coffee table top finish

I'm approaching the finishing stages of a coffee table I'm making for my sister. It's walnut with cherry trim. I'm leaning toward Behlen's Rock Hard Tabletop varnish for a warm look and a hard, damage-resistant surface. My plan is to thin the varnish using the recommended thinner and wipe it on with a rag, doing about 5-6 thin coats. The only problem is I want a satin finish, and this varnish only comes glossy. I've never rubbed out a finish before and I'm afraid or ruining it. So would it be a bad idea to mix the varnish with something else (say another brand of satin varnish)? I've mostly been using Tried and True finishes, but I don't think they will cure as hard as I want for the table top. Oh, and I really only have a week for the finishing process, so I have to rule out anything that will take longer than that.
Looking for opinions, thanks!
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Don't mix chemistries. Instead get some 0000 steel wool and if that isn't to your liking go over it with 000. You aren't likely to screw up the finish with steel wool once the finish is HARDENED properly. Mixing brands of finish is not a good idea at ALL.
Recommendation for finishing books: Bob Flexner's "understanding Wood Finishing" and Fine Woodworking's "Finishes & Finishing Techniques". The nice thing about the FWW one is that each chapter is written by a different fellow, giving you a broad spectrum of opinion on techniques.
dave
Jeff wrote:

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In my VERY limited experience. I would not use a wipe-on varnish if you intend to rub out the finish. I tried this last week and I cut through the finish and had to restain the piece. If you wanna rub out a finish use 3-4 coats of brush on varnish.
IMHO I would use another varnish with the sheen you are after.

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I go same resin in another brand that has a satin mix. Part of what makes the varnish "hard" is the lack of mica or whatever else they add to make a satin finish. Got to use the proprietary "reducer" for thinning.
Please, no toddlers around the coffee table.

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You might want to look at Watco Wipeon-Poly. It sounds like what you want and comes in satin.

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Phil,
I finished an oak kitchen table with wipe-on satin poly and it looks beautiful. That is, until we put anything even remotely hot on it. There is a ring for every coffee cup placed on the thing since I refinished the table. Hot food placed on a cold regular dinner plate will cause an outline of the center of the plate on the finish. Cold water is no problem.
The problem seems to be getting less so over time. It's been over a month since I put the finish on the table.
I'm planning on lightly sanding down the existing wipe-on poly and then reapplying a different poly. Any suggestions? And any idea why the existing finish doesn't like hot objects?
Douglas Bolt Visit http://www.boltassociates.com/ for Current Weather in Beltsville, MD, plus pics of family, friends, birds, plants and places.

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So I was under the impression that Behlen's Rock Hard Tabletop was the hardest varnish I could use. But now I'm starting to think that a Poly varnish might be as hard or harder. I definitely want to avoid watermarks and rings caused by heat. I don't particularly care about using poly vs. natural varnishes. Yes poly can look like plasticy crap if it's not done right, but I'm not concerned with that. I'm looking at the Sam Maloof oil/poly satin finish now. (I refuse to believe that this looks like plasticy crap when done!). Has anyone used this stuff on a tabletop? Is it durable enough to take some abuse? Will it leave rings?
Thanks!

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I'm curious, what gave you that impression? The fact that it's called Rock Hard Tabletop? :)
Marketing at its best...

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Long oil varnishes are softer than their more conventional counterparts.

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One of the hardest and most foolproof finishes I know is polyester resin. I have dropped a golf ball from three feet and left absolutely no mark, and it will handle heat. It is perfect for bar tops and faux (such as marbled) tops. I have done many reception desks, bar tops, conference table and desk tops. It can be finished to a satin or high gloss. This is the same finish used on Japanese produced pianos. I have sprayed it with a standard HVLP gun for years. Basically the process involves a sealer coat reduced with acetone (supplied air respirator with full face protection required, you don't want it in your eyes). After the sealer has cured, three double wet coats applied 5 minutes apart (it will not sag with this process) gives a full build which is color-sanded and buffed using a professional polisher after curing. Curing can be accelerated to a one hour process by building an oven of appropriate size for your projects. Donald M. Steinert produces a detailed pamphlet on the process and sells products such as buffing wheels and European-produced sandpaper. He uses this process in refinishing exotic hardwood auto interiors. Steinert's phone: (541) 846-6835
Mark Shafer
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