Oak Dining Table

What's the best way to finish an oak dining table. Should I stain it then apply varnish or is staining enough if applied every so often
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wrote:

What finish and what level of protection do you want?
If you are seating only adults and the worst thing that can happen is the occasional accidental spill of red wine that is quickly mopped up, then stain and wax if you want a more rustic appearance or stain, some kind of sealer and wax if you want something a touch smoother.
OTOH, if it's for babies and toddlers, you might want to go for heavy grade polyurethane. Bear in mind with this, that if it gets marred, you have to strip it and completely redo it. Personally, I think it's sacrilege to cover hardwoods with shiny varnishes that make them look like plastic. You would be better off with something cheap in pine. A good solution is simply to use a protective cloth or cover when the kids are around.
Another good compromise solution is Danish Oil. This is somewhere between oil and varnish. It dries reasonably hard and protects better than just wax but without creating the horrible plastic look. It can also be lightly sanded and refinished without stripping completely.
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.andy

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So do I. We protected our oak table with matt polyurethane, it satisfied all demands. Not shiny, no plastic look, yet durable enough to withstand anything we can throw at it.
Even the odd welding spatter ...
Wax for a table is stupid unless you want to spend a lot of time re-doing it. My life's too precious.
Mary Maker of beeswax polish :-)
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Mary Fisher wrote:

Hmmm, bet you don't sell much polish with a sales pitch like that :o)
Anyway, I would recommend Danish Oil. I built a fish tank cabinet 18 months ago and treated it with Danish Oil and it still looks as good as new despite having water splashed on it (and sometimes not mopped up) practically everyday. The only thing I would say though is brush it on. Don't mess about with a lint free cloth.
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I sell a lot and I can't understand it. People ask me what type of polish they should use on a pine dresser, for instance (I make two types of polish). I say that they shold use pu. They buy the polish.
I'm the world's worst salesman, people tell me that they want some honey because it's good for you, I say is it? And even if it is, eating honey because it's good for you is like drinking a fine malt because it's good for you. Food's about pleasure, not medicine. They buy the honey. My marmalade has pips in it, I warn people so that they don't think that there are toenails in it. They buy the marmalade. I make a handcream, they ask if it's good, I say I don't know, I don't use it although my husband does. They buy that by the truckload. As it were.
I suspect that people think that they're a better judge than I am. And they are, for things they want. Why should my opinion be worth more than theirs? That makes me wonder, though, why they ask my opinion if they're not going to believe it :-)
If someone wants to spend lots of time and effort polishing a pine dresser with my polish that's fine, it won't do any harm, it will look good for a short time, it will give them some exercise. I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't have the pine dresser in the firstplace but that's my preference and so far I've managed to live with it.

If the oil repels water stains it's good. Beeswax polish won't! The polish is ideal for raising a high shine on valuable furniture - but the finish isn't durable for everyday use.
Mary
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Mary Fisher wrote:

The phrase "you can't make a silk purse from a sows ear" comes to mind but I don't think people realise (I am guilty of this as well). I prefer my pine untreated. Just let it develop a good colour on it's own. The pine you get now-a-days has been grown so fast there practically isn't a grain to show off anyway.

Here here. I can't understand people that don't eat for pleasure. You probably spend 10% of your life cooking or eating so you might as well enjoy it.
They buy the honey. My marmalade

I know what you mean. I get that all the time :-)

It's life Teflon to water. A great choice to anywhere that is going to get splashed. I imagine it wouldn't last if there was any soap in the water though.
Beeswax polish won't! The polish

I was going to try my hand a polishing something (French or beeswax). I think maybe I will investigate that a bit more first.

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Morrels Stain followed by a mix of 2 part gloss to 1 part Satin PU varnish.
Smith and Rogers PU is very good. Morrels do a medium oak or a golden oak which are nice stains. Avoid the red version of the medium oak though it's a bit too red.
Let the first coat of PU dry till it's 'crispy' Rub down with 400 grit paper. Wipe clean.
Another coat of PU...Rub down with 400 grit that's a bit tired
Another coat of PU...Rub down with 400 grit that's very tired
Clear wax to finish
A good hard waring finish
Ciao
Nicholas
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Nicholas Buttle - Quality Joinery and Cabinet Making
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wrote:

OK - silly question I know but why would anyone want to stain an oak table?
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I wondered that too ...
Mary
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wrote:

If it's a very light shade, one may want to age it a little. But this doesn't need to mean making it nearly black or using garish browns and oranges. Something fairly lightly applied and wiped off almost immediately would work quite well.
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Vera wrote:

To richen the color.
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wrote:

I (well SHMBO was told finishing is a "pink" job) used Danish Oil on the one I made.
Rick
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Staining is used for a number of reasons the main ones are...
...It can help match up with the furniture already in the home
...Each persons view of what looks good differs. To one person the natural colour of the oak is the best, to another a dark stain that almost obliterates the colour of the timber is preferred. I tend towards a medium stain. Hence Morrells (not a shareholder) produce hundreds of different stains.
...It can bring out the grain and in the case of Oak the 'figuring' quite remarkably and so enhance the finished piece
There's a table on my website that has the Morrells medium stain on it. Not a good photo but you can see how the figuring is brought out ...
Cheers
Nicholas
Nicholas Buttle - Quality Joinery and Cabinet Making http://www.nbjoinery.net
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----- Original Message -----
From: "Rick" < snipped-for-privacy@pen-y-geulan.com>
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wrote:

You'll never get any agreement.
There are two ways I'd do it; nicest and most hardwearing. Even then there are at least three regulars in this ng who will have different ideas, and considerable experience to justify them.

I wouldn't put stains, dyes or varnish anywhere near it -- and I barely let polyurethane in the house. There are better things to use. Assuming this table is solid timber, then that's a nice thing to have and it's worth doing it right.
The colour of oak varies, both the timber itself and the colour of the finished product. The timber darkens with age, and particularly with staining (to which oak is a little prone). Begin by cleaning the table thoroughly so you can look at it (sugar soap), then assess what you have. Do you like the current colour ? Are there stains or faded patches you need to deal with ?
Then remove the old finish. Given the hard life a table finish gets, and the robustness of oak, then I wouldn't leave a trace of any old finish behind.
The best thing to refinish the top with is a cabinet scraper, like a Stanley #80 scraper holder. These are a bit of a knack to acquire though; both for preparing the edge and for using them. Google rec.woodworking for details. Certainly _don't_ use a scraper on a tabletop unless you've practice on an oak plank (or the underside) beforehand.
So in general, I'd suggest sanding it. DO IT BY HAND ! Mechanical sanders have no place on furniture unless they're damned good (which aren't cheap) and they're the right sort. If you think your titchy little B&Q Xmas gadget is going to be any help, you'd be better off with something from Anne Summers instead.
There are only a few tricks to sanding - and there is no other viable alternative to doing it this way.
- Use a cork block, not a bare hand.
- Have an adequate supply of varied grit good-quality sandpaper to hand. The yellow rolls of Hiomant are easy to find and convenient.
- Start coarse, then work finer. A good step is a doubling in grit number. Begin with 80 (maybe finer if the surface is good, maybe 60 if there's a lot of goopy finish to shift). Go to 240 for an oak table top, maybe 300 if you've got it.
- Don't switch to a finer grade before it's ready. Otherwise you;ll leave big scratches behind that you'll never shift afterwards. If "the finer grit is cutting faster" then still don't switch - that just means you've worn the coarse one out. Use a new surface and stick with that grit until it's done.
- Use the coarsest grit very lightly and quickly, if that's all that's needed. But still don't skip grits.
- If you're sanding details, still use the cork block. You might also use sticks of plywood with felt glued to them, wine corks, broomhandles wrapped in neoprene tape, all sorts of things. But _always_ use a backer that keeps its shape as you use it - fingers are flexible and they don't sand straight.
If you have a really thick finish on there, then a broken glass scraper is a good way to shift it. Take a pane of greenhouse glass and break it. Find a slightly convex edge and use that as a scraper - wear gloves to protect your hands. These scrapers are sharp and easily made, but they wear out quickly - so break more. The edge on a glass scraper is quite different from a hooked steel scraper - it's good at removing finishes, it's unlikely to damage the timber surface, but it can't be used to smooth a wooden surface.
Now with the finish off, look at it again. You should have removed the faded finish patches and the lighter water stains. It will look a dismal grey colour, but the finish improves that. Any stains left are probably iron stain and that needs chemical shifting. Don't bother sanding them, they're deep.
Oxalic acid is the only bleach that shifts these iron stains. Buy it as Barkeeper's Friend or _some_ patio deck cleaner. Added detergents or surfactants are OK. Chlorine, peroxide or two-pack bleaches aren't.
Now choose your colouring and finishing techniques. Wipe the surface with water or white spirit to get an idea of what it will look like when finished.
Finished oak might be a pale buff for brand new American white oak, but you're lucky to get this colour with English oak, and never with old refinished pieces. The usual range is from a golden brown (best, IMHO) to dark "antique" browns and near-black "Jacobean" colours.
Now to my eye, the only way to finish new oak is by oxidising it with ammonia fumes. It's an easy process (Google), albeit awkward for large pieces. If you want to reproduce the "Craftsman" finish with dyes and pigment stains, then seek out a Fine Woodworking article by Jeff Jewitt.
If you want dark, then there are any number of ways to get oak much darker, from long ammonia fuming to wet ammonia, to ferrous sulphate or iron acetate solutions. It's characteristic of oak that its chemistry (tannins) allows it to be easily darkened by applying chemistry, rather than needing to apply ready-made colours.
If this is an old piece, then the chances are that under a suitable finish it will already be an attractive colour. Try the white spirit wipe trick. Unfinished oak always looks that dismal grey, then warms up when finished.
If all this is too much to face, then just use a spirit based dye stain. Avoid water based or pigment stains on oak.
Now pick a finish - lots of them, so choose according to how hard-wearing it needs to be. Choice of finish may also affect the colouring choices.
Got kids ? Hard wearing table ? Then use an acid-catalysed formaldehyde like Rustin's "Bar Top" (a heat resistant version of their floor finish). This is an excellent surface, the most hard-wearing you can apply without a commercial spray booth, and easy to work with.
It's water clear, so you need to get the colour sorted beforehand. It won't apply over other finishes, so don't use oil below it (spirit dyes are about the limit). It _stinks_ when applying, so work outside and/or use a full face mask (this disappears within hours). The final surface is hard and glossy. If you want a satin finish you can matt it lightly by waiting a couple of days then rubbing it with 6/0 pumice on a piece of denim.
Want the best finish ? Shellac over oil. This looks a little better, but it's not so resistant to heat or alcohol. Great on a side table, great if you're careful, but it's not so homework proof.
Apply oil first. Use Liberon's "Finishing Oil" This is tung oil-based, ready thinned, ready dried. Very easy to work with. Flood the surface generously then spread it around with a paper towel. Then work it into the surface and make sure that within 20 minutes you've rubbed the whole surface and all the oil is either soaked in or wiped up. The only way to really foul up an oil finish is to leave standing oil puddles there too long, after which they go sticky. (Use white spirit to clean up). Second and third coats will be much thinner as the timber shouldn't be so thirsty by now. Leave at least a few hours between coats, or overnight.
Then shellac it. "Button" shellac is the starting point, maybe garnet if you want the colour or blonde if you want less/lighter colour. Screwfix sell usable cheap shellac - never buy old stock, as it doesn't keep well.
For the first coat, dilute it 50:50 with meths.
Apply shellac with either a brush or a pad. We're not french polishing here. Brushes are 3/4" artist's watercolour brushes, flat or filbert shape, and they _must_ have synthetic bristles (Golden Taklon). Mine are a couple of quid from the local cheap stationer.
Do the last coat, or maybe all of it, with a rubber. This is an egg-shaped pad of cotton waste (decorator's scrim works too) wrapped tightly in a twist of top-quality uncoloured cotton or linen fabric. This fabric should be lint-free and preferably old and well-washed. Old smart shirts or boxer shorts are the best I've found, smooth white linen tea towels aren't bad either, if you can't buy the right grade of new linen (which _must_ be washed before use).
Well-dampen the rubber with meths, then dribble a little shellac onto the outside. Work it in circles or cursive W shapes. not straight lines. be sure to cover the edges and corners evenly.
If you screw up shellac, just keep working. It re-works and smooths out beautifully. You've never got it wrong, you've just not finished it yet.
At this time of year, leave shellac overnight between coats. If you're using meths, ventilate well because the pyridine stinks. In the summer you can get about three coats a day onto it.
Over the week-old dried shellac, apply wax (Liberon's Black Bison in neutral) with a clean shoe polish brush or natural bristle scrubbing brush.
For maintenance, wax polish (the same hard wax) it a couple of times a year. Don't use Mr Sheen etc. on it, as the silicones are a nuisance. Spills and damage can be repaired quite easily by cleaning the wax off with white spirit and paper towels, then re-shellacing (do the lot in an evening). Shellac over oil is not only a gorgeous finish, but it's eminently repairable over future decades. Oak is also tough enough to encourage this.
As an intermediate finish, try Patina from Screwfix. This is a _gel_ polyurethane. If you apply oil, then two coats of this, you get a good looking finish with the hard wearing of polyurethane. Apply three coats though and you get the hideous "Airfix kit" look of brushed poly.
Don't varnish tables. Polys are ugly, spirit varnishes aren't hard wearing enough.
Don't use Danish oil. The mix of varnish and oil is reasonably hard wearing, but you don't get the clarity of oil or the sheen of varnish. You're better applying the two components one after the other (and using shellac instead of varnish).
Don' use oil over wax. Looks gorgeous, but it's really sensitive to even cold water spills.
All the products mentioned are available from Liberon, via Axminster, or a couple from Screwfix.
For a good intro book on real wood finishing, try Bob Flexner's. Jeff Jewitt's are good too.
And when you're done there, there's a 1920s one stacked up in my kitchen waiting to be done too. 8-)
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Andy Dingley wrote:

Don't use sand paper, or glass paper. A quality product like garnet paper or aluminium ozide paper is OK.
If you didn't do woodwork at school - *finish paper along the grain*.
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I didn't realise the author of this excellent post until I looked at the name. It wasn't a surprise.
Thanks, Andy, saved to pass on. I could have said a lot of what you did but not everything, the memory doesn't allow it any more so your post is a great resource. Spouse couldn't have put it all down but would just have got on and done any of those things. Writing and doing are different skills.

It would surprise me if you'd let anyone else do it for you :-)
Mary

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