what type of finish to use?

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Forum topic by cassiejo posted 05-28-2013 07:33 AM 1997 views 1 time favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 2031 days

05-28-2013 07:33 AM

Topic tags/keywords: poly table finishing arm r seal veneer question

Hello all,

I have a question about finishes. I just stripped our dining room table. The last time I finished it, I applied Formby’s tung oil finish, but the finish was not at all protective. This time I want something that can stand up to daily use. I don’t want to worry that a wet glass will mark up the table. The table is veneer, I’m sure of that. But I’m not sure what type of wood—maybe walnut?

A couple of questions:

1. Would you use wipe on poly or Arm-R-Seal to protect it? Or something else?
2. Should I bother putting tung oil finish on before I add top coat—will that make the grain stand out more than just putting down poly or Arm-R-Seal alone?

I’ve attached a couple of pictures of the table without any finish.

I’m very new to woodworking, so I would really appreciate any advice you could give me.

13 replies so far

View AlaskaGuy's profile


4821 posts in 2515 days

#1 posted 05-28-2013 09:44 AM

Here’s a good article about finish that should help you out. Formby’s tung oil finish is nothing more that a varnish that has been thinned to a wiping consistency with mineral spirits. It has no tung oil in it. It’s a very interesting read and not to long.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5180 posts in 2699 days

#2 posted 05-28-2013 12:22 PM

I would use a good non-poly varnish, such as Pratt and Lambert 38, or maybe Sherwin Williams Fast Dry Oil Varnish. First, a coat of shellac to seal any possible remaining contamination, then top coat with a varnish.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30071 posts in 2544 days

#3 posted 05-28-2013 12:38 PM

I am addicted to using Danish Oil to bring out the grain. Then a few coats of lacquer sanded lightly between coats.

Welcome to LumberJocks

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2454 days

#4 posted 05-28-2013 01:20 PM

Monte, you can put lacquer over poly? I always read that is a no-no (Danish oil is 1/3 poly).

I would go with the Arm-R-Seal or some other wipe on poly. It’s easy to apply, looks great and is plenty protective. If you are looking for an even more protective finish, look at some of the general finishes “enduro” products. They are best applied sprayed but can be brushed.


View Tommy Evans's profile

Tommy Evans

148 posts in 2380 days

#5 posted 05-28-2013 01:58 PM

AlaskeGuy -

As a newb woodworker going beyond paint I really appreciate those links!!
The link on oils at the hardwoodlumberandmore site is a very enlightening set of writings.
I’ll follow the 2nd link later.


View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2567 days

#6 posted 05-28-2013 04:54 PM

Forget all those concoctions. You don’t need anything but waterborne poly floor finish: fast, easy, and durable. If it’s tough enough to walk on, it’s tough enough to eat off of. I use Varathane or Bona.

-- 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 Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2492 days

#7 posted 05-28-2013 05:06 PM

I used Waterlox on my 8ft walnut island. Basically, it’s a floor finish. So, yeah… I agree with the idea of going with a floor finish :). I applied it just like you would a small floor. Lamb’s wool pad. It goes on heavy that way and you don’t need as many coats.

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 2055 days

#8 posted 05-28-2013 05:17 PM

A coat or two of polyurethane might work well on your table top. There’s no denying that poly is tough and durable. Keep in mind, though, that it can be quite difficult to execute an invisible repair on poly if it should get damaged. I’ve heard good things about Rock Hard Table Top Varnish from Behlen. If you can get your hands on some of that, it might be worth a try. Of course, you can also use waterlox, or Arm-R-Seal, which are wiping varnishes. You’ll just need to apply additional coats to acieve the same level of protection that you’d get from one or two brushed on coats of varnish. Finally, I agree with Fred Hargis’s idea of applying a coat of shellac before the varnish to seal in any wax or silicone contamination. Just make sure that the shellac is dewaxed. Zinsser seal-coat works well.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5798 posts in 3019 days

#9 posted 05-28-2013 05:37 PM

I usually spray lacquer for tabletops. The three dining tables I finished this way held up great over the years.
I spray 2 coats with a gravity feed HVLP gun (Woodriver or Porter Cable guns).

Poly takes way too long to dry.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 2055 days

#10 posted 05-28-2013 06:23 PM


You’re right. Lacquer would work beautifully here, provided that one has access to spray equipment. A pre- or post-catalyzed lacquer would be even more durable. I was working from the assumption that the finish would be brushed or wiped onto the surface, since Cassiejo didn’t say anything about owning a spray gun.

View cassiejo's profile


2 posts in 2031 days

#11 posted 05-28-2013 06:37 PM

Yes, I should have clarified that I’m a woodworking newbie living in an apartment in Brooklyn. So I don’t have access to specialized tools like a spray gun. I’m looking for a finish that will be 1. very easy to apply (ideally a wipe on) and 2. durable and 3. not too shiny. I already own several bottles of tung oil finish and a bottle of wipe on poly (satin finish). Is the dewaxed shellac easy to apply? Does it wipe on or brush on?


View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 2055 days

#12 posted 05-28-2013 06:52 PM

You will probably find it easiest to brush the shellac onto the surface. Use a natural bristle brush and keep the coat of dewaxed shellac thin. If you use the seal-coat, thin it by fifty percent with denatured alcohol and brush it on in the direction of the grain. You can also pad the shellac onto the surface using a specially prepared cloth pad. Peter Gedrys has posted a video on YouTube which goes into greater detail on padding shellac. It’s definitely worth a look. You can use your wipe-on poly over the dewaxed shellac after the shellac is dry. That’s a beautiful table, by the way.

View a1Jim's profile


117342 posts in 3783 days

#13 posted 05-28-2013 07:29 PM

Tung oil, shellac, Danish oils and standard Lacquers do not have the durability that polys have. I agree with the idea of using Arm-R-Seal

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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