The Right Finish for a Desk/Workspace?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by Eric posted 02-24-2009 04:11 PM 1512 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Eric's profile


875 posts in 5022 days

02-24-2009 04:11 PM

Topic tags/keywords: lego table desk workspace shellac checkerboard

Hi everyone,

I just finished the lego table for my kids, and I have in mind to make another plywood top which will fit inside the lip of the current table, to turn the lego table into a desk/workspace for the kids. I want to have the top be nice and smooth. What will do that – shellac?

What I want to do is to paint a couple things on the top first – like maybe a checkerboard on one half and a backgammon board on the other? Not sure yet. So what would you suggest – shellac, then paint, then shellac again? How many coats?

I’m a total noob at this so I give you permission to talk to me like I’m a total idiot. :^)

-- Eric at

7 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5457 days

#1 posted 02-24-2009 04:15 PM

I’m not sure what would be best as a base coat to paint on. Someone will jump in with some advice, I’m sure. For the topcoat, though, I would definitely use polyurethane. It’s much more durable than shellac for a work surface. You’ll need 2 or 3 coats.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4887 days

#2 posted 02-24-2009 04:16 PM

Eric, since you’re talking about a workspace desk and for kids – I’d recommend shying AWAY from the shellac and going with several layers of Poly (you can dilute it with mineral spirits 50%-50% and get wire on poly) sand between layers with 400/600 grit, and last layer lightly scrub with #0000 steel wool – you’ll have a silky smooth surface that will also offer tremendous amount of protection for a work surface.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 4697 days

#3 posted 02-24-2009 04:28 PM

for a rock solid surface for the kids, epoxy is always an option.

-- San Diego, CA

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 5061 days

#4 posted 02-24-2009 05:02 PM

Eric, I have to agree with the wipe-on poly recommendation. The finish you put on the table is largely a personal matter but, for most of us, paint is simply not an option. If you want to the kids to paint some designs and sign their work then I would put a seal coat of shellac over the paint after the paint has cured and then topcoat it with a wipe-on poly. The shellac will be ready for topcoating within 30 to 60 minutes after applying. Just scuff sand it lightly and apply the wipe-on poly with a clean cotton cloth or paper towel. Wait 4 to 6 hours and apply another coat after scuff sanding again. Repeat this process until you get the finish you like.

By the way save yourself some money and just make your own wipe-on poly. Get an oil base poly and dilute it to a concentration of about 50 percent with mineral spirits.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4912 days

#5 posted 02-25-2009 02:14 AM

I would use a water base poly finish.

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 5022 days

#6 posted 02-25-2009 09:28 AM

Thanks everyone, for your input. I neglected to mention that I HAVE already finished the table itself – I put on a few coats of BLO/varnish/mineral spirits. And I’m happy with that. But I know that I’ll need something different for the “table top” board that will go on top of the piece that’s already there. So my bad if I confused anyone.

Sounds like the wipe-on poly is what I’ll do! Can I paint on top of it? Cuz as it is the board is not smooth enough for a checkerboard – or anything – to look really crisp if I painted straight onto it.

So do I apply a coat (or few) of poly, and then paint, and then more coats (of poly, or shellac then poly as Scott suggests)?

-- Eric at

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 5061 days

#7 posted 02-25-2009 03:41 PM

Eric, you may be able to paint over the poly but you will not get a good bond with the paint I have never intentionally put paint over poly but, on occasion, I have managed to get paint on the trim when I have been “assigned” a room to re-paint. I have always been able to remove the paint without any trouble, even when it has sat for an extended period (since the last time I painted the room) without damaging the poly topcoat.

If I were doing something like this I would paint the checkerboard design on the wood after it has been sanded, seal it with a coat of shellac to prevent bleeding into the poly and then topcoat the shellac with poly.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics