Finish suggestions for a dining room tabletop

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Forum topic by HeirloomWoodworking posted 03-10-2008 04:19 AM 79513 views 4 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View HeirloomWoodworking's profile


238 posts in 3766 days

03-10-2008 04:19 AM

Topic tags/keywords: tip question oak finishing

I wonder if I could get some feedback from my fellow wood crafters regarding the proper and correct finishing product (clear coat over stain to match the cabinetry) to use on my next project.

Currently making plans and gathering materials for a double pedestal dining room table in red oak. The base top will be 1” x 42” x 60” with 3 – 12” leaves, making the completely extended top 42” x 96”.

The queen and I are still in the kid raising business so I want to give the top a quality finish that will wear well. (Ok it is probably not the kids that are hard on the table…I am mostly to blame).

Lately I have been finishing most of my furniture with General Finishes Arm-R-Seal, and I have really grown to like how it applies and finishes. I am unsure if it is the right product to use on a everyday table top. I will call their tech support for their suggestions, but I was wondering what you other crafters prefer to use on this type of application.

Thanks in advance for your input.

Trevor Premer
Heirloom Woodworking

-- Trevor Premer Head Termite and Servant to the Queen - Heirloom Woodworking

15 replies so far

View lechevaldebois's profile


54 posts in 3782 days

#1 posted 03-10-2008 05:17 AM

On table tops, I like using tung oil as a base then 8 to 10 thin coats of Minwax wipe-on varnish, scuff-sanding (320 grit) every 2 coats. Then polish with natural beeswax.

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3800 days

#2 posted 03-10-2008 08:17 AM

Hi Trev

Laminate with wood trim is the best kid proof top. I have always used 2 coats of poly urethane and wax on my solid tops. You can sand and refinish after there older. Then theres the grand kids!


-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4015 days

#3 posted 03-10-2008 08:22 AM

Polyurethane. It’s water proof and as Tom said, it’s easy to sand and add another coat later.

You can repair it at any time.

If you want a satin finish just put that on last. Use a couple of coats high gloss under it because it’s

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3848 days

#4 posted 03-10-2008 11:55 AM

I prefer to use poly for table tops like this. It is going to take a beating and liquid spills on it. Poly stands to a lot of abuse and is easy to repair.

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

View HeirloomWoodworking's profile


238 posts in 3766 days

#5 posted 03-10-2008 03:50 PM

Thanks for the advice men.

I should not be as hard on the new table as I was on the old one. Now that I have heat in my shop, I won’t have to clean fish, grind venison or use the Queens table as a woodworking bench. Voice from the family room…”Can you please only bang on that %$#& chisel during commercials”.


-- Trevor Premer Head Termite and Servant to the Queen - Heirloom Woodworking

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3989 days

#6 posted 03-10-2008 04:10 PM

Trev, I use wipe on Poly that I mix 75% gloss and 15% mineral spirits. I usually seal with a coat of Bullseye shellac and then scuff sand between coats. Use lots of coats and then you can control the gloss with buffing and wax. I use the gloss because you do not need to stir it which raises bubbles.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 4112 days

#7 posted 03-10-2008 04:45 PM

Trev, I have done a few tables in the recent past and I find that by using a wipe on poly I can buld up the finsih pretty quickly. I lay on very thin coats and they only take about 15 minutes to dry. I then run my hand over the surface to check for dust nibs and if there only a few, I lay on another coat. When I do feel more, I will quickly knock them down with 400 grit. Once I get the finish built up enough, I will then rub it out with 600 up to 1200 wet sanding. That will take care of the rest of dust nibbs and will remove any ridges in the finish. When that is done, I move to my buffer, with a quick run of automotive rubbing compound followed by a couple of very thin coats of wax. That will leave me with a very high gloss finish. If i want a satin finish, I skip the rubbing compound and hand apply the wax. It doesn’t take as long as it sounds. I can ususally finish a table top in about 3 or 4 eveings.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4017 days

#8 posted 03-10-2008 05:26 PM

I use Poly. It was designed for wooden flooring so it’s designed to be tough. Let each coat dry hard (at least 24 hours) then power sand with 220 grit to remove the “nubs”. Your topcoat won’t get sanded of course and it will be as smooth as glass. I usually go just two coats but more will protect more. Satin seems to look best and hides minor scratches, but gloss will make your project glow in the dark! And like Gary said, “It’s easy to repair.”

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3771 days

#9 posted 03-10-2008 05:37 PM

When my kid was home, I made tables with a plexiglass table cover ;]

View Don Niermann  's profile

Don Niermann

219 posts in 3999 days

#10 posted 03-11-2008 03:29 AM

General Finishec Arm.R .seal

-- WOOD/DON ( has the right to ones opinion but not the right to ones own facts...)

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3901 days

#11 posted 03-11-2008 10:48 AM

I’d suggest the polyurethane, as well. Best water protection.

View JIM RHODES's profile


1 post in 2671 days

#12 posted 03-01-2011 12:41 AM

I finished my Red Oak dining room table a few years back and I have fish eyes in it where the dark oak grain is. I was thinking on using Tung oil to refinish it. Any advice? JIM

-- Bowl Turner JIM

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2877 days

#13 posted 03-01-2011 02:33 AM

Are you planning to use a filler to get the oak smooth and flat first? It’s something to consider.

I support the poly guys. As a general rule, if you are within the mfr’s window, you don’t need to sand between coats, but usually if you let it go past a certain point, then you’ve got to scuff it for a mechanical bond because it’s hard enough the new stuff can’t cut back into the existing surface. Check the label for this.

WB poly dries a lot faster than solvent based. It’s not quite as hard a finish, but it sounds like a logical candidate for your particular situation.

And here’s something I’ve never seen mentioned on LJ: STRAIN YOUR MATERIAL BEFORE EACH APPLICATION. Those little conical sieves are real cheap, and if you strain EVERY TIME you’ll be amazed at how much less you have to fuss with nibbies and nubbies.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View HeirloomWoodworking's profile


238 posts in 3766 days

#14 posted 03-01-2011 07:00 AM

Yes Lee I agree with your suggestion for grain filler. I did not use filler on my table top and you can deffinately feel a slight grain ripple in the finish on my finished top. Live and learn.

I used Arm-R-Seal and I am very very satisfied with the durability of the top after a couple of years of usage in our home.
Click for details

I have also used the straining trick on several projects and I strongly reccommend it as well….another tool added to my finishing learning curve.

Snowman, how was your top originally finished? Are the fish-eyes under the top coat? are you intending to sand the surface down and start anew? If possible post some pictures and the folks here are Lumberjocks will help you.

Thanks for the comments.


-- Trevor Premer Head Termite and Servant to the Queen - Heirloom Woodworking

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2717 days

#15 posted 03-01-2011 04:54 PM

Spray your poly for an incredibly even coat.

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

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