using a poly wipe on over a watco oil varnish

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Forum topic by ichibon posted 02-15-2019 04:21 PM 1406 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 745 days

02-15-2019 04:21 PM

I have read all of the articles and still need a bit of clarity on the subject of putting a wipe on poly over a watco oil/varnish natural finish on a black walnut live edge coffee table to be. I have carefully wet sanded a beautiful finish of watco, 5 coats of 600 grit, but I am concerned whether the scratch resistance and water resistance of the watco will hold up.It was then that I read that a coat of wipe on poly would give me the scratch and water resiliency that I desire but am hesitant because of the beautiful finish that I already have may be destroyed. Any experience that may help in my decision would be appreciated thankyou

11 replies so far

View SMP's profile


3439 posts in 915 days

#1 posted 02-15-2019 04:44 PM

I guess it kind of depends on usage. For example, will people put their feet up on the table? Do people use coasters for drinks religiously? Are you ok with doing maintenance? If you are worried, then slap some Arm-r-seal on it, but you will have a different finish. I like the look of ARm-r-seal satin, sometimes buffed with 0000 steel wool or even waxed to give a different finish that’s super simple to maintian. I do have a table with just Danish oil, and it does scratch, its easy enough to re-apply to fix the scratches, but in my opinion doesn’t look to bad, so I haven’t done anything to it(been about 2 years and people do put their feet on it).

View waho6o9's profile


8997 posts in 3586 days

#2 posted 02-15-2019 04:47 PM

Welcome to LumberJocks ichibon!

Practice on scrap and best of luck on your project.

Watco takes a long time to dry if you like the look leave it alone as it should be fine.

View LesB's profile


2867 posts in 4453 days

#3 posted 02-15-2019 06:34 PM

Any surface coating can be scratched and a poly finish would be a little harder to repair than an oil finish. Watco is basically a tung oil with “dryers” added to make it cure faster. To improve and retain the water resistance of an oil finish you might consider a routine (maybe twice a year) application of a good furniture paste wax.
If you have young children and the surface will take some abuse from them you might give more consideration to a poly finish; even a brush on floor grade (harder finish) type.

-- Les B, Oregon

View ArtMann's profile


1483 posts in 1826 days

#4 posted 02-15-2019 07:32 PM

Watco Danish Oil contains a varnish of some sort. The SDS/TDS does not specify exactly what kind. I am not certain that adding a polyurethane top coat will accomplish anything.

View OSU55's profile


2738 posts in 2999 days

#5 posted 02-15-2019 08:37 PM

You are correct to be concerned with how well a danish oil (DO) will hold up. While there is some varnish resin in it, it isn’t much, and it is not intended to be a film forming finish. It is also a fairly soft finish. With little to no film it has poor water resistance, and being soft it is easily abraded and scratched. Paste wax will do little to enhance those poor properties.

Poly over the DO will change the look of the finish some or a lot, just depends on the film thickness, gloss level, and whether its oil or water based. A few wipe on coats of satin ob poly probably won’t change it a great deal. You need to do some test samples, whatever you do.

One of my favorite finishes is ob poly with dye in it, applied like a DO. It provides much more water/chemical/scratch resistance and about the same look. Film thickness can be controlled to minimal or several mils, just depends on the application. You can read more about oils vs poly here.

View RobS888's profile


2829 posts in 2855 days

#6 posted 02-15-2019 08:44 PM

I have trim with just danish oil and some horizontal surfaces (tables, window stools, radiator boxes) with a couple of coats of satin arm-r-seal on them they look great and seem to be tough. Cats haven’t scratched any yet.

I would never consider just danish oil for a horizontal surface.

-- I always knew gun nuts where afraid of something, just never thought popcorn was on the list.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12302 posts in 4438 days

#7 posted 02-15-2019 11:44 PM

My go to wipe on finish is a first coat of 50/50 mix of Watco and Helmsman’s Spar varnish. Each successive coat has the varnish upped by 50%. I usually do 4 coats. Then, when dry, a rub down of JPW applied with 0000 Liberon wool.
My tables are not finished to withstand coaster less drink glasses! If that’s a concern, a coat of straight poly before the wax job would help…not guaranteed, though.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View ArtMann's profile


1483 posts in 1826 days

#8 posted 02-16-2019 12:43 AM

Why Helmsman spar varnish? I am asking because I have used it on exterior applications and it failed prematurely.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12302 posts in 4438 days

#9 posted 02-16-2019 11:59 AM

Why Helmsman spar varnish? I am asking because I have used it on exterior applications and it failed prematurely.

- ArtMann

Haven’t used it in an exterior application. For exterior application, I prefer Epifanes clear.
I use Helmsman for it’s ease of application with Watco.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View bilyo's profile


1303 posts in 2112 days

#10 posted 02-18-2019 03:57 AM

My finish method of choice has become danish oil, gel stain (if needed), and wipe-on poly. I like the danish oil on the sanded bare wood as it goes on blotch free (if you have done a good job sanding). So it is great for blotch prone woods. If I need to use a stain, I use a oil based gel stain over the danish after a very short dry time; maybe over night. Applying the stain rather quickly allows it to penetrate better and go on darker than it might otherwise. I then let the oil and stain dry for several days before applying the poly. To answer your question more directly, don’t be afraid of applying wipe-on poly over a well cured danish oil. Unless you use a high gloss, it won’t change the look much and it will provide an extra measure of protection to the surface.

View ozdude's profile


44 posts in 1453 days

#11 posted 02-18-2019 05:52 AM

Have no experience with tables but I collect vintage hand planes and first use danish oil as a wet and dry filler/sealer to restore time deteriorated handles before applying wipe on poly. I rub the danish oil into the handles with a 320 grit wet and dry paper. The fine timber dust created by the 320 mixing with the danish oil creates a very natural look slurry that seals and fills small imperfections.

I let this slurry dry thoroughly, lightly sand back to a smooth finish and start applying my wipe on poly – a 50/50 mix of gum turpentine and varnish. I do this because I feel the wipe on not only protects the timber but uplifts the grain to a degree I have been unable to achieve with just danish oil.

Depending on the finish I’m after this could be a wipe on application of up to 10 coats. The less coats applied the less shinier or “softer” the finish.

The attached photos are of a repaired rosewood handle from a 1907 Stanley plane. Yep, we’re dealing with timber that’s been kickin’ around for 110 years!
Pics 1 and 2 are with the danish oil slurry applied, lightly sanded and ready for wipe on poly.
Pic 3 is after 8 coats of my wipe on poly brew. As you can see the wipe on poly has enhanced the grain so much it’s hard to believe it’s the same handle!

So, just another little contribution for you to consider. And good luck with your table!

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