Danish Oil vs. Arm-R-Seal or something else?

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Forum topic by Neophyte74 posted 09-21-2019 11:16 PM 693 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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14 posts in 36 days

09-21-2019 11:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing advice request

Today I pulled the trigger and bought a bunch of Sapele for a table top project I’ve been dreaming about for a long time. I asked the salesperson at the woodworking shop for finishing options that meet the following criteria: 1) Ease of application – I am very much a rookie with no finishing experience. 2) natural look – I don’t want to stain the wood I just want to bring out it’s natural beauty 3) I do not want a high gloss finish. I want something more subdued. 4) protecting the table from water and other liquids is a high priority. I can imagine one of my children spilling a glass of lemonade on the table and I want to protect the wood

The two products recommended where Watco Danish Oil and Oil Based Arm-R-Seal Satin finish. I was told that Danish Oil is a more widely used option but Arm-R-Seal will accomplish a similar level of water protection with fewer coats.

I’m curious what other people think about these two options. Also is there a third option that I am not aware of that can meet the goals that I stated above?

Thanks in advance for any advice

12 replies so far

View SMP's profile


1401 posts in 418 days

#1 posted 09-21-2019 11:26 PM

Personally i like the ptotection of ArS, seems to hold up better with kids and dogs etc. I use it quite a bit, but it does add the plastic feel of poly. I use the danish oil when i want to add a bit of tone to something, but that is rare. I tried the maloof formula and actually prefer that over regular danish oil, but again has a plasticy feel. Based on your 1-4 i would say the satin ARS, however, make sure to read all the instructions, especially in regards to stirring very well and stirring regularly, and temp and hunidity. Failing that can leave it looking streaky, etc, otherwise foolproof i even use paper towels to apply.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5758 posts in 3006 days

#2 posted 09-22-2019 11:04 AM

Danish oil is commonly described as a mix of BLO, varnish, and thinner….if you do your own is generally 1/3 each. Watco Danish oil is defined by Flexner as just being wiping varnish (a very thin varnish). That is also what ARS is as well, a thin varnish. The Watco uses a different resin (at least they used to) in that it’s an alkyd varnish where the ARS is a urethane. We used to be able to tell how much thinner was in these from the MSDS, but that’s not available anymore. Back to your question, Either will be very easy to use, and with enough coats either will do a good job of protecting the top. I’m not sure whther the ARS will take fewer coats, but I’d guess it would. The Watco used to be about 80% thinner (IIRC). You could buy a good quality varnish and thin it 50/50 to make your own wiping varnish, that would almost certainly build faster. Remember, these are oil finishes and will shift the color somewhat, to a more warm look. You can mimic what that will be by wiping some MS on the wood, that’s also a good way to find unseen flaws you want to address before finishing. The MS will evaporate leaving the wood ready to finish.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Rich's profile


5001 posts in 1102 days

#3 posted 09-22-2019 01:27 PM

What’s the table going to be used for? Danish oil will provide little protection. Arm-R-Seal will give you more durability.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11854 posts in 3941 days

#4 posted 09-22-2019 01:56 PM

I mix the two together at a ratio of 1:1 for a wipe on finish. Usually, 4 coats, decreasing the ratio of watco to poly with each coat. The 5th coat is straight poly. Have never had any complaints about it’s water resistance or durability.

-- 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


855 posts in 1615 days

#5 posted 09-23-2019 02:16 PM

I agree that all of the above will work just fine. I think I would make at least two sample boards from scrap. Sand and prepare them equally. Then apply a coat of Watco on one. Let it dry and then apply 2-3 coats of Arm r seal. On the next board, just apply 2-3 coats of Arm r seal. Sand lightly with 220 grit between coats. Then, you might do a third one using Gene Howe’s method. See which one you like the best.
As stated above, I would not use Watco alone. It will not protect as well. However, it is great for bringing out the color and grain of the wood.

View therealSteveN's profile


3914 posts in 1087 days

#6 posted 09-24-2019 04:16 AM

Follow the steps outlined here, and you will be happy you picked the ArS..

As suggested there is NO substitute for prepping the same material as your project, sanded exactly the same, and do test applications before just diving in..

-- Think safe, be safe

View Rich's profile


5001 posts in 1102 days

#7 posted 09-24-2019 04:49 AM

A masterful reposting of information freely available online to whomever bothers to look. However, without a response from the OP regarding the intended use of the table, any recommendations are moot.

Is the OP still out there?

View OSU55's profile


2408 posts in 2502 days

#8 posted 09-24-2019 12:25 PM

Demonstrates that not all “woodworking shop” personnel know much about finishing. Those are 2 very different products that perform very differently. ARS, or other solvent poly products, dry to a hard protective finish with hi chemical and wear resistance. DO is much softer with much less chemical resistance – good for stuff to look at but not something that will see much use. Use a solvent poly. It will provide the same chatoyance or grain pop as the DO as well. As a newb, this will help you out. Applying 1st 2 coats – thin the ars ~ 4 to 1 part ms, flood it on for ~10 min and keep the surface wet allowing the wood to soak it in, then wipe off. Wait at least 2 hrs and repeat. Now the grain is sealed and you can wipe, brush, spray apply at the film thickness you want.

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

3017 posts in 3950 days

#9 posted 09-24-2019 01:14 PM

I don’t know about the oil but Armrseal is great stuff. I’ve put it on dining tables and it’s tough, tough, stuff. And I’ve both brushed and wiped it on with light sanding between coats not being as careful as I should and it just looks smooth and level every time.
The scenario of how I began using it long ago was I had this table and wanted the finish to be tough and look good. I didn’t know what to do. One bad choice and it’s ruined. This stuff made me look good without trying.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Neophyte74's profile


14 posts in 36 days

#10 posted 09-24-2019 03:45 PM

In response to question about what the table will be used for. It will be our family kitchen table and will get a lot of use both for meals and it will be the place my kids do homework and other tasks. Thanks to everyone for the tips

View NoSpace's profile


170 posts in 1753 days

#11 posted 09-30-2019 09:38 PM

Give the dark horse a try: water based poly. I just tried it for the first time over the weekend because I’m tired of my maple turning yellow and it looks just like I’ve always wanted it to look. Exotics look wet but not oily. I just used Varathane available at HD. Looks great on Sapele too, but probably want to use grain filler like aqua coat. By far the most “natural” finish I’ve ever had. I’m thinking about taking the whole lot of my oil-based products to hazardous waste disposal and one less fire hazard.

It feels like it’s going to be strong but I have no experience here. If it wears faster, just take your ROS to it right in the kitchen once a year and wipe on a new coat. Open a window for 20 minutes and nobody will know.

View edapp's profile


307 posts in 1942 days

#12 posted 10-01-2019 01:48 PM

I have been using counter tops in our kitchen made from Sapele and finished with Arm-R-seal for ~2 years now. My wife loves to cook and we use our kitchen constantly. I have been thrilled with the results. We do not have a single water spot or stain anywhere on the counters, and we do not wipe them dry before bed every night. We actually don’t take any special care or treat them any different than we would if they were granite or laminate or anything else.

The protection arm-r-seal has provided has exceeded my expectations. We do have one spot that the finish appears to have been eaten away by some chemical spill (about the size of a quarter) but it was easy to touch up. Not exactly sure what spilled on it to cause that.

I have a blog entry here that shows the construction and finishing process I used.

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