im making a coffee table with cheery legs/aprons supporting a bubinga
top. Any ideas for a finish? I am leaning toward an easy to apply
varnish (i've never done)....i dont want to use poly, although a wipe
on poly is not out of the question. There are so many methods/
products on the internet i'm just getting too confused.
I'd recommend a good finishing book before you pick any finishes. I
have Bob Flexner's "Understanding Wood Finishing"
(Amazon.com product link shortened)73468622&sr=8-1
and it has been a huge help in making decisions about finishes,
techniques, and a lot of background and science behind various
Waterlox original. Apply it with scrap of old t-shirt. Use a fresh squre of
fabric for each coat.
Lightly wipe with 320 or 400 grit sandper, just to denib between coats.
About 6 light coats (just wet the surface) should do.
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I think a wipe-on poly is your best bet if you aren't experienced or
geared up for spraying. I have to say I've never tried the waterlux
route but regardless, for a table top I think a poly which can handle
the wear or an oil finish that can be easily renewed are the way to
go. Personnaly oil is just to iffy. 3 or 4 thin coats and you have
protection and can still feel the wood.
You can use an out of the can wipe on or just cut any good oil poly
with 50% or more mineral spirits (ignore their warnings). Wipe super
thin coats. 320, 400 or synthetic scrub pad between coats. scrub pad
\wax to finish it up.
I would STRONGLY suggest taking some Bubinga, sanded to the same state
as the table top and do the entire chosen finish process before
putting one drop on the real project. You migth even try various
finishes and regardless you will learn technique. I think more
projects are ruined by a badly planned or executed finish and I don't
know how many times I've seen folks just go by faith and have
One personal experience. I built a beautiful set of Cherry Craftsman
style coffee table and end tables for a friend at work. I sprayed
poly. I had never done that before except for a very small project. By
the time I sprayed over and sanded out all the problems I was left
with a big piece of Cheery colored plastic (in my estimation). I
delivered it but offered to re-do the whole thig or at least the tops.
They refused and said they loved it but to this day I wish I had
trashed it and started over.
I spray poly all the time now when it is the right thing for the job
and I avoid all the problems I had with that project but once I had
it laid down bad, it was all she wrote, no turning back.
I did a mission bed recently. I delayed the delivery by 4 weeks
redoing and redoing finishing tests until I got what I wanted. I was
trying to deliver to a verbal spec from the customer somewhat matching
some stuff he already had and if I had gone by faith my first guess
was way off and I would have had a real problem.
When I can't spray (heavens forbid) and I poly is the prescribed
finish, I pad it on all the flat surfaces such as the top of your
table. I thin it about 10%, no more, and then use the throw away pads
they sell at the big boxes that have the 3/16" directional nap on
them. You can get a glass smooth finish using those if you take your
time. You can build faster, which means of course, less coats, which
equals less chance of dust and mistakes affecting the final finish.
I always spend the most time on the big flat surfaces as I think that
is most important as people love to stand back and look for any kind
of discrepeancies in the finish, and are usually delighted if they
don't find them. The more highly profiled or detailed surfaces are
finished with a brush.
with 50% or more mineral spirits (ignore > their warnings). Wipe super thin
coats. 320, 400 or > synthetic scrub pad between coats. scrub pad
For me, I never sand between coats if it is a new finish and there
isn't a dust or drip/sag/brushmark issue to deal with. I don't like
particulates or the possibility of them between coats, so that is an
as needed issue. On the other hand, since poly is a film finsh, I
don't wait for it to cure completely - talk about ignoring the
manufacturer! I will wipe or pad another coat as soon as I can keep
from lifting the previous coat, letting the second and possibly third
coat melt (as much as possible - I know poly isn't a build finish)
into the first. However, I havent' actually had a finish peel or chip
off when applied to the manufacturer's specs either. Funny how that
state as the table top and do the > entire chosen finish process before
putting one drop on > the real project. You migth even try various
are ruined by a badly planned or executed > finish and I don't know how many
times I've seen folks > just go by faith and have unpleasant outcomes.
I absolutely couldn't agree more. This is the best finishing advice
ever given to me years ago, and it is still the best ever given. Why
would you practice and test products on a completed piece? I think of
finishing as a tool, one that must be practiced just like using any
other tool. Yet, some will spend hours and hours learning other
tools, only to spend a very few hours a year finishing. And while
they practice on scraps to learn their miter saws and table saws, they
practice their finishing on a prized project
I think the type and style of application of the finish depends on
what you will be using the table for in a daily basis. If this table
will have constant exposure to children, maybe an occasional pet, your
beer drinking buddies, or any other activities that will require it to
be detergent cleaned on a regular basis, I personally think poly is
the way to go. (Remeber - pad that top for more build!).
To me, if you are going to use varnish, you might as well use poly.
Some varnishes dry hard, some don't. In my opinon (see how careful I
am?) varnish has its place, but it is the marine variety for its UV
resistance, and the fact it will take more movement. It too is a film
finish, so you don't build it, so any repairs will be the same
procedures as used to repair poly. And since today's polys are so
good at their intended purpose, there is no question to me.
Other good advice given above. Get Flexnor's book, and don't forget
my favorite, Michael Dresdner. Jeff Jewitt is certainly in that mix,
too, as well as many others. If you have a discount book store
anywhere around you, it might be a surprise for you to see how many
books on finishing are there.
Good luck! I hope you let us know what you do.
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