White oak finishing

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Forum topic by TimF posted 03-19-2010 02:47 AM 5431 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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31 posts in 3480 days

03-19-2010 02:47 AM

Hello all. I’m getting ready to finish a piece for a customer made out of white oak. I haven’t made anything out of white oak in quite a while. And when I did, I gave it 2 to 3 of coats of polyurethane. But I’ve had problems with yellowing later on. I would like some ideas from somebody on how they have done projects with white oak and kept the wood as light colored as possible with a satin finish. Thanks Tim

7 replies so far

View Michael Murphy's profile

Michael Murphy

453 posts in 3245 days

#1 posted 03-19-2010 03:27 AM

White oak will yellow all by itself. Cherry gets reddish browner. It probably is not the finish yellowing but the wood itself. If you use a natural finish, i.e clear lacquer, it will get brownish yellow over time. Keep it in a dark room.

-- Michael Murphy, Woodland, CA.

View TraumaJacques's profile


433 posts in 3740 days

#2 posted 03-19-2010 03:29 AM

3-4 coats ( thin) Lacquer once it is cured dull it with 0000 steel wool and soapy water that will give a nice effect.

-- All bleeding will eventually stop.

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 4027 days

#3 posted 03-19-2010 04:29 AM

Almost all oil based finishes will yellow. Water-borne acrylic finishes won’t yellow. I have some almost 100 year old oak white oak that has darkened some, but it has not yellowed.



-- Go

View Don Newton's profile

Don Newton

716 posts in 3858 days

#4 posted 03-19-2010 05:28 AM

If you like to use poly just switch to the water based polycrylic. As Gofor said, The water based finishes won’t yellow.

-- Don, Pittsburgh

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3369 days

#5 posted 03-19-2010 06:18 AM

I concur with Gofor and Don, use the acrylic. Its really easy with short drying times. Between coats wet sand with a cork and 400 grit and finish with 600 wet sand, wax it, and you get sheen without glare and no yellow.

View linjay's profile


101 posts in 2864 days

#6 posted 03-22-2011 10:49 PM

I’m working on a display cabinet in whiite oak and have been looking into finishing. I’ve never used white oak before but I’ve had some in storage for about 20 years so it seemed like a good idea. The one thing I noticed is that it’s not really white. It has a greenish-grey tinge to it. Not what I was expecting. I thought perhaps it had aged to this colour but some new wood is pretty much the same—but not quite as dark or distinct.

I foiund some info on site below—that’s specifically talking about floors but I found the recommendation to staini white oak to be worth looking into.

“Now, we got Bona Traffic. An easy to use waterbased urethane that is equal in durability to moisture cure. Yes, it’s expensive. If it was my house, I’d stain the floor a light golden (maybe mix in a little cherry color) with Bona Dri-Fast stain and follow that up with three coats of Bona Traffic. Your white oak will look a little greyish/blond/green without stain. Trust me on this, white oak natural is not that attractive unless you use a sealer that will enhance the color and bring out the gold in the wood. Use what you want but todays floor finishes are designed to reduce maintenence. Waterlox will not do that. It will require more maintenence.”

Finishing with Waterlox Original was covered in the most recent issue of Fine Woodworking and it sounds like it may be fine for a furniture finish. But I may stick to my standard tried and ture Varathane Satin waterbased urethane finish. It doesn’t yellow noiticeably. I have some pine vanity cabinets I made 6 years ago when we were using oil based urethane and they have yellowed a lot. Other pine in the same location for the same time but done with Varathane Satin waterbased is pretty much unchanged in colour.

-- It's easy when you know how - but that's the hard part. Ontario, Canada

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2930 days

#7 posted 03-23-2011 03:50 PM

All wood darkens with time, some faster than others. All finishes do not darken with time. For your situation a waterbased topcoat is the answer, it will not yellow, but the wood may still darken depending on how much sunlight it gets.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

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