Quarter-Sawn Oak Table Top Finish

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Forum topic by TedS posted 12-28-2011 09:45 PM 5208 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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14 posts in 3100 days

12-28-2011 09:45 PM

I’m using one-inch thick quarter-sawn oak planks I salvaged from an old office desk to build a new kitchen table. I’ve seen various recommendations for how to finish it once planing and sanding are complete. My goal is to bring out the grain and natural color as much as possible and have a finish that resists moisture and other damage—the top will get a lot of daily use. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

-- Ted, Wisconsin

17 replies so far

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3037 days

#1 posted 12-28-2011 09:59 PM

I would use a clear polyurethane like Minwax Polycrylic. Try some on a piece of scrap.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View casual1carpenter's profile


354 posts in 2444 days

#2 posted 12-28-2011 10:11 PM

Would the clear polyurethane like Minwax Polycrylic pop the grain and ray fleck?

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3043 days

#3 posted 12-28-2011 11:55 PM

A stain will help you pop the grain more than the poly. A basic Golden Oak stain will not change the color very much.

You still need the poly for the protection it offers.

Do not consider a combination stain and poly.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3448 days

#4 posted 12-29-2011 12:12 AM

I agree that stain will cause the grain to stand out. What I have done is use an alcohol dye, then polyurathane over it. If you look in my gallery at the tall mission clock, you will see how that turned out. Its white oak with the dye/poly. The panels in the sides are QS white oak plywood so they dont have the grain that the solid wood has on the frame/edges. You can get the dye in many colors and actually mix them to create what you would like…testing it on a test piece of course before applying it.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4186 days

#5 posted 12-29-2011 12:13 AM

Rich’s suggestion is good. Or you could try some boiled linseed oil on a scrap and see if you like how that makes the grain pop. But definitely go with the polyurethane afterwards for its protective characteristics.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View EarlS's profile (online now)


929 posts in 2316 days

#6 posted 12-29-2011 12:29 AM

I would agree with the polyurethane. I spent a couple of weeks getting a super smooth finish with lots of depth using the poly/boiled linseed oil/thinner followed by wax/oil on my coffee table. My wife spilled water on it and now it has a water stain from the spill. I’m in the process of starting over – this time with polyurethane or polyacrylic. First though I have to sand out the water stain and most of the finish.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View NiteWalker's profile


2736 posts in 2545 days

#7 posted 12-29-2011 12:51 AM

Water based poly alone won’t do much for the grain.
What I would do is use transtint dye in zinsser sealcoat to enhance the ray flecks and then top coat with a good quality water based clear coat. I like crystalac super premium from mcfeelys. It’s much more durable than polycrylic.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3712 days

#8 posted 12-29-2011 01:19 AM

I use pure tung oil on my dining tables. It’s time consuming, but I put about 10-15 coats on, starting with a tung oil/turpentine mix and gradually end up with pure tung oil. The first coats will need about a day or so between coats and the later may have to go a couple of days between. Tung oil is very water resistant. The white stains you get from water, is caused by water getting under the finish. Water will bead up on the surface, but, as with any finish, if you spill something on it, wipe it off. I renew the finish once a year on my tables with one coat of pure tung oil. No sanding required. If it’s scratched or damaged, its also easily repaired.

View TedS's profile


14 posts in 3100 days

#9 posted 12-29-2011 02:12 PM

Thanks for all the great advice. Very much appreciate it. Our 1959 ranch has all golden-oak-stained oak trim which is still in good shape so that’s a natural for the new kitchen table. Best vibes from America’s Dairyland.

-- Ted, Wisconsin

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2808 days

#10 posted 12-30-2011 04:08 AM

If you want to try an old method.
The oak has a very high tannin content. Spray some steel wool with water and let it rust for a day or two. Toss the wool in a jar and cover with vinegar for a day. Strain mixture and apply to a scrap. Watch what it does. You can increase this affect with tea in the mixture. The tannin and the rust mixture will blacken the wood a lot. Just another thought. That is why if you use hardware pick brass not steel.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View TedS's profile


14 posts in 3100 days

#11 posted 12-30-2011 02:05 PM

Interesting idea. Gotta wonder how anyone stumbled upon this method in the first place. Thanks, Ted

-- Ted, Wisconsin

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3712 days

#12 posted 12-30-2011 03:10 PM

Ted, be sure to try the vinegar method on some scrap, not your table top. That method is used to ebonize oak, so unless you’re after a gray finish, or have a new sander that you want to put a couple of hours on, I wouldn’t put it on the table top.

View TedS's profile


14 posts in 3100 days

#13 posted 12-30-2011 03:19 PM

Thanks, Tim. I’m going for a natural look that brings out the exotic grain of the quarter-sawn oak so don’t want to darken the material anymore than necessary. I found a website that recommends Deft Danish oil followed by several coats clear Deft lacquer. Seems like a good approach.

-- Ted, Wisconsin

View Al Killian's profile

Al Killian

85 posts in 2593 days

#14 posted 01-01-2012 02:59 AM

I like the look of danish oil. It will make the color and grain stand out. Afew coats will be a good finish and protect it from ragular wear.

-- Owner of custom millwork shop

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2818 days

#15 posted 01-01-2012 03:16 AM

I’m not seeing any comments on filling the grain.

Are you going to build enough coats to flat sand it and get it really smooth?



-- " 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"

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