Finishing advice please

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Forum topic by Josh99 posted 07-18-2014 06:36 AM 1404 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 1673 days

07-18-2014 06:36 AM

Topic tags/keywords: farm table finish


I am trying to make a farm table. (Promised 6 years ago to the misses) I am not accomplished in any aspect of wood working and would like some advice.

What type of finish would you recommend for a table like this. It is of all different kinds of hardwoods. Ash, maple, red oak, walnut, cherry.

I would like something that will bring out the grain and natural color of the wood without looking like plastic.

I tried to attach the picture. Looking forward to your expertise!
Thanks in advance. Josh

14 replies so far

View RRBOU's profile


176 posts in 2557 days

#1 posted 07-18-2014 09:30 AM


First off, if you are just in the construction of this table I hope that you did not just glue the rails that are held on by the clamps. If it is glued it is likely that it will not be for long. That is a large panel on that table and will more than likely have significant movement throughout the season changes. If it is just glued or other solid attachment I would recommend redesign before you spend a lot of time finishing this.

-- If guns cause crime all of mine are defective Randy

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6 posts in 1673 days

#2 posted 07-18-2014 09:46 AM

Nope, just clamped on. I leveled them and used them as rails to slide a sled on. I used a router and sled to flatten it.

View Josh99's profile


6 posts in 1673 days

#3 posted 07-18-2014 10:00 AM

Here is the router contraption.

I haven’t started sanding yet. Just looking for advice on finishing. I have read a lot about sanding and finishes…. to the point of confusion.

1. To what grit should I sand?
2. Would a danish oil be appropriate for table top?
3. If so, recommended processes. Everyone seems to have different steps.
4. Wet sanding? I don’t know what that is.

Basicly, if this was your project, what would you recommend.

Thanks again.

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Casey Jones

13 posts in 2707 days

#4 posted 07-18-2014 10:36 AM

You are going to have quite a bit of variation in how the various woods absorb the finish given the closed-grain nature of some of your wood species and open grain nature of others. Normally I would sand wood like walnut to 400 grit or more, but that will create an issue for the oak and ash since the open pore areas will essentially absorb all of the finish and may be too dark/contrasty. Long way of saying, try sanding to 220 or maybe even 180, then apply a round of finish to make sure you like how all of the woods are absorbing the finish and that you like the color. If too uneven or contrasty, take it back to 150. If it looks fine and you want a smoother surface, keep going higher.

Danish oil is not a great tabletop finish. It has little to no protective capabilities. I would recommend Waterlox, my preference is the satin sheen, for tabletops. It is a tung oil varnish blend that brings out the grain beautifully in woods, yet provides a protective layer suitable for areas that get regular use. It is very easy to apply, just be patient and build multiple thin coats over a period of a week or so. Unfortunately it is expensive, but worth the cost. I apply with a brush, but it can be wiped. Do a coat, let dry 24 hours, sand nibs (if any) with 320 or 400 grit paper by hand, repeat the application process 5 or 6 times or until you have built a finish you like.

If you wanted to, you could try to apply the Waterlox with some wet dry sandpaper to create a slurry that fills the pores of the oak and ash. I have not tried this but have seen someone do it and it works. Check out this article from FWW for a good picture guide. Good luck and send pics when it’s done!'ll%20Ever%20Need_FWW__634474589121325461.pdf

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6 posts in 1673 days

#5 posted 07-18-2014 11:12 AM

Ok, I was torn about the waterlox. I have made one other item in my vast experience as seen above. I think I used waterlox original. I was not pleased with the result. Most likely user error. Minor things, but bug the snot out of me.

I had some drips harden on the bottom edge. Finger prints too. I am assuming that these could have been sanded out?
I think I put 7 coats on it. I don’t think I sanded between. Also, over the last couple of years it has gotten fine scratches in the hard finish.

These few things had turned me off to the waterlox. Maybe I need to reassess.

View chrisstef's profile


17822 posts in 3271 days

#6 posted 07-18-2014 12:58 PM

Maybe a seal coat of shellac would be the best to start with to prevent the different wood from absorbing the top coat differently? Personally id use Waterlox, GF Arm-R-Seal, or GF High Performance as a top coat. Id definitely do a bit of light sanding between coats, no less that 320 grit. Whatever finish you use it most likely will not fully cured for a few weeks to a month. It would be prone to scratches and dings during that time.

I really like the table.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

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397 posts in 2163 days

#7 posted 07-18-2014 03:10 PM

I use Boo’s oil on my cutting boards and boxes. Although the label doesn’t say so, I have been told it is a mixture of tung oil and wax. It really makes the grain pop. You will require no sanding between coats. Unless you think it makes the wax adhere better to the surface, I don’t think you need the final 400 grit scuffing before you wax it. The Boo’s oil covers evenly, doesn’t blotch cherry, and upkeep is just wiping on more oil once in awhile.

-- --Dale Page

View AnonymousRequest's profile


861 posts in 1813 days

#8 posted 07-18-2014 04:38 PM

I used to do a lot of refinishing antiques. Some may do things differently…but on your table I’d use oil-based poly. I’d sand 80g and then to 120gr. Shoot 2 coats for build-up and then wet sand with 400g. Wipe the residue and then tack cloth it. Repeat this between coats until you get the desired look. For a table you need a durable finish. It might look a bit plastic, but poly is the finish I used for durability.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 2199 days

#9 posted 07-18-2014 07:39 PM

Ditto on the waterlox. I didn’t like my experience with it.

Start at 60 grit or 80 grit and sand to 150 or 220 if you want it super smooth.

Use wipe-on polyurethane, satin. That will keep it from looking plasticky but still give you good protection. I’d say straight oil, but that table looks like it will be used, so I would go with poly.

That’s my .02 cents.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

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5855 posts in 3078 days

#10 posted 07-18-2014 08:12 PM

Sand with as fine a grit so as to remove the imperfections (typically 120 grit, but perhaps 80 or 100 grit due to the router sled), and again with 150 grit.
I would spray it with a non-yellowing lacquer like Rudd Duracat V.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Josh99's profile


6 posts in 1673 days

#11 posted 07-18-2014 09:34 PM

Thank you for all of the responses.

What advantages would I have with waterlox vs. Oil based wipe on poly vs. Spray lacquer?

Are they all just as durable? Do they provide a different look all together?

I believe I will be gluing up a test piece and at least trying the first two out. I don’t own a spray gun for the lacquer. I’m not opposed to getting one if that is what is needed.

One last thought. This may sound odd but, should I finish both sides at the same time? That small table has finger prints on the bottom of the edges because I did both sides at the same time. I flipped it when it was tacky.

View Manitario's profile


2724 posts in 3147 days

#12 posted 07-18-2014 10:56 PM

Like any topic on LJ’s you’re going to get a lot of different opinions and experience. My “go-to” finish which is durable and brings out the grain is either Danish oil or Minwax Tung oil covered by wipe on poly. This is as simple as it gets to apply; typically I do 3-4 coats DO followed by 4-5 coats of wipe on poly. The poly provides the protection, the oil in the DO or tung oil provides the richness to the grain. As DO and the Minwax Tung oil (wiping varnish) are a mix of oil and polyurethane anyways, wipe on poly is very compatible.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View dhazelton's profile


2825 posts in 2561 days

#13 posted 07-18-2014 11:54 PM

I’m old school and like shellac. I know water is supposed to make rings on, but I’ve got a short wooden counter where the coffee maker sits and it has had more than it’s share of spills and it looks fine. You called it a ‘farmhouse table’, so how rustic do you want it to look?

View Josh99's profile


6 posts in 1673 days

#14 posted 07-19-2014 12:17 AM

I want it to look like someone really talented made it. So when friends that know me come over they say, “Were did you get that!”

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