refinishing old table

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Forum topic by emmaf posted 12-21-2013 06:56 PM 1071 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 1904 days

12-21-2013 06:56 PM

hey lumberjocks! you’ve helped me so much before, i thought i’d ask for help one more time.

i’m refinishing an old walnut table and would prefer to not varnish, but oil or wax instead. on a different project, i used mineral oil on raw wood and it didn’t stay very well (came off with the slightest bit of water, even after many coats and a long time sitting). am i supposed to use a different kind of oil the first time around? any recommendations for oil versus wax, process, or brands?

thank you so much!

7 replies so far

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2385 days

#1 posted 12-21-2013 07:36 PM

Oil ain’t a finish.

-- 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 lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2272 days

#2 posted 12-21-2013 07:39 PM

+1 for Clint. Mineral oil is a laxative, not a finish. True oils (drying oils) offer next to no protection – even when waxed. There are plenty of film building finishes that will give you a natural tone and feel while still offering some protection.


View Wildwood's profile


2322 posts in 2159 days

#3 posted 12-21-2013 08:16 PM

There are several commercial wiping varnishes on the market that will allow you to build up sheen. You have to watch ingredients to make sure solvent content not more than 60 percent. Basically, more solvent longer it takes to build up a sheen.

Two coats of wiping varnish or poly should equal one coat of film finish.

Formby’s Tung Oil


General Finishes Seal-a-Cell or Arm R Seal

You can also make your own wiping varnish by mixing 50% resin (varnish or polyurethane) and 50% solvent (mineral spirits, naphtha).

Please understand wiping varnish products listing Tung Oil do not contain any. Many oil varnish blends do not contain Danish, Teak, or Tung oil. There are many oil/varnish blends on the market none offer much protection.

-- Bill

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 1873 days

#4 posted 12-22-2013 12:26 AM

I agree with the above posts concerning mineral oil not being a finish. I wouldn’t use wax alone either, because it just isn’t very durable. You might consider using Zinsser sealcoat. This is premixed dewaxed shellac. Shellac dries quickly, rubs out easily, and is often used as a sealer under wax. The trade off is that shellac isn’t very durable, but it’s easy to repair and very appropriate for older pieces. Lacquer or one of the waterborne finishes would also work.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2272 days

#5 posted 12-22-2013 02:32 AM

First, I don’t think there is such a thing as “Danish” oil as a true oil. It’s a name for a blended finish. Also you caution against wiping varnish products not containing Tung oil, yet recommend Formby’s – which is exactly that. A wiping varnish that contains no tung oil.

Also everything you listed is an oil/varnish blend that offers little to no protection (save for Arm-R-Seal which is polyurethane). The strength of a finish is in it’s build. Oil/varnish blends cannot be built.


View Laughran's profile


72 posts in 1953 days

#6 posted 12-22-2013 11:39 AM

For walnut I use Danish Oil and then top with 3 coats of Arm R Seal. Just make sure that the Danish Oil is dry before you put on Arm R Seal.

-- David

View MisterBill's profile


411 posts in 2276 days

#7 posted 12-22-2013 12:32 PM

Remember that over time any walnut will become lighter in color. If you are going to stain it first as David has suggested then I would recommend applying a walnut color or any dark stain. Then top it with Arm R Seal.

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