Reply by AJLastra

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Posted on Best table top finishes?

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87 posts in 2197 days

#1 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!!


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