Hard wood coffee table finish

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Forum topic by v8extra posted 08-12-2011 10:10 PM 11329 views 2 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18 posts in 3024 days

08-12-2011 10:10 PM

Hello dear woodworkers,

The finish of every hand crafted furniture is not only the last step in the making process but also last one that people will see. It does not only affect the look but also might have a profond impact on how the furniture will react to its environment, thus been either the climate or anthropomorphic.

I have starting this new thread because I need your help! My situation is the following : I just finished a large coffee table about 41”x41”x16” high. The table is made out of Ipe or Lapacho (A very dense and heavy wood).

I dont have children yet but they are in the process of being made… So as you might understand this table will suffer and as the title state, I am looking for a finish to put on this table.

The first and only treatment I have already done was to apply some Cutek Green on it (wood sealer, solvent based).

I am now in the process of finding what would suit my situation better. At first I was considering putting an oil based polyurethane on the table (many layers of Arm-R-Sceal). (But my sealer has already darken my wood to the desired level, I dont really want to see the cooler change much). With such finish, from what I have read the result would be a strong finish that can cope with water, wine and so forth (a situation that would allow me to put my glass of water or wine straight on the table without fear on seeing a white circle appearing).

Today, I went to LeeValleys, explained my situation to a woodworking pro. He told me to forget about the poly and go with orange wax only. (I bought the wax and tried it on a small piece of wood but I fear that might not be enough).

Looking for more answers I decided to open my book on finish and they mention puting a filler first before the application of the wax (kind of lacquer), even on hard wood such as rose wood and so forth.

After giving a good look at the pore of my wood, I beleive the filler is a good idea (I which to know what you think about this). The pore are still open and not filled.

I know there is different path to reach my goal but but since I am far from being a pro. I beleive your experience my be great learning tool and might even save my furniture from an inadequate finish.

Any suggestion would be more then welcome!

Thanks a lot for your help.


16 replies so far

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2828 days

#1 posted 08-12-2011 11:38 PM

I covered my beeswing pattern bubinga tables with Tried & True varnish. Very hard finish and has held up with my twin daughters for the last 6 years without a problem. The other nice thing about the Tried & True varnish is it’s easy to add a new coat to bring the wow back out.

I’ve used Arm-R-Seal oil/urethane finish on dozens of projects and they have lasted for many, many years without any problems.

Another option is conversion varnish sprayed on. Very hard and durable finish. Should last under heavy use and abuse.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4301 days

#2 posted 08-13-2011 12:10 AM


-- 温故知新

View v8extra's profile


18 posts in 3024 days

#3 posted 08-13-2011 08:44 AM

DLCW, is there any reason why you changed from Arm-R-Seal to Tried & True varnish.

Tried and True varnish seems quite hard to apply, and the last one done not build a protective film… I am not sure I should aim or not toward a finish that produces a film or not.

Migth limited knowledge in finishes force me to beleive that a product like Waterlox, might produce a more durable finish.

By any luck you any of there product be resistant to water and wine…

Thanks again for your help, I wish to hear more about the advantages between the waterlox, Tried & Trued, Arm-R-Seal, and simple orange wax + unknown filler.

Thanks again.

View v8extra's profile


18 posts in 3024 days

#4 posted 08-13-2011 05:11 PM

I have contacted waterlox… I will tell you what they say.

Any suggestions regarding a food filler for crack… beetle bug holes and so forth… (other then saw dust and glue…)


View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2864 days

#5 posted 08-14-2011 04:33 AM

If you want to fill the grain as well as small bug holes, I would use Timber Mate grain filler matched to your wood. Sand after application [very easy] , then coat with Spar or poly for a very child proof finish. I get my Timber Mate frrom Woodcraft. I have used the Walnut wood filler on Ipe with excellent results. See camera box on my projects.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View v8extra's profile


18 posts in 3024 days

#6 posted 08-14-2011 08:51 PM

It seem I have now three options:

1- Waterlox (which I am still waiting answers from the manufacturer).
2- Spar (a marine type varnish).
3- Arm-R-Seal

My first choice is now Waterlox, because it is the finish that seems to be less plastic looking.

View v8extra's profile


18 posts in 3024 days

#7 posted 08-25-2011 06:37 PM

Ok here is the drastic update.

I bought the Waterlox sealer and finish.

Please remember that I have applied Cutek Green on the wood previously (a wood preservative, dont ask me why).

After the application of the first coast of waterlox, I have seen appear on the table a dusty yellow residus (the work place is immaculate and has no dust in the air).

Since then all my coat of waterlox have end up with this powdery yellow dust on top. (I did not wait the full 24 h between coast (12 hours). I am wondering if it is not the Lapacol that might be leaking out of the pores as the varnish is drying…

I dont really want to sand back to raw the furniture… but actually my finish is not glossy at all…

Any idea…

View v8extra's profile


18 posts in 3024 days

#8 posted 08-25-2011 07:29 PM

I recently read that the lapachol, the yellow dust that is found in the pores of ipe and lapacho, can be removed using acetone. Then prior to finishing, a quick run with denatured alcool would remove the lapachol that has got back in the pores meanwhile.


My question now turn to the following, how would my coat of waterlox react to acetone and alcool.

Any how I fear I wll have to sand back the table to the raw wood do the acetone and alcool run and then apply a great layer of waterlox…

The worst is that I am ahving discussions with the Waterlox people and they are telling that they have been applying waterlox over ipe since forever and they have never seen such a reaction…

View PurpLev's profile


8541 posts in 3822 days

#9 posted 08-25-2011 07:35 PM

do you have any cutoffs from the material you used for the table?

If you do, I’d try doing some tests on those with the finish – clean one with acetone, and finish it with waterlox, finish another one without the acetone, see what you get and compare it with your already sealed table… this might give you some clues and ideas as to what you can do.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View v8extra's profile


18 posts in 3024 days

#10 posted 08-25-2011 07:40 PM

That is of course the best course of action, but again dont ask me why but my shop is 2h30 away from my house. So no as we speak I dont have a spare piece of wood…

In this case, patience will have to be a virtu


View v8extra's profile


18 posts in 3024 days

#11 posted 08-25-2011 08:54 PM

And I must say to all that Timber Mate is a great product…

I got information back from waterlox and I must say that there service is exemplairy.

They have not seen this before, and are suggesting me to sand the surface with 220 or 320 sand paper clean the surface with mineral spirit wait one night and apply another coat in the case were I would sitll get dust deposit. I would be forced to sand back to the wood, and then do the acetone and alcool pretreatment.

Note : Acetone will dilute the finish…

View Manitario's profile


2653 posts in 3057 days

#12 posted 08-25-2011 09:47 PM

I don’t have much experience finishing, but I’m in the process of reading the “bible” of finishing by Bob Flexner; “Understanding Wood Finishing”. Here’s what I understand is going on with your finish: the Cutek Green is oil based (looks like a oil/varnish mix) and you applied a water based finish over it; this is ok as long as the Cutek Green was completely cured, which from the reaction you got when applying the waterlox, it probably wasn’t. Most water based finishes can be damaged by alcohol, so if you use it on the existing waterlox now, you’ll damage it. Honestly, it sucks, but your best bet would be to sand down the surface to bare wood and start over. You can seal the raw wood with a thin coat of bleached shellac; it won’t colour the wood but it will seal it and Waterlox would bond well to shellac. Waterlox (or any clear, water based film finish) will give you the clearest finish, but a wipe on poly (varnish) is more durable although not by much.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Manitario's profile


2653 posts in 3057 days

#13 posted 08-25-2011 10:59 PM

oops. my bad. Guess my rookie status is still intact.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View v8extra's profile


18 posts in 3024 days

#14 posted 08-29-2011 07:33 PM

Ok here my week-end results:

After the discussion with Waterlox VP, he suggested me to clean up the wood with mineral spirit, then apply another coat.

I did so, but with the following method. I applyed the mineral spirit on the wood (it would not dry… so I wipe it off, major color change in the wood, the it felt like if I had remove the varnish… )

Then I applied the sealant/varnish. It was impressive, the yellow powder buildup of top of the wood was instanteneous. So as soon as the varnish was bearly dry (few minutes about one hours) I remove the yellow powder by wiping it off with a dry cloath… then reapply another coat. My idea was so remove as much yellow powder from the wood. As I was doing so there were much less powder showing up.

The VP told me that waterlox was a product that did not need sanding between coast because the second coat applied was actually eating up a bit the last coat… So my idea was to do so untill I could not see more yellow powder comming up… (removing the lapachol (yellow stuff) faster then it can be replenished in the woods pore).

After two coats I ran out of waterlox scealer and finish and waited 24 hours before I decided to use the satin finish from waterlox. I applied one coat (a thick one). MAGIC…. I finally get a finish… I will be doing a second coat and hopefully last coat tonight…

Here is the look (before the last coat) ...
Next I will be using IPE, I will do the acetone and alcool run first to prepare and clean up the wood…

View PurpLev's profile


8541 posts in 3822 days

#15 posted 08-29-2011 07:41 PM

looks good. interesting about the yellow powedry matter

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

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