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Need Goof-Proof Finishing Recommendations

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Forum topic by Targa posted 01-27-2014 04:38 PM 2105 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Targa

117 posts in 1205 days


01-27-2014 04:38 PM

I’m getting closer to completing my first woodworking project – a bookcase for my daughter.

The case, back and shelves are made from red oak plywood and the face frame, trim and edges of the shelves from solid red oak lumber.

I’ve searched through the archives for suggestions on finishing but my head is spinning because there are a million recommendations of different manufacturers, stain types, topcoat types without any real consensus. It seems there are a lot of people who do not like Minwax products but I couldn’t find a lot of consistent comments that recommended Cabot or Zar or others.

I plan to stain the bookcase in a medium shade (not too light and not too dark) with a semi-gloss finish and what I’m looking for is a simple, straight forward goof-proof method to follow including:

1. What manufacturer’s products to use
2. What type of stain to use
3. What topcoat finish to use.

Keeping in mind I’m totally new at this, can I get some recommendations that will help me avoid problems and give me good results.

I would appreciate any help I can get.

Thank you

-- Dom


19 replies so far

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 1826 days


#1 posted 01-27-2014 04:50 PM

Red oak looks nice simply top coated, but if you must stain, use ZAR brand in the shade of your choice. It can be thinned with mineral spirits to any level of lightness/darkness. After it dries for a week, top coat with Varathane satin waterborne poly. Three coats, the first lightly rubbed smooth with 220 drywall sanding screen, followed by two more full wet coats using a fine bristle synthetic brush.

Ignore all contrary advice!

-- 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 Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3945 posts in 1959 days


#2 posted 01-27-2014 04:59 PM

Here’s some of that contrary advice Clint would have you ignore: I don’t disagree with the Zar stain part but typically if someone wants a fool proof finish, they are worried about brush marks, runs/sags/and other application faux pas. To get around that, I would suggest a top coat of wiping varnish, make it your self. This would consist of an oil based varnish of your choice, I would prefer Pratt and Lambert #38, but it’ a little hard to find in some areas. Dilute that with an equal amount of mineral spirits. Take a blue paper shop towel (the kind found almost everywhere, generally in the auto section), fold it into a pad and dip into the varnish. Simply wipe it on. This will be a very thin coat, and should dry enough that you can apply it in sets of 3 each day. Generally a set of 3 is considered equal to one brushed coat, so put on whatever the desired coverage is. Try it on a test piece first and get comfortable with the approach. BTW, I consider Minwax the least worthy of finishes, if you can’t get the P&L try the Zar, Cabot, or maybe even the Sherwin Williams Fast Dry Oil Varnish (it’s a very good finish).

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

View CypressAndPine's profile

CypressAndPine

62 posts in 1272 days


#3 posted 01-27-2014 05:06 PM

Here is my advice for a simple goof-proof finish:

Danish Oil. Wipe it on heavy, let it sit 15 minutes. Wipe off all excess. Just that easy and it looks beautiful. Add a coat a day for a few days. I use it on anything I want to look natural.

You can get the Watkins Danish oil at the big box stores. I would reccommend the natural over the colored ones.

-- Cypress Jake, New Orleans

View Nicholas Hall's profile

Nicholas Hall

350 posts in 1572 days


#4 posted 01-27-2014 06:18 PM

+1 Danish Oil or wipe-on poly (or both)

As mentioned above, you can buy Watco danish oil in any big box store in a variety of colors. Follow the directions on the back and you’re good to go. If you let it air out for a few days, you can then wipe on a few coats of wipe-on poly for a more durable film finish. You can make your own or buy some Min-Wax wipe-on poly for a few dollars. It’s pretty foolproof. No risk of brush marks, and you don’t need to worry about ambient dust particularly if you do a quick sand between poly coats.

-- Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. -Groucho Marx

View Targa's profile

Targa

117 posts in 1205 days


#5 posted 01-27-2014 06:39 PM

Btw, so you know, my daughter does not want me to put a nature finish on the bookcase. She wants something darker and as soon as I decide on a stain manufacturer, I’ll send her a color chart to decide.

Keep the comments coming.

Thanks

-- Dom

View jim65's profile

jim65

813 posts in 1399 days


#6 posted 01-27-2014 06:59 PM

You need Shellac. Shellac was my go to finish for a long time, easy to use, wipe it on and rub it in. Adds a slight orange tint to the wood (depends upon the flakes you get, there are darker flakes that will replace a light stain and clear flakes that don’t change the color much) that can look great or not. Resistant to everything but alcohol. It will cover and adhere to everything. If you mess it up you can wet a rag with alcohol and rub to smooth it out. you cannot mess it up. Would go well on top of a stain if you choose a clear shellac.
I finally tried danish oil a few years ago and love it, it’s clear and gives a nice soft shine, wipe it on and wipe it off. I use both finishes and not much else because they are easy, fool proof (good for me) and dry quickly. I dislike finishing and painting. I used to varnish a lot but the drying times and the care needed for brush strokes and dust make it worth the effort only if you really need that mirror shine. Good luck!

-- Jim, Marostica Italy

View Edziu's profile

Edziu

150 posts in 2516 days


#7 posted 01-27-2014 07:25 PM

Hey there Targa-
Watco Danish Oil comes in lots of colors, including some very dark options. Due to it’s ease of application and awesome results, I’d see if theres a color to work with there first. Also, consider doing a wet-sand of the oil with a piece of 320-400 grit sandpaper. The results are baby smooth.

Since I’m pretty sure your daughter is looking for the oh-so-trendy super dark ‘espresso’ finish (which will be out of style someday soon) I would look towards General Finishes Java Gel Stain and General Finishes Gel Topcoat. Easy to use, durable finish.

View GregD's profile

GregD

783 posts in 2601 days


#8 posted 01-27-2014 07:56 PM

I have far more problems with stain than I do with clear finishes. Applying stain is easy – getting an even color with no blotches is hard for me.

I have heard many good things about Watco Danish Oil. I have used Waterlox and found that to be about the easiest finish to apply that I have ever used. If you need a durable finish I have had good experience with Minwax clear gloss fast drying polyurethane applied with a top-quality brush.

I recommend that you buy Charles Neil’s new book.

-- Greg D.

View rjpat's profile

rjpat

36 posts in 1443 days


#9 posted 01-27-2014 07:59 PM

MinWax Wood Sheen is about as foolproof as it gets, as easy as the danish oil but quick ( you only have to wait 2 hours between coats)

View Targa's profile

Targa

117 posts in 1205 days


#10 posted 01-27-2014 10:09 PM

Edziu, said – “Since I’m pretty sure your daughter is looking for the oh-so-trendy super dark ‘espresso’ finish (which will be out of style someday soon)” Actually, I don’t believe she is. I think she is probably looking for something similar to Golden Oak.

I’m wondering whether there is any similarity between many of the suggested products? For example, is wiping varnish, Tung oil, Watco Danish oil and MinWax wood sheen essentially very similar?

I really do wish to keep things as simple as I can. If I can only put one coat of stain or finish on a day, that’s OK. I do like the idea of products that wipe on verses brushing on.

I’m getting good comments so keep them coming.

Thank you

-- Dom

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3945 posts in 1959 days


#11 posted 01-27-2014 10:24 PM

Danish oil is generally an oil/varnish/MS mixture, while wiping varnish is just very thin varnish. Both are good, but they are different. But to your question, they are similar. Here’s a really good article explaining by Flexner explaining them and defining the brand names.

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

View GrandpaLen's profile

GrandpaLen

1643 posts in 1738 days


#12 posted 01-27-2014 10:56 PM

Hey, Targa,
How’s this workin’ out for Ya??? :-)

You said;
I’ve searched through the archives for suggestions on finishing but my head is spinning because there are a million recommendations of different manufacturers, stain types, topcoat types without any real consensus. It seems there are a lot of people who do not like Minwax products but I couldn’t find a lot of consistent comments that recommended Cabot or Zar or others.

...and that’s why you’ll find so many different brands and processes out here in the www.realworld.
It’s sort of like screwdrivers, we each have a shop favorite.

I suggest you purchase a newly published book on finishing/ finishes which covers all the new formulations and there attributes. The index should lead you to your concerns and then test on scraps first, every step, everytime.
...soon you’ll be ‘fool proof’.

Best Regards. – Grandpa Len.
Work Safely and have Fun.

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View Targa's profile

Targa

117 posts in 1205 days


#13 posted 01-27-2014 11:30 PM

Hey, Grandpa Len, I think you know the answer!

Btw, what is the name and author of the newly published book on finishing/finishes that you referred to?

Thanks

-- Dom

View mahdee's profile

mahdee

3553 posts in 1233 days


#14 posted 01-27-2014 11:46 PM

Danish oil or teak oil are as fool proof as you can get.. I like Watco teak oil the best. Soak it, wait 1/2 hour, soak it again, wipe 15 minutes, wipe, wait one day and you are done. Good luck

-- earthartandfoods.com

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

3022 posts in 1263 days


#15 posted 01-27-2014 11:55 PM

Watco Danish oil in golden oak finish—nothing easier. The easiest topcoat I know of is General Finishes Gel topcoat. I’ve used exactly that combination on red oak.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

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