table top refinish question

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Forum topic by bobtom posted 02-05-2010 02:28 AM 1927 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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14 posts in 3255 days

02-05-2010 02:28 AM

I have recently stripped the old finish off our oak dining room table. While looking through the site today
I happened to notice an article on refinishing a kitchen table. The writer said that he preferred using a
water based varathane for the final finishing. My question is: What is the best, oil based poly or varathane?
Is there another better alternative. Any help would be much appreciated. I have restained and am ready to begin the final work.

Thanks, Bob

-- Bob,Fort Worth Texas

4 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4019 days

#1 posted 02-05-2010 03:25 AM

Bob, this is largely a matter of personal choice. I tend to use water based varnishes only on rare occasions. Whether you use an oil or water base product it will provide surface protection for the table. I will usually use an oil base product because I happen to prefer the look that it gives vs that of a water based product. Oil base poly is the varnish that I largely use. It adds a nice amber color to the wood as it ages giving it a “warm” appearance. It does have an odor that some woodworkers find disagreeable and it will persist for quite a while but the odor really does not bother me. In fact, I don’t mind the smell at all.

Water base poly has virtually no odor and will produce a nearly colorless topcoat. It tends give the wood a bluish cast that I find to be rather “cold” in appearance and somewhat unnatural.

But I would suggest that you try both products on a piece of scrap and decide for yourself which one you would rather use on your table.

One note I would add is that irrespective of which product you go with make sure you apply it to all surfaces of the table. If you neglect to seal the underside of the table the wood will cup over time due to the difference in moisture penetration between the two sides.

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

View Mogebier's profile


170 posts in 3230 days

#2 posted 02-05-2010 03:39 AM

I am doing a similar project to yours right now. Our dining room table is oak and was my Grandmothers, then my Mom’s and now mine. It’s 61 years old. I have seen it over the years in different states of paint and stain. Right now it and the 4 chairs were a real dark brown stain from the 1980’s. Ugly. So I have been stripping the chairs one at a time and will do the table last. I have 3 chairs done. I am using an oil based Minwax stain colored “Gunstock”. It leans toward the red end of stains. Then I have been putting on 3 coats of Oil Gloss Poly on them. They are shiny!
When I get to the table, I will probably put 3 coats of Poly on the legs and the sides of the top, but at least 6 coats on the table top. I made a headboard for our bed years ago and put 6 coats of gloss Poly on it, and it shines like glass.

-- You can get more with a kind word and a 2 by 4, than you can with just a kind word.

View bobtom's profile


14 posts in 3255 days

#3 posted 02-05-2010 04:41 AM

Thanks for the quick responses to the question. I want to thank you Scott for the tip to coat all surfaces.
I’ll be sure to do that.
Take care and God Bless

-- Bob,Fort Worth Texas

View Rev_John's profile


94 posts in 4086 days

#4 posted 02-05-2010 05:12 AM

What Scot told you is true, you will get a good protection with either oil or water poly. I repair and conserve furniture and the school of thought there is to put on something that is easily reversible who they would say oil or shellac and wax is best, but for your kitchen table that is not an antique, you should use poly on the top. 6 or 6 coats with a light sanding between, clean up, coat, etc. The rest of the table can be any finish but poly is good as well. About 3 coats with sanding in between them. I have used oil poly for years, but I am beginning to switch over to water based. It has no smell, is non-toxic and dries quicker.
Good woodworking and let us see the finished table.

-- John from Jackson, Michigan

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