --> ryan at jimryan dot com Please use BCC and lets all avoid spam
wrote:

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I am thinking a spar varnish will NOT be good in this case. Spar varnishes tend to remain flexible.
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snipped-for-privacy@swbell.net says...

I tend towards agreeing there but it is a double edged sword. softer may dent more easily but the more brittle non spar varnish is more likely to develop micro cracks and surface scratches with use and that would shorten it's useful life.
Then again I think any natural wood and common finishes on working counter tops is asking for trouble in short order. If I were so inclined towards that combination it would probably entail the use of one of those two part epoxy finishes.
--
MikeG
Heirloom Woods
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[...]

Just one data point here: In my mothers kitchen there is a simple fir board below the window sill, extending the kitchen sink. This board is used as an eating place by the cat (well, about 5 different cats over the time...), as talon-sharpening device by some of the cats, so it gets a lot of abuse. It was waxed with beeswax *once* when installed (>10years ago), and shows some wear, but it is still perfectlyserviceable and has a very nice look and is absolutely smooth to the touch. So don't overestimate both load and importance of the finish on real wood.
--
Dr. Juergen Hannappel http://lisa2.physik.uni-bonn.de/~hannappe
mailto: snipped-for-privacy@physik.uni-bonn.de Phone: +49 228 73 2447 FAX ... 7869
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wrote:

I am planning to use ~1.75" x 1.75" strips. Dark - light strips should make an interesting look.

I really like the darkened cherry color, so, planning to get a UV light and darken the cherry for a while.

Just gluing. As an exercise, I built myself a similar top for a workbench (7' x 24.4" x 1.875"). Titebond III worked very good. I thought it would be difficult to bond the strips all at once, so I worked with 3 separate pieces and then glued them together. One thing I learned was, it was not enough to clamp the piecese only sideways. To create a flat surface you need to clamp them from top and bottom surfaces as well. Used a 4" strips for both sides and then removed it before glue was set. Otherwise they shift around and you endup with a jagged surface. I planed the pieces but hate wasting wood.

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Your do realize walnut and cherry being relative soft woods compared to the usual wood used for counter tops will be very susceptible to dints and dings? I should look great but I have to wonder how long.
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Jim Brown wrote:

It's amazing how much water accumulates around a kitchen sink. I put in a white oak butcher block style counter top in my previous house. That was a once in a lifetime experience. Get the hardest, nastiest, waterproof stuff that you can find to coat it with and renew it often. I used oil based poly and it took a couple months for dark spots to start showing. Sand, sand, poly, poly. Then sand, sand, poly poly in a few more months. Perhaps I should have tried a marine type varnish or asphalt. In short, it was a lot of work and it didn't look all that great. Perhaps you and SWMBO are better at keeping wet stuff off the counter than we were, but then that's what counters are for.
This time I went with the quartz based stuff (Silestone, Caesarstone, etc.). Impervious to anything after almost two years. Yea, stamp, whistle and other expressions of childish glee.
    mahalo,     jo4hn
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jo4hn wrote:

I would suggest a number of coats of very thin marine epoxy, such as those made by West, Raka...Make sure to get one that cures very slowly.
You might consider making the counter by the sink of a different material. You could use granite, marble... Give at least 1 foof space around the sink. Make it like a granite insert in the wood top. You could then use wood for the rest of the counter. I agree with another poster, though. You should probably use harder/tougher wood.
-Peter
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jim_jimbo snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Jim Brown) wrote in

If this is a counter that will get a lot of abuse then your best bet is probably something like walnut oil. If it's just going to get a moderate amount of abuse then maybe a short oil varnish like Behlan's Rock Hard tabletop varnish will be okay. The problem with poly, conversion varnish, etc, is that they are not repairable. So if it gets scratched you're pretty much hosed. If you look at butcher block counters (which is what you're making here), they usually don't have a surface finish for this reason. Matt
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This is interesting. Would applying just oil protect the wood from water? My primary concern is not dents and scratches but water damage. If this works, this may be the perfect solution for me. Any other comments on this?

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Yeah, test it with your glue. Also, maybe you might want to consider biscuits rather than just glue joints? Solves three things for you: 1. Better strength to the joint 2. Controls the vertical movement you're noting in your glue-ups, and 3. Lets you buy a new tool.
#3 is, of course, the most important benefit.
Dave Hinz
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Not really. The glue bond is stronger than the wood. Had a discussion on this very subject w/a architectural woodworker extraordinaire a while back and we did a test - broke a glued up board and it didn't fail at the glue joint (the wood was oak).

Now these two, yeah, ok. :-)
Renata

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wrote:

I've started to really like the method of cutting grooves with a slot cutter and using splines. The splines can be quickly made to whatever thickness is needed from scrap, with the planer. If I use a 5/32" cutter, I can also use store bought biscuits.
This method is extremely fast because marking out and setup are much easier.
Barry
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Very interesting idea. I've done some similar things, and can offer some experience:
1. Cherry gets darker over time, walnut gets lighter. The time may come when the contrast is greatly subdued.
2. Providing you keep standing water wiped up, the biggest risk of damage from water is in endgrain areas that you can't get to, like the perimeter of the sink cutout, or the faucet cutouts (depending on whether the sink mounts from above or below). Caulks will fail.
3. Even normal use in a kitchen is pretty tough service for any surface coating, and unfortunately, the most durable are probably the least asthetically appealing (IMO, at least). I'd consider a non-toxic oil treatment--not a finish, really--like regular applications of mineral oil. This is traditional on maple or similar countertops. This has the advantage of being more repairable.
jim_jimbo snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Jim Brown) wrote in message

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snipped-for-privacy@radiks.net (ed_h) wrote in message

I recently purchased the "Understanding Wood Finishing" (1994) by Bob Flexner and read parts of it. I think this is a very good book and he knows what he is talking about. This is what he says about water protection (From Page 202): "Resistance to water and water vapor depends as much on the thickness of the finish as it does on the type of finish. The three type of varnish (alkyd, phenolic and polyurethane), which are nearly impermeable to water and water vapor when built up to a thick film, lose almost all of their resistance when applied thin in the form of a wiping varnish. ... It follows that oil-containing finishes offer very little protection against water and water vapor, because they are also very thin. Among the film finishes, the best water and water vapor protection is provided by varnish and conversion finishes. ..."
On page 208 he rates (0 being the worst and 5 being the best) oil containing finishes for water resistance as:
Wax: 0 to 2 Oil-Containing finishes: 0 to 2 Shellac: 2 Varnish Polyurethane: 5 Conversion Finishes: 5
What is best for water protection is listed as worst for repair and appearence like you are saying.
I am still not sure which way I should go!
I may end up applying conversion varnish underneath the block and oil on top like you and Matt suggested.
Jim
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Countertop is almost finished now. I posted a picture in abpw. Ended up using Murdoch's hard sealer and Murdoch's Table Top (polymerized tung-oil) by Sutherland Wells.
* If you are planning to buy a jointer, this would be a good project to justify it. I could use one a lot. I was able to do this with a table saw and planer. * Make sure to use waterproof glue. I used Titebond III. * You need more clamps then you have. * Applying varnish with a brush without making bubbles is difficult. Rub it instead. * SWMBO turned out to be allergic to walnut dust. I got some irritation in my eyes. I don't know how you can check before you select the wood type to make sure that you are OK. * Cherry is more brittle than walnut and can burn easily. * Do not try to clamp and glue more then 4 or 5 strips at once. In this case each strip was about 1.65" wide. If you have different width this number would be different. * I did not need to use any biscuits or splines. Just gluing the strips together worked well. * I used Murdoch's hard sealer and Murdoch's Table Top (polymerized tung-oil) by Sutherland Wells. Expensive but repairable. We will see how durable it is.
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