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Mesquite Slab Table #5: Finish Finished and Done

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Blog entry by builtinbkyn posted 05-06-2018 02:38 PM 1914 reads 1 time favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Sneak Peek Part 5 of Mesquite Slab Table series no next part

I had a number of appointments with contractors of various trades over the past week and even had some painting started here in the house. Unfortunately I had to ask the painters to stop work. I guess anyone that can hold a paint brush considers themselves a painter. I’m actually dumbfounded by the lack of skilled tradesman here in Pittsburgh and the lack of responsiveness from many of the contractors I’ve attempted to contact for work. Some don’t respond to calls and some who do show up, never get back to me with any input much less a quote for the work. Speaking to my neighbors, they tell me this is not an anomaly. I have a neighbor that is the principle owner of a very large, well known international construction management firm. When I contacted her to plead for assistance, she said she too finds it difficult to get good qualified tradesmen for her personal work. She told me she needs to speak with her electrical contractor between 5am and noon. After that he’s in the bar lol There was actually an article about the dearth of skilled tradespeople in Pittsburgh in the Pittsburgh Gazette. Ah well I digress. This is about a mesquite cocktail table :) I was able to complete this by stealing time between contractor visits and well, the painting debacle and trying to track down people to come look at jobs I want to get done.

I had a few fits with the finish on the top. The mesquite reacts very differently than other woods – well that was my experience – to certain finishes. I think oil was a poor choice. Some of the grain runs perpendicular to the surface and acts as a straw to continually pull, the finish down into the wood. It really needed a sealer coat or three of shellac. After a few coats of Hope’s Tung Oil I switched to GF Oil & Urethane. There are numerous coats of it which were sanded in-between. I then finished it off with two coats of Waterlox as I was unable to get the look and feel I wanted with the GF. Though the finish looks pretty good, I’m not 100% in love with it. I’ll wait a few weeks to allow the finish to fully cure and then polish it out. If at that point I’m not happy, I’ll redo it.

I’m sort of happy with how this turned out, however it may end up in another part of the house as a cocktail table or even as a bench lol But for now, it’s serving a need where it is.

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn & Steel City :)



21 comments so far

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builtinbkyn

2504 posts in 993 days


#1 posted 05-06-2018 02:44 PM

Oh I almost forgot. I was waiting on a flooring guy to show up and stepped out onto the front porch. I saw a little piece of something sticking up out of one of the flower beds that looked like foreign matter. Couldn’t tell what it was until I unearthed it. I found the St. Joseph statue the prior owners buried to give them luck with selling the house. They used the “carpenter” version.

He has a prominent spot in my shop :)

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn & Steel City :)

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KelleyCrafts

2945 posts in 792 days


#2 posted 05-06-2018 02:50 PM

Very nice Bill. I like it!

-- Dave - http://kelleycrafts.com/ - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

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Dave Polaschek

2275 posts in 635 days


#3 posted 05-06-2018 02:58 PM

Looks good, Bill. A sealer coat of shellac early on might’ve saved you some headaches, but you wouldn’t have the “learning opportunity.” :-/

It’s maybe a little better for contractors here in Minneapolis, but my electrician needs multiple calls before he’ll actually put a guy on the calendar, and the guy who framed and sheetrocked my basement bathroom dropped a hammer in the shower stall, cracking it, and never bothered to tell me. Another company insisted that they only painted a storm door after it was up because they got better results that way…

I figure whoever first said, “if you want a job done right, do it yourself,” was dealing with contractors at the time.

-- Dave - Minneapolis

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builtinbkyn

2504 posts in 993 days


#4 posted 05-06-2018 03:11 PM

Thanks Dave and Dave :)

Dave I didn’t use the sealer coat because I wanted the oil to provide some depth and color to the wood. I made some test pieces and they were fine, but the grain isn’t consistent, so there was really no way of understanding the issues. I’m fairly certain that different mesquite slabs will produce quite different results. Dave has worked with mesquite so he can probably answer to that :)

The article I read claimed that between college attendance rising and a lack of interest in the trades, Millennials aren’t filling in vacancies from retirement and other issues. I sort of buy that, but come on! I watched the painters I had here. They had a paint brush in one hand and a cellphone in the other. They had no interest or pride in what they were doing. They were just doing it for a check.

There’s quite a bit I want to do and at 58, I’m not wanting to do it all myself without some day labor at the very least lol I also don’t want to be humping the materials at this point. Getting up in the morning is always a new experience in pain :(

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn & Steel City :)

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Rich

3184 posts in 642 days


#5 posted 05-06-2018 04:17 PM

I love the table, Bill. I like that you went with a wooden base. I’m so tired of hairpin legs and welded square tubing, and yours is really beautiful.

I work exclusively with mesquite these days, the exception being commissioned work where the customer decides. My go-to finish for furniture, cabinets, etc, is Arm-R-Seal or Waterlox. I use Waterlox when I want a little more darkening, but otherwise it’s always Arm-R-Seal. I spray it and get the benefits of oil but with a film finish durability.

For smaller items like boxes, I use a high-solid pre-cat lacquer, sprayed as well. Lacquer does a good job on its own of bringing out the grain.

Finally, when I do slabs and rounds for serving trays, I use shellac to seal and bring out the grain and then switch to GF High Performance. You know and I know that something like Arm-R-Seal is safe for contact with food, but I’ve found it easier to just go with the waterborne stuff. No raised eyebrows that way.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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builtinbkyn

2504 posts in 993 days


#6 posted 05-06-2018 04:46 PM

Hey thanks Rich. I actually thought about turning mid-century modern taper legs to reflect the house design and vintage. Then I thought again lol

So do you find that there are actually grain patterns in mesquite that run perpendicular to the surface? That seems to occur where the black striations run, which are toward the outer edge. I had quite a few coats on of the GF and after wiping the slab down with alcohol, these areas would swell, just barely, but it was perceptible to the touch. Then on it’s own, it would go away. It was only in those areas.

These are the black striations in the grain I’m referring to.

I also had some difficulty around the knots. Well this was a learning experience as pretty much everything I’m doing is for the first time. It’s actually a pretty wood. I like the side table you made..The figure is quite striking. However I probably won’t get much opportunity to work with mesquite again. This might be a one-off kind of thing.

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn & Steel City :)

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Dave Polaschek

2275 posts in 635 days


#7 posted 05-06-2018 05:14 PM

There’s quite a bit I want to do and at 58, I’m not wanting to do it all myself without some day labor at the very least lol I also don’t want to be humping the materials at this point. Getting up in the morning is always a new experience in pain :(

Yeah. I’m only 53, but with two back surgeries and two replacement knees, mornings aren’t especially fun. And I have to take smaller loads in the wheelbarrow nowadays. No more lazy teenager loads where a guy hauls twice as much as he should so he can make half as many trips. :-/

For me, I’m trying to be a little smarter about which jobs I hire out, and which I do myself. Farm out the heavy lifting, and do the finish work yourself. That kind of thing.

-- Dave - Minneapolis

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Rich

3184 posts in 642 days


#8 posted 05-06-2018 05:31 PM

The striations are just the nature of the wood. The trees are native here (I have probably 40 or more on my lot) and to see them explains a lot about what you find in the lumber. They do not grow straight. In fact, they are very twisted, the branching is completely random as well. That accounts for the high cost since finding timber that can be milled into dimensional lumber is very limited on the tree.

The perpendicular grain you talk about can occur around knots, although I’ve seen grain that was so twisted that after milling some of it was almost perpendicular to the face.

I just grabbed a board from my cutoff bin that has the feature I think you’re describing. I spritzed it to bring out the grain and bumped the clarity way up in Lightroom. On the edge near the center of the photo you can see where the grain around that knot exits the face virtually perpendicular to it. Of course the grain in the knot is end grain where it exits to the face of the board. Photo below.

Anyway, I think you did a beautiful job on the finish. The table couldn’t be any more gorgeous.

And finally, your painter story inspired me to do a forum post. I had started typing some of that here, then figured it’d be rude to hijack your thread with my rant…lol

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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builtinbkyn

2504 posts in 993 days


#9 posted 05-06-2018 05:51 PM

Yup Dave. We have to pick and choose our battles at our advanced age lol Mine was the shop. Oh and the flooring in the loft where the table is. Both had wall to wall. Over 700sq.ft. of the horrid stuff in each space. 20+ year old pink carpeting in the loft. Yuk! So those I ripped out, cut up and disposed of it at the dump myself. I paid for it in terms of morning pain, but oh it was so worth it. Then I laid the flooring, which meant humping the flooring up from the garage to the loft. Not fun. My knees didn’t appreciate the work on any level :( The rest is just way more than I want to do – especially laying large format tile. I’ll leave that to the experts, if I can find any.

Rich I found that grain near knots and some closer to the growth areas. Very odd and yes it did seem to run perpendicular to the face of the slab. You pick shows it well.

Thanks for the complements. They’re nice to see especially when I was kind of getting tired of looking at the table in my shop. It’s a simple – actually as simple as it can get – design, but more work than I anticipated. The fun part was it’s pretty much all hand tool work I used to make it :) The finishing? Next time I’m spraying and with lacquer ;)

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn & Steel City :)

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duckmilk

2954 posts in 1377 days


#10 posted 05-06-2018 06:57 PM

The table looks great Bill, and to me, the finish looks good. You’re smart to let it fully cure before you try anything else.
As far as contractors, I think every friend I have has had stories to tell.

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

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Jerry

2672 posts in 1700 days


#11 posted 05-06-2018 07:03 PM

Freaking amazing! You made George Nakashima look bad!

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be. http://www.geraldlhunsucker.com/

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builtinbkyn

2504 posts in 993 days


#12 posted 05-06-2018 07:24 PM



The table looks great Bill, and to me, the finish looks good. You re smart to let it fully cure before you try anything else.
As far as contractors, I think every friend I have has had stories to tell.

- duckmilk

Thanks Duck. I learned I need to exhibit some patients – mostly from mistakes lol

I’m sure I’m not the only person in this position. Plenty of poor contractor stories out there. I guess I’m just not used to being a customer for these services. Always had reliable subs and when I needed something done for myself, I counted on them.


Freaking amazing! You made George Nakashima look bad!

- Jerry


Thanks Jerry. I wish you were right about the Nakashima complement, but he was a master. I could only hope ;)

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn & Steel City :)

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Gene Howe

10609 posts in 3481 days


#13 posted 05-06-2018 09:27 PM

Bill, like Rich, most of my work is with mesquite, also. Your table is a prime example of why I so enjoy it. While it may present some unique challenges, when it’s treated right, you’re rewarded with a beautiful piece like your table.
I use a multi-step sanding process and a much different finishing regime,both of which are specific to mesquite and way too boring to post here, especially since you’ll not likely be using mesquite again.
Once again, you’ve done a masterful job.

-- 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

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Rich

3184 posts in 642 days


#14 posted 05-06-2018 09:34 PM


I use a multi-step sanding process and a much different finishing regime,both of which are specific to mesquite and way too boring to post here, especially since you ll not likely be using mesquite again.

- Gene Howe

Bore me…lol. I’m always looking to learn new techniques. If not here, do a blog or forum post. Pretty please? :)

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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AandCstyle

3093 posts in 2309 days


#15 posted 05-06-2018 09:37 PM

Bill, that is one fine table. I can easily visualize a couple martini glasses on it, butts not so much. haha

-- Art

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