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Finish for Walnut Slab Coffee Table

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Forum topic by PittsburghTim posted 02-09-2012 11:49 PM 6102 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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PittsburghTim

214 posts in 1074 days


02-09-2012 11:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question walnut finishing

I am working on a walnut coffee table in the style of George Nakashima. The legs will be made from 2 3/4 inch walnut slab and the top is a roughly 4 ft by 4 ft slab from the crotch of a walnut tree. The figure is amazing.

I am trying to decide how to finish it. I don’t want to stain it, only apply a clear gloss finish. The finish must be very durable as it will be in our gameroom and I still have kids at home. There is one small area that needed to be filled and my intent was to fill it with an epoxy. I am comfortable with gloss polyurethane, but don’t know if it will adhere over an epoxy fill. I would consider an epoxy finish for the entire top, but have never used such a product as mirror coat and would hate to learn on such a beautiful and expensive piece of wood.

If anyone has experience with poly over an epoxy fill or with using mirror coat on a large tabletop, I would appreciate some advice as to how I should proceed.

Thanks,

Tim

-- She asked me, "Who are you going to please with that?" I said, "Me."


14 replies so far

View CharlesNeil's profile

CharlesNeil

1171 posts in 2623 days


#1 posted 02-10-2012 12:54 AM

yea man, this I like, tell me a bit more, what do you want the finish to look like when done, high gloss, satin, what do the edges look like, as with Mike above, a pic would help alot, perhaps something on this order, http://intheworkshop.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/clario-slab-finishing-and-stuff/

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PittsburghTim

214 posts in 1074 days


#2 posted 02-10-2012 01:30 AM

I want a high gloss finish. The piece has live edges on the sides and cuts at what was the trunk and the two main branches. I don’t have a picture handy, buy it is 99% solid, with only one small ( a few square inches) in the center that needs to be filled. I have cleaned the live edges and used a wire wheel on the cuts to produce what looks like a rough-sawn finish. I didn’t think that a clean, crisp cut on the ends would fit the natural, rustic feel I was hoping to achieve. I will try to post a picture of the slab tomorrow.

-- She asked me, "Who are you going to please with that?" I said, "Me."

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1479 posts in 1114 days


#3 posted 02-10-2012 02:39 AM

If you can’t live without a high gloss finish, take it to a body shop and have them hit it with a clear coat.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View fussy's profile

fussy

980 posts in 1803 days


#4 posted 02-10-2012 05:22 AM

Why not use clear lacquer? If you don’t have spray equipment, use rattle cans. They work great now and are inexpensive.

Steve

-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View CharlesNeil's profile

CharlesNeil

1171 posts in 2623 days


#5 posted 02-10-2012 06:17 PM

Pittsburg, Sorry I missed your main question, yes poly will go over epoxy, but sand the epoxy, to give it some tooth, on slabs for filing I prefer the pour on products, because they dry slow and clear,and because inside the slab there can be fissures, that a simple suface filling doesnt get, so what I do is tape off the bottom if its all the way thru and fill the void, watching it becasue it can seep down, as the epoxy migrates into whatever issues may be inside, I also often like to use the pour on as a sealer, what I do is basically coat the slab, top and bottom, because this will encase the slab, and pretty much stabilize it and have it retain its moisture content, and thus, it will remain as is, as a sealer it will not look too good, but then I sand it smooth and topcoat as desired, while most of the pour on products are epoxies, many of the box stores and craft stores sell a product called “enviorlite”, I have seen and got it at Lowes , its a polyester, and much cheaper, and from my experience, has worked fine, just dont mix it with an epoxy, after you sand it , obviously it will be very dull and lack luster, but your topcoat will bring the sheen and clarity back, you dont want a oil finish over it, as it will seal the surface and not allow for penetration, but the poly or lacquer as mentioned, will do fine, hope all this makes sense,

View PittsburghTim's profile

PittsburghTim

214 posts in 1074 days


#6 posted 02-10-2012 10:36 PM

Charles, thanks for the info. Here are a few pictures of the top and what will become the legs. The top is 1 1/8” surfaced and the slab is a full 2” thick surfaced. I have two other slabs not pictured that I will just set aside for future projects.

Do you think a natural colored stain is adviseable before the other coating? Also, if I encase the slab in either the epoxy or the polyester resin, would you suggest a gloss poly for the legs?

Photobucket

Photobucket

-- She asked me, "Who are you going to please with that?" I said, "Me."

View PittsburghTim's profile

PittsburghTim

214 posts in 1074 days


#7 posted 02-10-2012 10:37 PM

Sorry, one more pic.

Photobucket

-- She asked me, "Who are you going to please with that?" I said, "Me."

View cbd23's profile

cbd23

6 posts in 1050 days


#8 posted 02-10-2012 11:25 PM

I have used epoxy on a walnut coffee table and then used polyurethane on top with good results. Also, maybe you already knew this, but you can actually add a little wood stain to the epoxy to color it so it blends in better with the walnut color and is less noticeable. This is what I did and it has held up great for over 7 years now. I wouldn’t bother with the natural stain myself, just go with the poly. I would recommend thinning it down before applying it. You will end up with a much smoother finish without any brush marks. The poly straight from the can is too thick. As far as I know, poly is one of the strongest finishes, but beware, since walnut is somewhat soft, it will still dent if something hard is dropped on it.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1479 posts in 1114 days


#9 posted 02-12-2012 06:01 PM

It would be a sin to bury that beautiful piece of wood in some godawful plastic. And don’t fill the little void; it adds character. If you can’t spray it with clear solvent lacquer, at least give it the respect it deserves by finishing with a water based floor finish like Varathane. Two light coats scuffed back with 220 drywall sanding screen followed by a good damp wipedown and two more full coats, which can be rubbed out with auto polishing compound.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View PittsburghTim's profile

PittsburghTim

214 posts in 1074 days


#10 posted 03-03-2012 04:07 PM

So, I have cut the slab, filled the defects with two-part pour-on epoxy, made the legs, and rough-sanded (80 Grit) everything but the live edges. I have a couple of questions:

1) For attaching the trestles to the leg slabs, do you think glue and a pair of long wood screws at each joint, or a couple of dowels at each joint instead?

2) For attaching the legs to the top, do you think that dowels and glue is OK or will that stress and possibly cause the top to split. Would the figure 8 type fasteners for table tops work better. While the legs and top have the grain going the same way, I don’t know if they will expand and contract at the same rates.

3) Would a natural stain help bring out the figure or should I just stick with a clear finsh. I have tried the varathane product and was not very happy with the results, though I made the test samples rather hastily.

Here are a few pics,

Thanks,

Tim

Photobucket

Photobucket

-- She asked me, "Who are you going to please with that?" I said, "Me."

View 330treehugger's profile

330treehugger

5 posts in 1024 days


#11 posted 03-07-2012 04:09 PM

Great slab! I have made several live edge pieces and used MirrorCoat to fill voids. You can see into them and they are filled smooth with the top. After curing, I just belt sand smooth and then sand the whole top ready for finish. System Three advised that I wait at least 5 days to spray lacquer onto the surface after cure. I also had trouble with the material running through the bottom and have a call in to System Three for advice on sealing the bottom. It eats right through tape and even squeezed past clay stuffed into the bottom of voids.

As for a durable finish. You could use Spar varnish or MirrorCoat for the top. I use a two part conversion varnish from ML Campbell called KlearVar but if you don’t have spray capability better to go with either of the two former products.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

3589 posts in 2713 days


#12 posted 03-07-2012 05:29 PM

I’ve gotta jump in here with my vote against a gloss finish on that beautiful slab. Don’t think that Nakashima would use gloss either. I agree with Clint about leaving the characteristics, and I think that you are wise to leave off the stain. I kinda like the contrast between the sap and heart.
BLO and then a nice satin wiped poly rubbed and waxed would be my choice. BUT it is your wood and your choice. Or your other option is to send the slab to me (didja see the smilie face).
Bill

-- bill@magraphics.us

View Charlie's profile

Charlie

1064 posts in 1039 days


#13 posted 03-07-2012 06:42 PM

That’s a candidate for a hard wax oil if ever I’ve seen one. I absolutely agree with not encasing it in plastic. I tend to keep certain “blemishes” visible as I think they give character to a piece, but I’m an artist before a woodworker. I would carefully inject a thin, slow-setting epoxy into the deep areas and then paint a finishing epoxy onto the surrounding blemish, being careful not to get it on the slab suface to the greates degree possible. Finishing epoxy is essentially a very thin epoxy and takes about 20 minutes to set up. It flows and is brushable. You could completely fill that area and then sand it flush with the surface, but the hard wax oil won’t stick to the epoxy so you might get a shiny spot unless you dull the epoxy with a light sanding or buffing with a scotchbrite pad.

Hard wax oil is an extremely durable finish and if repairs are needed you can spot repair and it’ll blend in with the surrounding very well.

If it were me, I’d keep the blemish. :) But I also understand not everyone appreciates such things.

View toddbeaulieu's profile

toddbeaulieu

413 posts in 1757 days


#14 posted 03-07-2012 07:55 PM

I’m just starting to learn about finishes myself. My first finish project will be my walnut miter saw fence and countertop edging.

I have a good book that I”m going through and I think I want to use multiple thin coats of varnish to fill the pores and get it super smooth. I think a wood paste filler is supposed to do the same thing, assuming it’s transparent. I’m going to try oil-based. Not ready to mess with water based yet.

I’m surprised people are against gloss. I’ve seen some shots of walnut polished to a gorgeous shine.

I just love walnut! Keep us updated on the progress!

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