What finish to use on spalted birch dining table

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by JosephNY posted 06-19-2012 10:51 PM 2775 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View JosephNY's profile


37 posts in 2163 days

06-19-2012 10:51 PM

I’m new to the forum, and to woodworking/finishing in general.

I just had 3 pieces of spalted birch joined together to form a 39” by 96” natural edge table top.

It’s planed and (almost) sanded.

My wife wants me to build a iron water pipe frame support for it, which I think I can handle (famous last words).

But I have no idea how to finish the wood. I know spalted wood is a little tricky, and I don’t want a shiny poly finish. It should be light (natural?) in color and bring out the spalted beauty. That’s as far as I got.

I’d very much appreciate suggestions—oil, wax, stain, poly, shellac, laquer, etc.?

The simpler the better, if possible.

Thanks so much!


5 replies so far

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2357 days

#1 posted 06-21-2012 01:51 PM

Waterborne polyurethane floor finish (Varathane).

-- 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 Bill White's profile

Bill White

4929 posts in 3956 days

#2 posted 06-21-2012 02:13 PM

Yep! Waterborne won’t yellow the wood. Ues a gloss, then rub out with a non-woven pad and wax after the finish has cured (4 days) to achieve a nice soft (sheen) look.


View JosephNY's profile


37 posts in 2163 days

#3 posted 06-21-2012 06:33 PM

Thanks very much guys!

I’ve been reading old posts, here and on other forums, and the advice for these kinds of projects is all over the place.

The wood only has a couple of areas of mild spalted—nothing big and soft.

These are the recommendations I’ve culled from forums—I have no idea how to proceed:

1) Dewaxed shellac—soaks up quite a bit and dries hard, optically clear and won’t yellow

2) Tung oil—lighter, brings out depth and figure in wood

3) Pratt and Lambert #38—alkyd/resin soya oil varnish

4) Blond shellac—1lb cut (I don’t know what that means???). This will fill the wood, harden any punkiness, and leave it a good surface that’ll take sanding down to a high polish. If, as you sand, you still find some “dull” (punky) spots, hit ‘em with more of the lightweight shellac until your sanding results in a fully smooth surface. Follow w/Laquer.

5) Target EM6000—water-borne

6) Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO) is said to typically impart too much color on lighter woods and can make many of them look muddy—and it takes many, frequent applications

7) Use CA glue for spongy areas (I don’t know what this is???)

8) Behlen’s Rock Hard varnish is a phenolic resin/linseed oil varnish and it will impart a lot of amber color and will darken with age.

9) Varnish never fully cures, allowing some flexibility. But will yellow the surface.

10) Laquer hardens/cures (used on guitars) and does not yellow the surface.

11) Min Wax “wood hardener”—paint it on—it’s a water thin colourless liquid. Might darken wood some. It leaves a hard sandable surface

12) For spalted, always apply hardener first so the fibres will soak it up like a sponge to avoid many additional coats of what comes next to get a super smooth surface.

Thank you!

View JosephNY's profile


37 posts in 2163 days

#4 posted 06-24-2012 12:39 AM

I took the last couple of days to get small amounts of stain, laquer, varnich, shellac and clear gloss poly (only had the oil-based).

Took some samples of the same wood and finished areas using each of these finishes, as well as tung oil. Then waxed half of each sample.

First of all, what fun!

I’m so excited about learning how to do this.

I’m going to follow the recommendations, as I love the look of the poly on the spalted areas of the birch.

Several questions:

What brand/type of water based poly should I use?

Should I do anything to the wood prior to putting the poly on other than sand and wipe clean?

What’s the best applicator (rag, brush or foam brush—or use the spray can poly)?

On my two big sample areas of the poly (I liked it so much I started polying everything), there’s an area where it looks like there’s more poly than elsewhere. Is this my novice hand or could some have soaked in to the wood more in some places than others?

Lastly, where can I find a non-woven pad (I really don’t know what that is) to prep the cured poly surface for waxing?

Thank you all!


View JosephNY's profile


37 posts in 2163 days

#5 posted 06-25-2012 11:47 PM

Are my questions inappropriate? Too novice-y?

I’ve been reading articles on water vs. oil, various rubbing out techniques, etc.

Sure would appreciate some help.


Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics