I'm building a contemporary style fireplace mantel of quilted maple and wenge.
You can see photos of the process and, eventually, the finished product at
http://www.artg.tv/fireplace-mantel-pix.html . As the construction phase of
this project nears completion, SWMBO and I are wondering what finish to apply.
We want a clear finish, one that won't color the maple at all. We would prefer
a finish that requires little to no maintenance. We have not decided if we
want gloss or satin just yet.
The mantel will be mounted over a gas-burning fireplace. It gets HOT,
especially at the center, where it projects farthest from the wall and is
directly over the fireplace. After the fireplace has been running for a few
hours, I can put my hand on the bottom face of the mantel and hold it there.
Its not comfortable to do that, but I don't get burned. That's the best I can
do as far as what temperature the mantel gets up to. And, of course, we don't
run the fireplace constantly, so there will be thermal cycling. I have very
little experience with finishes, and none for high temperature applications.
So the question. What clear finish will not color the wood, can be finished
gloss or satin, will require little or no maintenance, and will tolerate the
high temperatures and thermal cycling that will occur?