Finish Ideas for Desktop

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Forum topic by JMattTX posted 03-09-2013 08:45 AM 4009 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 2108 days

03-09-2013 08:45 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finish relaimed desk table question tip pine modern traditional

Hey guys, I’m new to this site, and to woodworking. I’m building a desk from some reclaimed wood, and I really like the colors that these boards have and want to preserve the wood as it is. What is the best way to finish it so that the color of the wood won’t be changed?

6 replies so far

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2564 days

#1 posted 03-09-2013 12:33 PM

Waterborne polyurethane applied with a soft bristle synthetic brush will be perfect for what you want. Brush on a light first coat, which will raise the grain and feel rough. Smooth it back by lightly sanding with 220 paper. Then give it two more full wet coats without sanding in between. Done as is, or you can rub it out with 0000 steel wool and paste wax after a couple days.

Good luck

-- 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 RobynHoodridge's profile


127 posts in 2533 days

#2 posted 03-09-2013 01:13 PM

Welcome JMatt

First thing you need to know isn’t anything technical or anything about the actual finish. It’s simply that finish is a topic that garners lots of opinion. Sometimes hotly contested. So have fun with this as your first post. :)

And since you’re likely to get an overwhelming variety of answers, the advice i would give is to be a bit more specific about what you want. That way you’ll get to an answer quicker. Like what “best finish” means to you. Are you looking for the absolute pinnacle, money is no object? Or does best = fastest? etc..

Clint’s advice above may be the ‘best’ in terms of the go-to finish for that kind of thing. I’m not a finish expert though, so i’ll be looking for someone to second my 2 cents.

If you want this project to be an excuse to learn about finish and grow as a woodworker, there’s an intro DVD available. Here’s a snippit preview.

-- Never is longer than forever.

View JMattTX's profile


2 posts in 2108 days

#3 posted 03-09-2013 02:25 PM

Thanks for the feedback Clint and Robyn. Clint will the polyurethane help bring out the blue grey colors, and the amber colors in those boards?

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2564 days

#4 posted 03-09-2013 03:43 PM

JMatt, the waterborne poly (I like Varathane) will give the clearest finish of anything out of a can, short of a water white lacquer that has to be sprayed. Try it on a piece of scrap to get the feel.

Also, use gloss, as it’s the clearest and can be softened in sheen by rubbing out with 0000 steel wool or auto rubbing 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 Vicki's profile


1106 posts in 3548 days

#5 posted 03-10-2013 05:48 PM

I like Clints’ treatment for a desk top. I like to thin it with mineral spirits first to promote easy spreading and fewer bubbles. I use about 1/3 ms and 2/3 poly. I like semi-gloss for a little shine and it will bring out the colors nicely without changing them alot. I like that it prevents against spills, even though we don’t drink at our desks. ’;0)

-- Vicki on the Eastern Shore of MD

View Luke's profile


290 posts in 2890 days

#6 posted 03-10-2013 06:01 PM

IMO Water borne poly is one of the easiest, water clean up, readily available EVERY where. I think though that it casts more of a ‘blue’ or colder hue to the wood. I use WB poly ALOT, but almost always start with a coat of wipe on poly that brings the ‘wood to life’ Then cover with a more durable WB finish. Thats just my 2 cents. General finishes Arm-R-Seal, covered by General finishes Poly-Acrylic I have done a few built ins and furniture projects with this combo.

Wipe on Poly is about as an easy application as it gets, but not very durable.

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