Trestle Table #46: How Should I Finish This Table Top?

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Blog entry by HappyHowie posted 11-24-2016 07:25 PM 1069 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 45: Brought the Table Inside to Aid Drying of Oil Finish Part 46 of Trestle Table series Part 47: Added Second Coat of Danish Oil »

If I was to start over with selecting the finish coats for this table, I would not use Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO). I do believe that it has gone on okay. I am satisfied that the BLO has done what it can. However, the blotchiness on the table top does bother me. I believe as the cherry ages that the blotchiness will dissipate, if not disappear in time. However, I know there is not a guarantee about that result.

My options from here are (1) continue to apply more BLO, (2) spray some Shellac and build it up, (3) switch to Danish Oil that I believe is a varnish based in linseed oil, or (4) spray some other top coat.

I am not sure what would be best. I know that Charles Neil would probably say “Well, I told you so: Don’t use BLO for your finish, ever”. This does it. I am ordering Charles Neil’s finishing book and DVD today.

Several years ago I read a Fine Woodworking Magazines article by Charles Shackleton. It was a cover story. He made a beautiful bed from cherry. It was that article and visiting his website that sparked my interest in becoming a woodworker. Woodworking seemed easy. I was or am naive. It was Charles Shackleton that made me use BLO on this table. He has several articles on finishing in that magazine. He says he always uses BLO and then fine furniture wax on his projects. He says his customers come into his gallery so they can “feel” his furniture. He seems to be able to make BLO and wax work well for him. Well I do not have his skill level, for sure.

Maybe I should have applied a Shellac dewaxed sealing coat first and then gone with a varnish.

From this point in time, I am leaning towards option #3 above: switching to the can of natural Watco Danish Oil that I have in my shop.

I won’t do anything today. I will think and ponder on it for the remainder of the day before deciding a definite course.

Maybe some member on Lumberjocks will give me a good suggestion.

-- --- Happy Howie

6 comments so far

View Rich's profile


5126 posts in 1190 days

#1 posted 11-25-2016 12:50 AM

I had that same issue when I used pure tung oil on a cherry piece a while back. I left it in the Arizona sun for a while to accelerate the darkening and drying, but the tung oil remained dull and blotchy. I ultimately sprayed it with some satin lacquer, cut to 50% with lacquer thinner and acetone (50% lacquer, 25% lacquer thinner and 25% acetone). The result was gorgeous. You have to let the oil dry for three or four weeks before doing this. BLO may take a little less time.

I would suggest that whatever you decide on as a finish coat, that you spray it. Brushing or wiping will tend to lift the finish that’s on there now, and may make the situation worse.

Fantastic workmanship on the table BTW. I’ve been following your progress and really like the lines you chose.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View HappyHowie's profile


473 posts in 2545 days

#2 posted 11-25-2016 01:21 AM

Rich, thanks. I appreciate that you gave your recipe. I recently bought a Fuji HVLP spray system. Before i use it I will need to purchase the items to build a spray booth with a non-combustible fan. I am not in a rush to finish this table. I am willing to give it a suntan for a few hours if the weather is right.

-- --- Happy Howie

View CaptainSkully's profile


1612 posts in 4159 days

#3 posted 11-25-2016 03:56 PM

I have very little experience with cherry. However, when varnishing teak on boats, you can add as many flat coats of varnish as you want, then only the top coat is glossy because that’s what is exposed. I put at least five coats of polyurethane on my oak dining table top. Underneath is amber shellac, aniline dye and gel stain.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View HappyHowie's profile


473 posts in 2545 days

#4 posted 11-25-2016 04:41 PM

I would bet that your varnished teak wood on your boats looks very beautiful. I love photos so share them. I would enjoy it.

I believe what I cam going to do today is disassemble the table so I can lay each part flat. If the skies remain clear this morning I give at least the table top a little sunbathing experience. I have some can Shellac already in my shop. If I have the sanding sealer Shellac I will spray that on the table top. If I need to make another trip to my big box for more cans, I will. I know I also have cans of lacquer. I will spray several coats of that for a hardened finish top coat. I suspect this table will get hard use from my beautiful granddaughter. Hopefully, her lifetime of use.

-- --- Happy Howie

View HappyHowie's profile


473 posts in 2545 days

#5 posted 11-29-2016 05:46 PM

Yesterday I decided to wipe on a coat of natural Danish Oil to all parts of this table. I disassembled the top and removed the wedge so the stretcher connecting the two leg assemblies could be removed. With clean brown paper on my assembly table I setup an are for applying this first coat of Danish Oil. I believe the Danish Oil with two or three coats will liven up the table’s finish as well as give it some protective coat.

After applying a liberal coat and waiting a few minutes, I wiped the excess oil and vaish off iwth a clean cloth rag. All of this activity was done last night. Today I will apply another coat of Danish Oil. I will check later so I can determine is a third coat of Danish Oil is needed or not. Remember that I started with a base of three coats of Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO) before adding last night my first coast of Danish Oil. I have this large area on the table top that soaks up the oil fairly quickly. I believe it was a area where a tree branch grew from the tree trunk. My guess is that on the board it exposes some end grain; that is why the oil soaks up more quickly there. I will base my need for additional coats of oil depending if this area seems to need more oil coats. I suspect two or more coats of Danish Oil will be needed. We’ll see.

I have buffed furniture wax on top of my other projects where I finished them with Danish Oil. I intend to do the same with this table.

-- --- Happy Howie

View hnau's profile


88 posts in 1143 days

#6 posted 11-30-2016 06:00 PM

-- Spammer in processed of being removed.

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