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wedding guest bench finishing ideas

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Forum topic by yellabret posted 03-19-2013 02:08 AM 1452 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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yellabret

47 posts in 888 days


03-19-2013 02:08 AM

i make slab/live edge furniture, mainly for myself and family and am starting to sell a few. lately my finish of choice – due to ease of application and appearance of a quality product – is an optional base application of danish oil, the dark if i want to stain a light colored wood, followed by General Finishes Gel Topcoat. I really like this stuff as it is wipe on/wipe off, no drips, runs, and it seals open grain woods quicker, 4 coats as opposed to 8 if not using a sealer.

so now i want to make a slab park bench for my daughters wedding this fall, have all the guest sign it, then finish it and deliver it to its permanent home on their front porch. my choice of wood will likely be some cypress i have had stacked and drying for some months now, for two reasons – it is the lightest colored wood i have so the signatures will show up well, and it is lighter and will be easier to build and move. just for fyi – the seat will be 4” thick and 6’ long, with the back and sides/legs being of 2” stock from the same tree, joinery mainly of large mortice and tenon with lagscrews for deep support.

so now the $million question – where to begin on the finish? i am so far thinking of taking another board of the same tree, doing the requisite sanding, writing on it with sharpies and paint pens, then applying various finishes and see if any combinations stand out as really bad by smearing the writing etc., then subjecting it to the summer of heat and sun to judge durability. i realize this pales to the many years i intend for this to last, but theres not much i can do about that.

any suggestions as to the finish? the bench will be outside on a covered porch out of direct sun and rain, but exposed to the extremes of central Texas weather ie. heat and humidity. would the GF gel topcoat work? will it yellow with time? any suggestions of the best finish for this purpose is appreciated. again, i like the gel, but if something like Waterlox marine poly would perform better then i can do that. this is my daughters wedding so obviously i want to make a quality product that will stand the test of time…...

also, what color changes can i expect from cypress over time? i also have some pecan, but i know that will turn orange and brown with time.

david


3 replies so far

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redSLED

687 posts in 578 days


#1 posted 03-22-2013 12:59 AM

I don’t know about how the cypress would colour-age over time, but if it were me I guess I’d do the following or consider these ideas – just ‘shooting from the hip’ here:

Writing and Finish Test – I’m guessing Sharpies will ‘bleed’ a bit into the grain, so maybe a finer-tipped good quality marker or thick ball point pen would be better – your test should quickly prove/disprove. Of course the wood should’ve been already sanded super-smooth to seal up the grain to make writing on it smoother. Now, in case the marker/ink signatures would react with anything you apply over them, perhaps a fast-drying seal coat would minimize this. Therefore I would go with 3 coats of 2 lb. cut clear de-waxed shellac and see what happens and to seal up the wood. I can’t imagine any slower-drying protective coat smudging the signatures less, but I am totally speculating here.

Final Exterior Finish – Having done some yearly wooden boat refinishing and various outdoor personal furniture projects, and based on what you hope for in terms of longevity with your weather, I would brush on 3-4 coats of spar/marine varnish as a permanent base coat over the lightly sanded clear shellac. Then, I would expect to lightly sand and brush on 2-3 coats of marine/spar varnish EVERY YEAR to keep your bench sealed and looking great (because the varnish will degrade every year – faster in the sun of course).

As The Years Wear On – You will tire of re-coating your bench as expected. But you know what, by then your daughter will want a fresh look for her patio/garden/porch (new outdoor furniture) and you can hang the bench seat on a wall in her house as commemorative decoration (another ‘fresh look’) – and voila! – no more yearly re-varnishing – everybody wins!

Hope that helps with any decision making. Good luck with the writing/sealing test!

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

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yellabret

47 posts in 888 days


#2 posted 03-22-2013 02:23 AM

that helps a lot – thanks! i have ZERO experience with shellac though. i have done a test with both paint pens and sharpies, neither failed on application. i also wiped on pure mineral spirits with no issue, and on a fresh area wiped on Waterlox Original with no problem; therefore i assume Waterlox Marine will perform similarly. now these tests were done with pecan, i will do all again with the cypress sanded to the same point the bench will be – likely #320 – #400.

the bench will be “somewhat” similar to the one below in construction, but the slabs are blockier, and i may even use a short log split in half for each of the 2 sides/legs. the one below is just a prototype to see how the wood and finish hold up after a couple of seasons of summers and dog marking, and to test the integrity of my joinery. i made this when the moisture was at about 19%, hoping its done all its major movement. since this is not fine woodworking a little movement is not an issue. this is also pecan and it moved a LOT the first couple of weeks after milling, but to be honest it adds some character here and there.

so – if i get no bleed or smear, can i skip the shellac? i am already prepared to instruct the blissful couple on the need to recoat every year or 2, and i am sure they wont mind and they do crafty thjngs themselves. the only other thing is, i think i will disassemble it and apply the finish to each part separately so i get total coverage and avoid blotch and smear in corners. also, the center of the back will have their names and wedding year laser etched in a nice design. i plan on this being the mother of all wedding benches…. ;-)

thanks for your help – much appreciated!

View redSLED's profile

redSLED

687 posts in 578 days


#3 posted 03-22-2013 03:00 AM

No need for shellac as per your well-thought-out tests. I only suggested it because it dries fast (can reliably seal and not lift a recently stained surface) and bonds well enough between almost any 2 normally incompatible clear coat finishes (scuff sanding and de-waxed shellac required). As such, Zinsser sells a shellac-based pigmented (white) primer/sealer named BIN which I’ve noticed woodworkers seem to rate highly on various forums. Shellac has its specific uses among a minority of wood refinishers today – a whole other topic, my friend. Looking forward to seeing the ‘mother of all wedding benches’ sometime in the future – great idea BTW.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

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