Table Top Finish......Advice needed


I just "inherited" an oak table and chair set.....The problem is the table doesn't have sealer on it. What's the best plan to get it sealed against water damage?
I'm hoping for some help to make sure I'm headed in the right direction.
My thought is that I'll use some fine sand paper or steel wool before applying a seal. Then several coats of poly and steel wool between each coat.
I'm open to suggestions....Thanks!!!
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I just got an oak table also, with a very thin finish coat. I sanded it lightly with 320 grit, then brushed on two thick coats of Behlen's RockHard table-top varnish. Make sure you get a nice brush. There were some bubbles soon after I brushed it on, but most of these settled out just fine. I got some dust nibs, and the top is now very high-gloss (but very pretty and not the least bit cloudy!). I plan to wet-sand with 600 grit automotive paper next to get rid of the dust nibs and take down the gloss, and finally rub with 0000 steel wool and possibly wax. I'm very impressed with the Rockhard so far - heat and moisture have not touched it. On the can, they suggest a 50-50 thinned coat as a sealer on bare wood before any other finishing. I got it from Woodcraft, but it's also available from Rockler and Highland hardware I think. Good luck, Andy
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No finish at all?

The are about a bazillion answers to this question, here is my recommendation based on my assumption that you have probably never done any furniture finishing before.
Purchase a wipe-on poly. This stuff is formulated to a lower viscosity and can be applied with a lint-free cloth. The easiest way to get a crappy-looking poly coating is to apply it with a brush. The things that can (and probably will) go wrong with brushed-on poly is that it goes on thickly. That means that every surface imperfection (drip or landed speck of dust) is going to be very noticable.
By wiping, you put on very thin coats and if you get a drip, you are doing something really wrong. Dust nips will, for the most part, will get knocked off with a light sanding or steel wooling between coats. Make sure you remove all dust before recoating.
The downside to this is that you will have to put on more coats. Plan on about 6 coats give or take. Each coat does not take a whole lot of effort/time to apply but the waiting in between can add up. Take your time; put on a thin coat once a day for a week and you will get nice result. If you can wait another week before putting it into service that would be even better. varnishes can take up to a month to fully cure.
Thick & fast with yield an amaturish result.
-Steve
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For a fool proof and durable finish, I would suggest using a wiping poly. Brush marks in Poly can be brutal. You can wiping poly pre-mixed or mix your own from any oil based polyurethane by mixing it 1:1 with mineral spirits. The can might say not to thin this much but it works great.
Wash it on thickly with a foam or bristle brush, then wipe it down with a lightly saturated lint free cloth (tee shirt). Let dry at least 4, preferably 24 hours between coats. Lightly hand sand with 400 after first or second coat. 3 or 4 coats total will be plenty, more if you want a flat plastic look. 48 hours after last coat, circular motion with 0000 steel wool and very small amout of furniture paste wax, then buff after dry (10-20 minutes).
It's best to really flood the surface, then wipe it down so you get good saturation in the grain.
For a better look (IMHO), after the first or second coat, wipe it down with a dark gel stain and the Oak grain lines will hold the dark stain and really look great. Make sure to seal another coat or two over this.
Of course, try all of this first on some location where it is less visible than on the top to make sure you like the look.
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