Best finish for semi-outside furniture

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Forum topic by EKwoodwork posted 05-03-2018 02:13 PM 1324 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 625 days

05-03-2018 02:13 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing outdoors white oak

I’m building a set of shelves that will be located “semi”-outdoors and will be made from white oak. I say semi because they will be placed in an outdoor bar enclosure where things like glasses, bottles, etc. will be placed. Since they are in an enclosure they won’t be directly exposed to any rain, snow, sunlight, etc. but the enclosure is in no way climate controlled so will experience the air and all the temperature variations (we typically range anywhere from 20 degrees F in the winter to 90 F in the summer). It may also be important to note the enclosure is on property that is next to a lagoon (seawater) so I expect there is more moisture and salt in the air than is typical.

I’m still relatively new to woodworking but I’ve found danish oil to be my favorite go to finish thus far. However, this will be my first project that will be semi exposed to the elements and figured I might need to try a finish that was perhaps more suited for its location. I was wondering what everyone’s opinion for the best type of finish for this project would be. I definitely am looking for something that will accentuate the natural look of the wood.

I’ve read tung oil or teak oil are used as outdoor oil finishes. I’ve also seen some use spar marine varnish for furniture that is exposed directly to the outdoor elements but I didn’t know if this would be overkill since my shelves wouldn’t be directly exposed to the weather.


8 replies so far

View OSU55's profile


2494 posts in 2590 days

#1 posted 05-03-2018 03:08 PM

What type of finish do you want, ie just protect the wood, high gloss fully filled, or where inbetween? Havent tried it but this sounds like a great application for the base color for house paint. The base for dark colors is actually pretty clear and provides great protection for temp and humidity swings.

View EKwoodwork's profile


3 posts in 625 days

#2 posted 05-03-2018 03:28 PM

I’d say somewhere in between. Protecting the wood is definitely the priority but I would also like to have a decent finished look. I was thinking along the lines of somewhere between a satin or semi gloss finish. with the natural wood grain.

I’ll have look into the base color paints. As long as it’s clear and doesn’t mask the natural look of the wood then that could suit my needs.

View Dustin's profile


705 posts in 1341 days

#3 posted 05-03-2018 04:02 PM

Are you able to spray? If so, I’d check out TargetCoatings EM9300 . It’s an exterior grade, clear, water-based urethane. I’ve just used their 9000 on an interior table top, and am very happy with everything about it. The only caveat here is that it won’t do much to pop the grain, but you can lay down whatever oil of choice you have first to do that, then seal with a coat or two of a 1# cut of dewaxed shellac (be careful not to exceed 2 coats if using SealCoat, per the Target website, as they have on rare occasions noticed it causes crazing).

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View BorkWood's profile


14 posts in 653 days

#4 posted 05-03-2018 04:20 PM

Spar Varnish is my go to for something like this, easy to apply and will hold up will especially semi out of the elements like your applications

-- Matt, Woodworker based in NC,

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John Smith

2125 posts in 763 days

#5 posted 05-03-2018 06:18 PM

for your project, I second the Spar Varnish.


-- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --

View EKwoodwork's profile


3 posts in 625 days

#6 posted 05-04-2018 03:47 AM

After looking some of the finishes mentioned I think I l like the advice of using the spar varnish and I think I will go that route. Thank you everyone for your suggestions! Quick question though.

Would it be advantageous instead of using just straight spar varnish to instead make an “outdoor” oil/spar varnish blend. I’m thinking the commom blend 1/3 tung oil, 1/3 spar varnish, and 1/3 mineral spirits?

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1376 days

#7 posted 05-04-2018 11:44 AM

Just use Alaskan Yellow Cedar with nothing applied to it. Will look better than when the finish starts to fail on anything else after a few years.

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2125 posts in 763 days

#8 posted 05-04-2018 04:11 PM

as with any coating, it is advisable to become familiar with the different oil finishes/additives
and their good or bad attributes before you go mixing things or you could make a real mess.
for shelving that is out of the weather, you may be overthinking this project.
tung oil in particular, causes more problems than they solve if not used and applied correctly.

a sealer that is used in the boating world is this one ~ thinned accordingly with Turps or Mineral Spirits.

as with any project, when working with unfamiliar products, it is always recommended
to test on similar materials to see the results for yourself.



-- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --

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