Best table top finishes?

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Forum topic by Kade Knight posted 02-06-2013 03:46 PM 10266 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Kade Knight

63 posts in 3400 days

02-06-2013 03:46 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question alder finishing

So I am building an alder table…I know its a relatively soft wood for a table top…but thats what my friend wants. I have never finished a table top so I would like some advice for the best finish for me. I am not a professional finisher so I am looking for something that is relatively easy to apply yet provides superior protection. I’ve seen many people use General Finishes Arm-r-Seal. How is that for durability? Thank you for your input

7 replies so far

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1172 posts in 3990 days

#1 posted 02-07-2013 01:59 AM

What kind of table?

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

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Kade Knight

63 posts in 3400 days

#2 posted 02-07-2013 03:49 PM

Ah yes I forgot to mention that it is a dining table

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 4618 days

#3 posted 02-07-2013 04:39 PM

What style?

-- jay,

View AJLastra's profile


87 posts in 3688 days

#4 posted 02-07-2013 05:01 PM


This is a dining table. You expect that it will have to take some abuse from spills, heat, alcohol, water. Scratches are inevitable and no finish is going to prevent a scratch or dings. What we do is try to get enough of a build so that the scratch or ding is in the FINISH and not in the wood.

the most durable finish you can apply by hand is oil based polyurethane. It weill have a less “plasticky” look than water based. But the oil based will also take longer to dry. I don’t know if you have spray equipment or not. It makes a difference. So does the environment you are going to apply your finish in. Is the table going to be finished in place or are you finishing it in an unheated g arage or basement shop?

There are some application specific finishes out there made by very good companies who know their finishes. Behlen makes a “Rock Hard Tabletop Varnish.” This is the stuff that could be used for a bartop. What kind of sheen does the friend want? Gloss? Satin? to achieve decent results for these sheens, rubbing out the finish is the traditional way rather than rely on what comes out of the can of finish. But rubbing out is labor intensive and it requires waiting a bit of time to let the finish cure first. some finishes rub out better than others.

Varnish, whether water based or oil based, provides more than adequate protection against water, alcohol, heat and spills. If you are applying by hand, this is what I would recommend. If you are going to rub the finish to a certain sheen, you would need to wait at least two weeks before you’d rub a varnish topcoat. You will need to build this finish on the tabletop. Keep in mind that varnish does not “burn in” to itself with each coat of finish you apply like shellac and lacquer do. If you need more info about applying varnish and rubbing it, let me know. Go luck with your project!!


View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 3821 days

#5 posted 02-07-2013 05:03 PM

Waterborne poly floor finish works as well as anything else. If it’s tough enough to dance on, it’s tough enough to eat off of. Don’t waste time with multi-component concoctions.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View pintodeluxe's profile


6543 posts in 4273 days

#6 posted 02-07-2013 05:13 PM

I use pre-cat lacquer sprayed with inexensive gravity-feed HVLP guns. Buff it out with Howards Walnut wax, and it will look great.
The main problem with wipe-on sealers over stain, is you will get some stain lifting off. Spraying eliminates this problem. Also, I think spraying yields the smoothest finish. Off-the-gun finishes are so good these days, that many times they don’t even need to be buffed.

Good luck!

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30678 posts in 3797 days

#7 posted 02-07-2013 05:15 PM

Pour on Epoxy works great for me

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

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