How to finish QS White Oak Panelling & bench in bedroom

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I recently finished building a QS White Oak bench, shelves, and surrouding panelling for our mudroom entrance.
My goals in finishing are: - I would like to darken the wood (a little) and bring out more of the natural color, beauty, and flecking of the QS White Oak
- I want to give it a strong protective coat from the abuse and wetness that one can get in a mudroom.
I am at best a novice at finishing having only used basic Home Depot stains & polys.
So: - How fine should I sand? Is 220 enough? Can I use my ROS the whole way or should I switch to by hand at some point?
- Do I need to seal or fill pores in White Oak before? If so, what products do you recommend?
- What type of stain works best on White Oak? Are gel stains better than "normal" oil-based stains? Any suggestions on brand or color to give it a little deeper & warmer natural oak color?
- What type of final finish? Poly? Shellac? other? What sheen is typically best for bench or panelling? (I'm thinking maybe satin???) How many coats?
I know some of the answers are subjective, but I would love to get some expert opinions.
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blueman wrote:

with the grain. If you want a perfectly smooth surface then you need to fill the grain. A dye stain from Mohawk will really make it come alive, go with a light color. Go with a semi gloss poly, three thin coats applied within a couple hours of each other to keep them married together.
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"RF" wrote

Rockler carries a gel stain called "Mission Oak" that is made by the Lawrence McFadden Co. It is an excellent product and I find that a single coat of the stain will generally get you where you want to be with regard to a traditional white oak color.
The two examples below have only a single coat of this particular gel stain and no top coat. The top coat will be up to you and the environment.
http://www.e-woodshop.net/images/MSB5.JPG
http://www.e-woodshop.net/images/CornCab22.jpg
Two coats will give you a much darker effect, and keep in mind that your choice of top coat can also have an impact on the final color.
I personally don't bother will filler on quarter sawn white oak ... YMMV, so experiment on scrap.
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With your equipment and experience:
I'd stop @ 150 with the ROS, then hand sand WITH THE GRAIN with 150 on a hard felt or rubber block. Woodcraft sells really nice hard felt sanding blocks for about $5.
Next, I'd wipe the entire item down with "Robert's Blend", which is simply equal amounts of Seal Coat shellac, Boiled Linseed Oil, and genuine (pine base) turpentine. Seal Coat is dewaxed shellac, as is the dewaxed flake you mix yourself, Zinnser "Clear" and "Amber" have wax, and are not suitable.
I'd then wipe on 3-5 coats of Minwax wipe-on poly, lightly scuffing with 0000 steel wool between coats. Use the steel wool properly by unfolding it and orienting the wires ACROSS your rubbing direction.
Since you're going to do this entire process on a scrap board before you'll do the whole item (hint... hint... <G>) do 1/2 of the scrap with satin and the other with gloss, and decide what YOU like. You can also mix satin and gloss together to create sheens in between.
I only fill White Oak pores on table tops, and sometimes, I don't even do those.
With my equipment and experience, I'd spray it with ML Campbell Ultrastar or DuraVar, or "Kwick Kleen Fast Dry Poly, in place of the wiped poly. This is mainly for speed and the fast dry time of tehse products that doesn't allow dust to stick.
What "Robert's Blend" looks like on white oak, with a semi-gloss lacquer: <http://www.bburke.com/woodworking.html
The drawer sides are maple, with Ultrastar only, for a comparison. Note the warm color of the oak. I normally prefer dull lacquer, but the gloss was required to match another item.
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B A R R Y wrote:

When you finish the drawer fronts with the dovetail do you do them when they are together or apart? If apart does the finish cause the glue not to stick? I'm a little new to finishing and dovetails but getting ready to attempt it. Or is this the result of the different wood species and the end grain of the dovetail standing out??
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Together and apart, or a combo! <G> Depends on the project...
Sometimes, the finishing process needs to be split into coloring and coating stages. In this case, I preferred to color individually, and coat as one.
In this case, I wanted the drawer sides and insides finished, so here's what I did:
- I rubbed the QSWO portions with Robert's Blend for color, assembled the drawer (minus the bottom) with glue, and sprayed the assembly with Ultrastar
- I sprayed the bottoms alone, then installed them into grooves, with two small screws up from the bottom into the drawer backs.
Spraying the drawers without bottoms cuts way down on bounce-back and associated orange peel.

It probably would. Blue masking tape is your friend.

I try to make my dovetails (regardless of method) so the pins are slightly (1/64"-1/32") proud, and easily trainable with a sharp plane. This allows for a nice final fit, and prevents the alternative of having to plane down an entire drawer side, due to too shallow cuts for the tails. When all that is done, finishing after assembly makes sense. So this would be my most common choice.
Now, for some other views...
For dressers and clothing chests, I don't finish drawer sides and interiors at all. I like to use pine or cedar sides, and BB ply bottoms, and put absolutely nothing on them. Here, I'd color the fronts if necessary, run a strip of blue tape along the back edge of the DT's (where the "depth scribe" lands when hand cutting) and finish the front
You'd also not want to pre-finish drawer front edges and ends that might need to be planed for final fitting to an opening.
If you look closely at antiques, it's not uncommon to see a stripe of stain along the dovetails where the front was colored after attachment. This is also common where a colored oil was used to finish the fronts after assembly.
So, the final answer is... it's up to you! As usual in woodworking, there are 15 paths to a final result.
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That's "TRIMMABLE"!
Damn spell check...
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"B A R R Y" wrote in message

Wirks iether whey ...
:)
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B A R R Y wrote:

And makes sense.

Ive seen that.

Just like most things in life. I appriciate the time. Thanks, post worth saving for later review. Well, time to dive in.
Thanks again Rich

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My pleasure!
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SNIP of great guidance...

Hey, thanks for the tip of the hat!
Barry - I thought you would get a charge out of this. I recently got down to the bottom of my KK stuff, and decided to see how well it would brush. In all this time, I have never tried it!
Nor will I again. It was such an overwhelming disaster that I finally stopped putting it on as I had the worst mess I have ever made when finishing. It was just a test, no harm/no foul, but WOW... when Dave said it definitely wasn't brushing lacquer - HE WASN'T KIDDING!
Seriously, what a mess. But since it was on scrap, it still makes me laugh.
Robert
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On Fri, 16 May 2008 23:05:47 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@aol.com"

Duly noted.
It's always worth a shot, though...
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Barry, Thanks very much for the detailed advice.
Just a follow-up question on the poly topcoats: What are your thoughts about Minwax Oil vs. Water-based poly when doing a wipe on coat? (environmental issues aside)
The water-based dries faster (and presumably will have fewer dust problems) but will it dry too fast?
Will water-based be as durable and rich as a traditional oil-based poly?
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I much prefer oil based for wiping on. The handling and drying time of the oil based finish is easily adjusted with solvent. Water based products are complex and not easy to adjust.

Possibly, along with an "cold" color. The cooler color of home center WB polyurethanes is a plus on some very white woods, but definitely not on white oak. Most consumer WB products will also raise the grain significantly.

Between those two products:
Durability? - probably Rich color? - no
The ML Campbell WB products I use are not sold in home centers and are designed to be sprayed straight from the container, after stirring and straining.
I will often use a shellac based sanding sealer (Seal Coat) to minimize grain raising, which is much less to start with than consumer products, and sometimes add additional ambering dye (Trans Tint Honey Amber). Steel wool needs to be replaced with the synthetic version if water is involved, so remnants don't create rusty or black stains.
Most oil based products are also slightly clearer once cured.
While they have come a long way, I have not yet met a consumer WB product I felt I could trust. I can do nice finishes with consumer solvent based products, it just takes more time and I have to watch for occasional product inconsistencies.
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...

When I was at Rockler today, the guy there warned that Steel wool may cause some reaction with White Oak and suggested using a synthetic fine abrasive product instead.
Should I worry about this or can I use 0000 steel wool as you suggested?
Thanks, Jeff
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With what finish? I've only had problems with steel wool with water base.
I've heard rumors that steel wool can react with tannic acid, but I don't use steel wool on raw wood, only over top coats. If you're worried, use 400 grit and a felt block.
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Also, when I was at Rockler today, the manager suggested some alternative poly brands.
- Normal oil-based brush-on Minwax (but he discourage this as being a "cheap" brand and warned that brush-on will be harder to apply)
- General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Urethane Topcoat (a wipe one product) which he said has better "oils" and will go on better and give a "richer" finish than the normal brush-on Minwax product.
- Rockler brand Polyurethane Gel Finish -- he said that this product is easiest to apply since you just wipe up the excess. He also thought that since it is thicker it might need fewer coats.
Basically, I am a bit confused by the variety here and would like some advice on how to pick the poly finish that offers the best combination of the following attributes (ordered by importance as follows) - Hard/durable surface - Easy to apply without risk of bubbles or brush strokes or wet edge drying to fast - Fast drying (so I can do a few coats a day, or at least 2) - Fewer required coats
Also, the sales person mentioned two alternatives for getting to a Satin finish: - Use satin on all coats - Use gloss on all but the final coat which is Satin - he thought this might be better since repeated satin coats may make the finish less clear
Any thoughts on which method is better or whether there will even be a significant difference to make it worth buying the gloss & satin finishes?
Sorry for all these questions but I am bewildered by all the choices and have not (yet) had a lifetime of experience to understand the subtle differences.
Thanks, Jeff
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The poly I use is a good quality floor-grade high gloss oil-based poly (Sherwin Williams). I can recoat every 12 hours. I brush it on, and sand or steel wool between coats. I've learned to dislike "fast drying" poly as it dries before the brush strokes and bubbles can "settle out" on their own. The only exception is sanding sealer, which I'm going to sand flat anyway.
You can turn any poly into a "wipe on" poly by thinning it 30-50%. Unthinned builds faster, I usually use 3 coats, whereas up to 10 coats may be needed for just wipe-on.
I seem to recall a recent article, perhaps in FWW, comparing poly. They found no noticable difference between minwax and "quality" brands. YMMV.
As for bubbles, they can be avoided (mostly) by choosing the right type of brush and technique.

Use gloss for all but the last coat. The chemicals they use to make semi and satin poly also make it softer than gloss.
If the surface is flat anyway (closed grain woods), consider using just gloss and rubbing it out to get satin.
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GF makes good stuff, and has never disappointed me.

I have no experience with this.

Try a sample board, and see if you can see the difference. I did, and I couldn't on white oak.
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blueman wrote:

Any decent brand _________

Any decent brand ____________

Most oil base poly can be recoated in about four hours or a bit less. Wait much longer and it should be lightly sanded prior to next coat.
Water base poly dries faster but it gives (to me) an uninteresting, monochromatic appearance to the wood since it doesn't "wet" it like oil. ____________

Then use brush on. Wipe on = THIN coats, many required to equal 3-4 brush on coats. _____________

Some people recommend what the salesman said. I doubt - *REALLY* doubt - that they would be able to tell the difference between the two methods. I would either... A. use all satin - OR - B. use all gloss and rub out the final coat with #0000 steel wool once the poly was thoroughly dry (a week or more). This also smooths the surface, knocking off any dust nibs, lap marks, brush marks, etc. If the resultant shine is too low, wax it.
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