Finish for a dinning room table

Hi -
I'm finishing a dining room table - it's cherry - and have never finished a piece this large before. My question is, do I go the length of the table and then overlap the long run or do I do a section of the complete width moving down the table in stages?
I plan to use a quick-dry varnish, thinned 50% with naphtha, as described in a FWW article from a few years ago. The author used a folded up paper towel as an application device.
Any opinions/suggestions?
Thanks Michael
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For a large surface I suggest not using a Quick Dry varnish, I do recommend thinning a bit however. I get great results using General Finishes, Arm-R-Seal varnish applied with a quality "Foam Brush". Not all foam brushes are created equally. Good ones can be cleaned and used over and over again. I prefer "Wooster" foam brushes. I typically get a glass like finish with no stroke marks using this varnish and method.
The first coat I apply thin and with a rag to seal the wood followed with a brush application. You want to go end to end in a contagious stroke and you always want to be working a wet edge, hence the non quick drying varnish. A 3" wide foam brush will easily hold enough varnish to make a continuous 5' long stroke. I have been able to cover 2 square feet with one dip of the brush.
Again use a Quality foam brush. Lowe's sells Wooster foam brushes. A 3" one will run you about $4-$5.
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Hi, Michael.
FWIW, I agree with Leon, only in a little stronger terms than he expressed. If you are asking this question that means you are unsure of your method and materials. Don't screw yourself right off the bat with a quick dry finish, only to thin it again with a solvent that will make it dry even faster. You will have a mess in short order on a large surface that you are trying to make smooth.
Since the goal of this is to make the surface as smooth as possible and not have brush marks, it is important to select the correct product to seal the top with. Varnishes can tend to be soft, although there are some hard ones out there. Polyurethanes tend to be harder and give better abrasion/wear/water resistance overall.
I would find myself a good, normal drying poly and brush it out as Leon describes and let it dry out for several hours (8 +) then recoat. The longer work time normal poly provides makes the finish very forgiving of errant brush strokes and overlaps. The longer lay out makes the final product smoother and lets it seek its own level a little better before tightening up.
As always, YMMV.
Robert
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I used Varathane on my old walnut dining room table about 12 years ago. It has worn beautifully, still looks gorgeous after a little spritz of polish and holds up to moisture and spills of all sorts of things.
Hi, Michael.
FWIW, I agree with Leon, only in a little stronger terms than he expressed. If you are asking this question that means you are unsure of your method and materials. Don't screw yourself right off the bat with a quick dry finish, only to thin it again with a solvent that will make it dry even faster. You will have a mess in short order on a large surface that you are trying to make smooth.
Since the goal of this is to make the surface as smooth as possible and not have brush marks, it is important to select the correct product to seal the top with. Varnishes can tend to be soft, although there are some hard ones out there. Polyurethanes tend to be harder and give better abrasion/wear/water resistance overall.
I would find myself a good, normal drying poly and brush it out as Leon describes and let it dry out for several hours (8 +) then recoat. The longer work time normal poly provides makes the finish very forgiving of errant brush strokes and overlaps. The longer lay out makes the final product smoother and lets it seek its own level a little better before tightening up.
As always, YMMV.
Robert
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