Coffee table finish?

im making a coffee table with cheery legs/aprons supporting a bubinga top. Any ideas for a finish? I am leaning toward an easy to apply varnish (i've never done)....i dont want to use poly, although a wipe on poly is not out of the question. There are so many methods/ products on the internet i'm just getting too confused.
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I'd recommend a good finishing book before you pick any finishes. I have Bob Flexner's "Understanding Wood Finishing" (Amazon.com product link shortened)73468622&sr=8-1 and it has been a huge help in making decisions about finishes, techniques, and a lot of background and science behind various finishes. Good luck, Andy
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Waterlox original. Apply it with scrap of old t-shirt. Use a fresh squre of fabric for each coat.
Lightly wipe with 320 or 400 grit sandper, just to denib between coats.
About 6 light coats (just wet the surface) should do.
Cheers,
Steve

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I think a wipe-on poly is your best bet if you aren't experienced or geared up for spraying. I have to say I've never tried the waterlux route but regardless, for a table top I think a poly which can handle the wear or an oil finish that can be easily renewed are the way to go. Personnaly oil is just to iffy. 3 or 4 thin coats and you have protection and can still feel the wood.
You can use an out of the can wipe on or just cut any good oil poly with 50% or more mineral spirits (ignore their warnings). Wipe super thin coats. 320, 400 or synthetic scrub pad between coats. scrub pad \wax to finish it up.
I would STRONGLY suggest taking some Bubinga, sanded to the same state as the table top and do the entire chosen finish process before putting one drop on the real project. You migth even try various finishes and regardless you will learn technique. I think more projects are ruined by a badly planned or executed finish and I don't know how many times I've seen folks just go by faith and have unpleasant outcomes.
One personal experience. I built a beautiful set of Cherry Craftsman style coffee table and end tables for a friend at work. I sprayed poly. I had never done that before except for a very small project. By the time I sprayed over and sanded out all the problems I was left with a big piece of Cheery colored plastic (in my estimation). I delivered it but offered to re-do the whole thig or at least the tops. They refused and said they loved it but to this day I wish I had trashed it and started over.
I spray poly all the time now when it is the right thing for the job and I avoid all the problems I had with that project but once I had it laid down bad, it was all she wrote, no turning back.
I did a mission bed recently. I delayed the delivery by 4 weeks redoing and redoing finishing tests until I got what I wanted. I was trying to deliver to a verbal spec from the customer somewhat matching some stuff he already had and if I had gone by faith my first guess was way off and I would have had a real problem.
BW

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When I can't spray (heavens forbid) and I poly is the prescribed finish, I pad it on all the flat surfaces such as the top of your table. I thin it about 10%, no more, and then use the throw away pads they sell at the big boxes that have the 3/16" directional nap on them. You can get a glass smooth finish using those if you take your time. You can build faster, which means of course, less coats, which equals less chance of dust and mistakes affecting the final finish.
I always spend the most time on the big flat surfaces as I think that is most important as people love to stand back and look for any kind of discrepeancies in the finish, and are usually delighted if they don't find them. The more highly profiled or detailed surfaces are finished with a brush.

with 50% or more mineral spirits (ignore > their warnings). Wipe super thin coats. 320, 400 or > synthetic scrub pad between coats. scrub pad

For me, I never sand between coats if it is a new finish and there isn't a dust or drip/sag/brushmark issue to deal with. I don't like particulates or the possibility of them between coats, so that is an as needed issue. On the other hand, since poly is a film finsh, I don't wait for it to cure completely - talk about ignoring the manufacturer! I will wipe or pad another coat as soon as I can keep from lifting the previous coat, letting the second and possibly third coat melt (as much as possible - I know poly isn't a build finish) into the first. However, I havent' actually had a finish peel or chip off when applied to the manufacturer's specs either. Funny how that works.

state as the table top and do the > entire chosen finish process before putting one drop on > the real project. You migth even try various

are ruined by a badly planned or executed > finish and I don't know how many times I've seen folks > just go by faith and have unpleasant outcomes. I absolutely couldn't agree more. This is the best finishing advice ever given to me years ago, and it is still the best ever given. Why would you practice and test products on a completed piece? I think of finishing as a tool, one that must be practiced just like using any other tool. Yet, some will spend hours and hours learning other tools, only to spend a very few hours a year finishing. And while they practice on scraps to learn their miter saws and table saws, they practice their finishing on a prized project
I think the type and style of application of the finish depends on what you will be using the table for in a daily basis. If this table will have constant exposure to children, maybe an occasional pet, your beer drinking buddies, or any other activities that will require it to be detergent cleaned on a regular basis, I personally think poly is the way to go. (Remeber - pad that top for more build!).
To me, if you are going to use varnish, you might as well use poly. Some varnishes dry hard, some don't. In my opinon (see how careful I am?) varnish has its place, but it is the marine variety for its UV resistance, and the fact it will take more movement. It too is a film finish, so you don't build it, so any repairs will be the same procedures as used to repair poly. And since today's polys are so good at their intended purpose, there is no question to me.
Other good advice given above. Get Flexnor's book, and don't forget my favorite, Michael Dresdner. Jeff Jewitt is certainly in that mix, too, as well as many others. If you have a discount book store anywhere around you, it might be a surprise for you to see how many books on finishing are there.
Good luck! I hope you let us know what you do.
Robert
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