Help with dining table finish

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Forum topic by ydees posted 03-31-2016 04:04 PM 3036 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 2028 days

03-31-2016 04:04 PM

I am refinishing a dining table top. My two major considerations are: I want a finish that will withstand water and be durable, but doesn’t look like plastic on top.

If I was strictly going for durability and water resistance, I would probably use a polyurethane. But it is a nice old dining table, grandmothers, and I want to retain the richness and depth of the wood grain. And I know that polycrylic can leave a wood finish looking real flat and shallow doing nothing to enhance the wood grain.

I have sprayed minwax polycrylic satin and general finishes high performance flat before on other items and got a nice look from both, using a HVLP sprayer. Although, the nice look I got from the minwax may have been due to not having sprayed but 3 coats, and underneath that was an oil-based walnut stain, that was allowed to dry for 72 hrs before applying the polycrylic, so the grain was brought out by the stain. The finish looks almost like an oil finish

The general finishes flat was sprayed over a black chalk paint on a side table, as a test run. It sprayed very much like the minwax polycrylic, with no thinning, and dried to a nice even look and feel. I am not sure if it would have a similar look over wood to the minwax or not. High Performance is described by General Finishes as being the “hardest, most durable consumer polyurethane top coat on the market”, and is recommended as a floor finish. But, I realize that a product that is suitable for a floor is not necessarily suitable for a dining table top. But, of course, the help line at General Finishes assures me that their product will be suitable for a table top finish.

My concern is that the waterbased polycrylic is a compromise in water resistance. I don’t want to put a finish on the table that will have to be worried over. I realize any finish will not be waterproof, and if a spill is allowed to remain on a table for an extended time will be a problem for any finish, but would still like to strike a good balance between a nice satin rich deep grain look and feel and a useable, durable water-resistant finish. (I live in the south where iced tea glasses are known to sweat when left on tables.)

I am not opposed to spraying an oil based product, lacquer, or waterbased polycrylic. Perhaps I should be looking at a product other than the polyurethane or polycrylic. I have read that most purchased dining tables come with a lacquer finish, is this true? I have been reading about Target Coating (EMTECH) line, and they seem to be the choice of many high end contractors, but their many selections leave me confused. I am leaning toward the general finishes high performance because of the quick drying time, (I do not have a controlled environment for oil based to dry without picking up all sorts of particles that drift through the air.)

What product will provide a rich high end look, but be durable and water resistant? I guess my end goal is to produce a finish that would look as much like the original as possible, but take advantage of the new advances in finishing products. I do not know what the original finish was, but it has held up pretty well considering it is 40-50 years old, although it is now definitely needing a new finish.

You input will be GREATLY appreciated.

14 replies so far

View AandCstyle's profile


3306 posts in 3498 days

#1 posted 03-31-2016 09:50 PM

Ydees, welcome to LJ.

I have used Target Coatings EM6000 with their cross linker, CL100, for a table top with great success. It is a water based lacquer and is very durable and looks great to me. YMMV

-- Art

View ydees's profile


2 posts in 2028 days

#2 posted 04-01-2016 01:51 AM

Thanks for the input A and C. As a matter of fact I have worked my way to that conclusion myself. I have seen the EM6000 mentioned many times in my search for a suitable finish for a table top. I will like order some tomorrow. I appreciate you taking the time to help a beginner.

View conifur's profile


954 posts in 2393 days

#3 posted 04-01-2016 02:29 AM

I have not used it but watched the videos and I will try it on my next project.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View madburg's profile


348 posts in 2084 days

#4 posted 04-01-2016 03:04 AM

We all have our favourites, and I’m not knocking any one else’s suggestions but here’s my view….................

Down here in Western Australia I only use Cabots Cabothane Clear Satin Oil based polyurethane. But any satin poly will be much the same – make sure its oil rather than water based though. A few friends use the wipe on poly with excellent result, but while I have some I’ve not yet tried it.

The satin finish gives a sheen rather than the glossy plastic looking shine which I dislike. You need to make sure you stir the can well before each application as the filler in the poly, which gives it the satin/sheen finish, sinks to the bottom. So if you don’t stir it you end up with a glossy plastic finish! I will probably put 6 or 7 or more coats on, depended on whether the grain has been filled.

I brush it on, and rub down between each coat starting with 320 grit. As the surface builds, and if its large enough (your table would be), I use an orbital sander very lightly with 320 grit. As the coats go on and the surface builds more I go to 400 grit on the orbital sander. Once the gain is filled and I’m starting to get a finish I use 1500 grit on the orbital sander. With 1500 grit you can press as hard as you like, as you are not going to cut through all your layers.

There are no short cuts to getting a good finish, you just have to keep coating, rubbing down, coating, rubbing down. The longer you leave between coats, say a couple of days, the harder the poly gets and the easier it is to rub down.

I will then finish by hand with 0000 wire wool or a super fine synthetic sanding pad along the grain. Lastly I put on wax polish with a cloth – though some times with the 0000 wire wool/ or sanding pad, and then buff when its dried. Probably doing a couple of wax coats. I’m currently using a wax floor polish that has more carnauba in it, and is working well.

I find polyurethane is ”everything” proof. I like a filled gain flat finish, rather than the open grain effect some other finishes give you.

-- Madburg WA

View OSU55's profile


2830 posts in 3231 days

#5 posted 04-01-2016 12:14 PM

For table tops, especially dining, Target’s EM9000 poly might be the better choice. It is more abrasion, chemical, and water resistant than EM6000 (crosslinker can be used with any Target finish). I’ve used 9000 on tops and 6000 on the rest of a project and can’t tell the difference visually. You might try shellac between the stain and topcoat to get the typically flat appearance of WB finishes to pop, or provide some chatoyance. Don’t use Sealcoat under Target finishes, use flake shellac. I mix Transtint into the shellac (only 0.5# cut) to use as a toner to get the color/evenness I want, then a light “clear” light coat of shellac (1# cut). Tinting a WB topcoat with TT honey amber will make it about the same color as OB poly. I typically tint the topcoat with a bit of the same color as the stain used.

View ClammyBallz's profile


449 posts in 2378 days

#6 posted 04-01-2016 05:54 PM

Don t use Sealcoat under Target finishes, use flake shellac.

I haven’t heard that one before. Why do suggest not using sealcoat?

View Aj2's profile


4066 posts in 3039 days

#7 posted 04-01-2016 06:22 PM

There is only one thing too look at when browseing table top finishes.solids contents.The higher the better.If your looking for a hard finish that can withstand household cleaners.
Look at the technical specs of min wax and compare to the high performance Gf.

-- Aj

View OSU55's profile


2830 posts in 3231 days

#8 posted 04-01-2016 10:11 PM

The Sealcoat comment comes from Target owner Jeff Weiss. Jeff is pretty involved and works with customers on finish schedules. There were some situations where Sealcoat seemed to interact poorly with the finishes, but flake shellac didnt. Not a high %, but enough that he recommended it not be used. As best he could figure it was probably something with the chemicals Zinsser adds to extend shelf life. It was in the now archived old forums. I used it successfully, but after this started making the rounds I decided I didnt want to chance it.

View OSU55's profile


2830 posts in 3231 days

#9 posted 04-02-2016 01:43 AM

Anyone have any information on this Royalac conifer linked to? I’d like to know what they have added or chemically altered that gives it the benefits of lacquer/poly/etc.

View conifur's profile


954 posts in 2393 days

#10 posted 04-02-2016 02:27 AM

Why not just get a couple good books on finishing and learn about finishes, like one of Bob Flexner, or Jewitts, instead of asking it here and getting answers/opinions from who knows what there experience/knowledge is.
It drives me nuts, like the ones that ask here something instead of just Googling it no thy need to ask here and get 20 conflicting opinions from who knows what there knowledge is.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View conifur's profile


954 posts in 2393 days

#11 posted 04-02-2016 03:02 AM

Here is a perfect example

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View K_heynow's profile


5 posts in 3215 days

#12 posted 09-02-2019 01:59 PM

having trouble with GF HP

View bondogaposis's profile


6046 posts in 3592 days

#13 posted 09-02-2019 05:54 PM

You can get a very durable finish with a wiping poly varnish. It is very easy to control the look by how many coats you apply. You won’t get a plastic film until 6 coats, stop at 3 or 4 and you will have a nice to touch wood feel finish that is durable.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View QuangFromCalgary's profile


44 posts in 4240 days

#14 posted 09-02-2019 11:55 PM

Did you consider the “monocoat rubio” or “osmo polyx oil” They re super easy to use and durable too.

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