George Nakashima Style End Table Finish

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Forum topic by WoodArtbyJR posted 02-15-2013 03:05 PM 7132 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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428 posts in 3931 days

02-15-2013 03:05 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question walnut sander finishing rustic modern nakashima table natural edge

I am in the process of finishing an end table that has been on my “Honey Do” list for several years and have a question on it’s finish. I use Helmsman Spar Urethane on my western red cedar adirondack chairs because of it durability in the weather. Not so sure that is what I should finish this table with though. The Helmsman kinda turns a golden shade and what I want on this is to show off natures beauty. The wood is black walnut that has been air drying for almost 15 years in my garage. It is sanded to 1200 grit and has a mirror finish. What I am looking for is something that will seal the wood and give it a natural finish look without looking plastic. This piece will also have things placed on it and should be able to stand up to cold/warm & maybe wet glasses. Any and ALL suggestions are welcome as I NEED help on this one.


-- Jim Roberts, Port Orchard Washington

17 replies so far

View McLeanVA's profile


493 posts in 4400 days

#1 posted 02-15-2013 03:17 PM

My own personal preference would be a few penetrating coats of Danish Oil, and topped off with Arm-R-Seal (General Finishes). The Arm-R-seal is pretty sweet when it comes to a finish coat. I have yet to see any damage on an antique end table I used it on. Plenty of wet drinks laid on it without the slightest bit of rings or damage.

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

View WoodArtbyJR's profile


428 posts in 3931 days

#2 posted 02-15-2013 03:40 PM

Chris, I just googled them both and the statements I found were that they are both a finish. So, what you are telling me is that I put a coat of the Arm-R-Seal over the finish of the Danish Oil even though they’re both sealers? Do I have this right? The Danish Oil is a penetrating sealer and the Arm-R-Seal is a topical sealer. Together, you end up with an iron clad seal. You’ve never steered me wrong before, I’m just making sure I am understanding what you are trying to tell me. Thanks

-- Jim Roberts, Port Orchard Washington

View Manitario's profile


2816 posts in 3849 days

#3 posted 02-15-2013 04:05 PM

Nakashima used Tung oil exclusively for all his pieces. You’ll need to put at least 7 coats on before it will start to look good, but tung oil is fairly durable and water resistant. Alternatively, you could use several coats of Danish oil followed by several more thin coats of wipe-on poly; this will be a durable, resistant finish. My most recent project was a Nakashima style table ( I spent a lot of time debating what to finish it with. The upside to the danish oil/poly combo is that it is pretty durable. The downside is that if it gets scratched there is no easy way to repair it other than to strip it and refinish it (another coat of poly won’t hide the scratch). The upside to tung oil is that you can just slop on another coat if it gets scuffed or scratched. The downside is less durability. I ended up using Minwax Tung oil; which is basically a tung oil/linseed oil varnish. It looks great and although it will be less durable than using poly, it will be easier to refinish in the future. And I’ve contemplated putting a sign over the table that says “Anyone who puts a glass on the table without a coaster will be met with instant and terrible death….”

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

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428 posts in 3931 days

#4 posted 02-15-2013 07:43 PM

Thank you all for your input. I googled Danish Oil, Teak Oil, Tung Oil and found that, basicly they’re all same same. So, I think I will apply SEVERAL coats of Teak Oil and then finish off with a coat or three of Arm-R-Seal. The reason I am using the Teak Oil is, I have a half gal of it on the shelf and can’t let it go to waste. I will post a finished pic in a few days. I ordered a set of hairpin legs yesterday off of Etsy so they should be here in a few days. Thank you all

-- Jim Roberts, Port Orchard Washington

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3935 days

#5 posted 02-15-2013 07:54 PM

I might be wrong here, but if you oil that it’s going to go dark – that has been my experience of Danish Oil.
Before you start, test it on a scrap piece and see how it turns out.

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 3020 days

#6 posted 02-15-2013 08:49 PM

test, test, test, on a scrap

-- Joel

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 3327 days

#7 posted 02-15-2013 10:15 PM

For the characteristics you’re after, the best finish would solvent NC or acrylic lacquer. If you can’t spray the best would be a waterborne poly floor finish. Varathane or Bona Mega. The first coat rubbed back with maroon scotchbrite to get rid of the fuzz, followed by two full wet coats, and rubbed out with 0000 steel wool and Butcher’s paste wax.

BTW, never sand beyond 220.

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

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Bill White

5329 posts in 4927 days

#8 posted 02-15-2013 10:21 PM

Read Clint’s post again.

-- [email protected]

View McLeanVA's profile


493 posts in 4400 days

#9 posted 02-15-2013 10:26 PM

Ya know what Jim? This is getting complicated. Just throw a slab of glass on top and call it done. ;)

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

View Hammerthumb's profile


3080 posts in 2941 days

#10 posted 02-15-2013 11:23 PM

I agree with Clints comment, except Bona Kemi does not produce Mega anymore but does have other waterbased finishes that would work. A waterborne finish would give the protection that you are looking for and will not change the flavor (color) of the natural wood. But always, always always – do a test piece.

-- Paul, Duvall, WA

View GodofBiscuits's profile


97 posts in 4041 days

#11 posted 02-16-2013 12:18 AM

Jim, I’ve had nothing but excellent results with the Arm-R-Seal. Especially on walnuts extremely durable and doesn’t add color to the project. Find an area underneath and test out to see what you like.

-- Are you going to use that piece of scrap?

View WoodArtbyJR's profile


428 posts in 3931 days

#12 posted 02-16-2013 02:52 AM

OK, I’ve digested all the input and have RETHUNK my approach to this matter. I will sand a test piece and oil & Arm-R-Seal that section and then just Arm-R-Seal an other section. After reading Renners comment about the oil I went DUH. I’ve been upset before when making my cutting boards and loosing the beautiful grained darker woods after being oiled so that thought just went over my head. Then Clint comes along and says don’t sand beyond 220 & for a few moments I was wondering why then I had another DUH moment. When you paint a car, you don’t paint on top of a ultra smooth surface. You sand it a little even before you spray the primer (even that leaves a rough surface) for the final paint application to grab on to. Otherwise your new beautiful paint job is going to peel like a cheap suntan. I will test an area with oil & one without JUST to satisfy myself but I REALLY know what’s going to happen. I will loose all that beautiful grain on the black walnut when I use the oil. I am SOOOO glad I asked, REALLY, as this whole process made me think and remember past jobs and what was the correct process to use. Thanks all. I will post pictures when complete. Thanks Jeffery. Been wanting to contact you about your work. And no, I’m not going to use that piece of scrap. You got a use for it???

-- Jim Roberts, Port Orchard Washington

View RussellAP's profile


3105 posts in 3253 days

#13 posted 02-16-2013 03:01 AM

Take a piece of walnut and sand it out like you did to this one and try different stuff. If you want the natural beauty of the walnut to come out, I suggest just Arm-R_Seal by General finishes. You don’t need a sanding sealer if you went to 1200g. and oil wont do much except gum it up being so smooth already.

I think you’ll like the ArmRSeal alone if you try it.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

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428 posts in 3931 days

#14 posted 02-27-2013 04:51 PM

OK, I have given it a good coat of Teak Oil (after a test piece). Not too dark but just enough to highlight the beautiful grain structure. I have applied 2 coats of the Arm-R-Seal so far. I rubbed it down with 000 steel wool after the first coat and I am waiting for the second coat to dry to do the same again. I figure I’ll probably need 3 or 4 coats to get the protection I am desiring? I can tell you this though. I am loving the results so far. Not too shiny as I am using a satin finish, no brush marks as I am wiping it on and you are still able to see the pores with out that plastic resin look. Clint, I went back and sander it with 220. RussellAP, Chris & Jeffery, I am LOVING the Arm-R Seal. Manitario, I too am thinking about making a sign like you suggested to hang above the table when finished, “Anyone who puts a glass on the table without a coaster will be met with instant and terrible death….”
I am having surgery this Fri am so I am REALLY hoping to finish this by Thurs pm so I can post a finished project as I will be barred from the shop for a couple of weeks recuperating.

Stay tuned for the final results

-- Jim Roberts, Port Orchard Washington

View McLeanVA's profile


493 posts in 4400 days

#15 posted 02-27-2013 04:54 PM

Glad that the Arm-r-seal is working thus far. More importantly, best of luck with your surgery and I wish you a speedy recovery.

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

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