Drinks coasters

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Forum topic by Betsy posted 10-09-2015 02:12 AM 2129 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3391 posts in 4072 days

10-09-2015 02:12 AM

Topic tags/keywords: drinks coasters

I want to make some drinks coasters for a friend who is getting married back home. She and her hubby to be are quasi minimalists and they don’t plan to have a large house – as she says “if you didn’t have so much stuff you wouldn’t need a big house.” So a gift has to be on the smallish side. I’m also completely aware that it may not fit in their grand scheme of things and the coasters may end up at her mom’s place – which is fine – I have no objections to re-gifting. Long and short though i’m toying with making an end grain cutting board style coaster set. My question goes to finishing and condensation.

I’ve perused quite a number of posts about this question but didn’t really feel like I had a near-definitive answer. An end grain cutting board I finish with mineral oil. But I’m thinking that would not really work well for a coaster as the oil does not “seal” the wood I would think the condensation would seep into the coaster and make it bloat. On the other hand a film finish would lead to the condensation pooling on the coaster or worse – escaping to the table top I want to protect with the coaster.

One other variable as to the condensation is – is there really that much condensation from a glass that the finish on the coaster would really matter. I know the amount of condensation is variable from the temperature of the glass and the temperature in the room, but even with a modest to severe amount of condensation is it something to worry about?

And then of course what of a hot drink – mineral oil and hot just doesn’t sound good to me – in fact on my trivets I use linseed oil.

Oh yeah – another issue is that suction cup effect that sticks the glass to the coaster and when you pick up the drink you also get the coaster.

So if I want to make a coaster for both cold and hot drinks – what finish should I use? I really have my heart set on doing a coaster set just not sure about the finishing.

Any opinions would be appreciated.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

13 replies so far

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 1697 days

#1 posted 10-09-2015 02:35 AM

An uninsulated glass can produce a lot of condensation .. pools of it in certain conditions. Finished wood is not very tolerant of very hot cups. With an oil finish the water will soak into the wood, as you say, although that may not alter the integrity of the wood, unless a glue joint fails but will, likely, swell some when wet and return to size when dry. Also, liquid may soak all the way through in an end grain orientation. I would think most barrier-type finishes would fail. Any type of finish would require regular re-applications.

For all these reasons, you may consider blocks of, say, sandstone and make wooden holders for them. I have coasters made like that which have held up for about 12 years.

View ForestGrl's profile


450 posts in 1262 days

#2 posted 10-09-2015 02:37 AM

[Snip[ One other variable as to the condensation is – is there really that much condensation from a glass that the finish on the coaster would really matter. I know the amount of condensation is variable from the temperature of the glass and the temperature in the room, but even with a modest to severe amount of condensation is it something to worry about?

Any opinions would be appreciated.

- Betsy

The short answer is “Yes.” And it (condensation) is very aggravating. I have a friend who keeps a set of clay (or something like clay) coasters for guests cold drinks, and it’s always so much more pleasant using those—the drink doesn’t mess them up, and they don’t stick to the bottom of the cold glass. I have no suggestions as to finish (my weakest area), but I do encourage you to keep the condensation thing in mind.

-- My mother said that anyone learning to cook needed a large dog to eat the mistakes. As a sculptor of wood I have always tried to keep a fireplace. (Norman Ridenour)

View lew's profile (online now)


12384 posts in 3931 days

#3 posted 10-09-2015 02:49 AM

Even though these aren’t actual coasters, they could double for them.

I made some very small (about 4” diameter) end grain, walnut circles to be used as a counter top garlic smasher/peeler surface. I used TightBond III glue and a mineral oil finish (because of the food contact). Maybe a Spar Varnish might seal the end grain sufficiently to afford protection.

A coaster would probably be pretty thin. Maybe a mineral oil bath would completely saturate the wood, thus providing protection. Of course, mineral oil may leach out later and stain the surface on which it was setting. Well seems like I’m making things even more confusing. I’ll go home now.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4072 days

#4 posted 10-09-2015 03:13 AM

You’re funny Lew!

Thanks for the input guys.

Yonak – glue joints never crossed my path of thought but it should have. if the condensation sets in – while it may swell and return to size while dry – it could just as easily crack the piece.

I’m going to think more on this. I’ve got several months before the wedding to make up my mind.

I’ll see about some more ideas for these and check back in with you all.

Thanks agan.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View jerryminer's profile


944 posts in 1617 days

#5 posted 10-09-2015 05:48 AM

I know you’re looking for a woodworking project,—-but not every situation calls for a wooden answer.

Sandstone works MUCH better as a coaster than anything else I know of—it actually absorbs the condensation, then releases it through evaporation after the drink is gone.

As Yonak suggested above, I suggest buying some sandstone coasters and building a wood box or rack for them.

-- Jerry, making sawdust professionally since 1976

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18380 posts in 3852 days

#6 posted 10-09-2015 08:01 AM

We have had a set of wooden coaster for many years and they are holding up fine. Usually they are exposed to cold and condensation, not heat. However, they have a thin coating of cork to protect the center and they are not end grain. Sorry, I’m not sure what kind of wood they are, but I think they are oak.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2251 days

#7 posted 10-09-2015 09:59 AM

I made coasters out of scrabble tiles, gluing them to a cork bottom. I can’t recall what I sealed them with, but they now stick to hot cups. Annoying. I read that craft Hodge Podge (miracle stuff according to crafters) will seal just about anything and tolerates heat. Might be worth looking into.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View ellen35's profile


2738 posts in 3608 days

#8 posted 10-09-2015 10:39 AM

I made several sets of coasters (on My Projects pages) and finished them with spray on spar varnish. I used 6 coats. I have been using them myself for about 6 years with all kinds of drinks, hot and cold, and they are impervious to any stains or changes in the wood. They look like the day I made them. I bought spar varnish at the local hardware store. I made both end grain and long grain ones. I really like the all wood look.

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View Tennessee's profile


2889 posts in 2690 days

#9 posted 10-09-2015 11:34 AM

My first inclination was cork inserts, then sandstone was mentioned, but I remember having sandstone coasters that didn’t absorb, so you have to get the proper sandstone. (I don’t know what type is right, but the sandstone they build buildings out of is the wrong one.)

Then I read the spar varnish post from Ellen and remembered my own use of spar, in my first dining room table back in the 80’s when my boys were two messy food eating machines who often left the table looking like a lot of Klingons had eaten supper at my house. That spar held up for years, and I never remember refinishing it, just wiping it with a damp cloth every night.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4072 days

#10 posted 10-10-2015 06:08 AM

Paul – watching a little too much Star Trek? :-)

Thanks for the responses. I’m going to go the spar varnish route – I’ve got my heart set on end grain coasters. I’m going to make a few trial ones this weekend or next and see what happens. But I think that spar is probably the way to go.

Now I did have an interesting discussion about this with a complete stranger at home depot. I was looking for linseed oil and he was looking for glue – one thing led to another and pretty soon it was “what project do you need linseed oil for.” He suggested using a watered down glue to seal the end grain. Not sure that is a good option – but just goes to show you never know where ideas will come from and if a person is looking for gallon size containers of wood glue they can’t be half-bad!

I’ll let you know about how I come out.

Thanks for all the help.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Burb's profile


110 posts in 2546 days

#11 posted 10-13-2015 01:26 AM

I’m considering making me f these for some holiday get together soon I’m being bullied into hosting (my wife can be a bully that way). My first thoughts were to use spar varnish as well, which I bought this past weekend. I’m also considering the round cork pieces at hobby lobby to inset into them.

Lastly, while I love end grain cutting boards, I’d think that if any style coaster would soak moisture it’d be end grain style. I’d think long grain would be more resistant.

Either way I’m looking forward to your project. Curious of dimensions, specifically thickness. Also woods used.

Best of luck to you on this!!

-- I aspire to be a novice woodworker...

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 1697 days

#12 posted 10-13-2015 02:59 PM

I ll let you know about how I come out.

- Betsy

Betsy, kindly make a note to report back in a year. It would be valuable for all to learn the final result.

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4072 days

#13 posted 10-15-2015 03:58 AM

Burb – I’ve actually taken a few end grain board scraps and cut them into coaster sized bits. They are now guinea pigs with a few friends who are more civilized than I and actually use coasters. One is untreated in any way, one is finished with spar and one was finished with some glossy poly I had left over from my chess board project. I do agree that an end grain coaster may not be the best – but I’m going to give this a couple of weeks and see how they come out. I really have my heart set on end grain for my friend’s wedding gift – not sure why – face grain would be simpler and faster – but therein squats the toad.

As for dimensions – from what I can figure a 3.5 x. 3.5 would be close to a good size for a square coaster. I also think a 3.5” diameter round would be a good size. It’s just a “looks good to me size”. I simply used a compass and a piece of paper – drew some circles, and ruled out some squares, placed an 8 ounce glass in the center and then a bottle of soda and decided that 3.5 just was more pleasing to my eye. Although I have to admit on the circle I was really torn between the 3.5 and the 4 but 3.5 won.

The thickness I’m still wavering on. 1/4” seems way too thin, 3/8 seems about right and 1/2” just looks way too chunky. With end grain I think if I go anywhere below 3/8 that I might be running into trouble with, for lack of a better word, sturdiness. Not sure though.

Yonak – I’ll be reporting back sooner than a year – my friend gets married way before then!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

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