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How To Finish a Walnut Coffee Table

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Forum topic by Rob posted 04-22-2014 02:49 PM 1827 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Rob

66 posts in 1025 days


04-22-2014 02:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: resource humor tip question trick walnut spray gun sander clamp tablesaw finishing refurbishing sanding arts and crafts rustic victorian greene and greene shaker modern traditional dyes wood dye transtint espresso pigment wiping stain rags sheen luster gloss flat satin rubbing hand rub grits paint brush foam brush water alcohol soluble varnish polyurethane shellac garnet amber blonde de-waxed cut 2lb cut application techniques apply red dark red mahogany red walnut furniture coffee table sapwood heartwood layers color toning shading professional arborlite rottenstone pumice sealer sanding sealer grain filler piano finish epoxy resin liquid nails protective qualities durability system cloth sponge washcoat thin coat spitcoat grain enhance

I’m finally pretty much done building the walnut coffee table…It’s a two layered table (two table tops) on a T type frame. Table tops are L36” x W24” x T1”...It’s going to be HEAVY. Like really heavy. Is this a horrible thing in the fine furniture world? It’s modern and low to the ground style. I like it…How to finish this has been in the back of my mind the entire build, and now it’s about that time to pull the trigger and DECIDE ALREADY…Here’s what I do know I am def doing as far as coloring:

It’s typical steam dried walnut, some sap wood, and a slight gray cast. So I want to adjust the color to an “espresso” type finish, just not so dark, so the walnut grain pops through….
1) Dye the wood (light coat of Transtint Red Mahagony)
2) Thin seal coat (de waxed shellac///very thin coat, so the pigment has something to bite on)
3) Pigment wiping stain (Mohawk dark brown pigment wiping stain)
4) Shellac toned with dye (not sure if I will tone with red or brown…probably brown)

My question is first of all do you have any advice or critiques or changes of the steps I will take?

I really like the look of a full piano finish and am thinking of either building up a film to rub out to the full finish…If I go the “rubbing method” Do I need to use a grain filler on the bare wood before begginning my coloring scheme? Or are the mulitple layers going to pretty much be filling the grain for me?

Also thought abot using an epoxy resin like liquid glass or something, like they use on bar tops but have zero experience with the product…what are the differences/advantages of rubbing out a finish vs using a high gloss epoxy resin, like liquid glass?

My goal is to make the table top look elegant, and obtain a very “high end” finish, but I also realize it is a coffee table so some protective qualities are important…I have used the big box store run of the mill Miniwax Polys, and they’re ok…But they leave a plasticy look and feel, and from my understading, you can’t really rub out a finish on top of poly…just what I have heard and read…So is shellac the way to go here?
Watching some Charles Neil videos, he talks about building up multiple layers, so you have something to actually rub out. And to wait at least a week, sometimes longer, to let the finish fully cure, before rubbing out….Can I obtain the effect I am looking for going this route? If so, how many layers?

I should add that I don’t have decent enough spray equipment to use any type of pre cat or anything, so hand apllication is the only method for now…

Thanks
-Rob

-- Rob, Middletown NJ


15 replies so far

View FellingStudio's profile

FellingStudio

93 posts in 1149 days


#1 posted 04-22-2014 03:32 PM

Remember that shellac is alcohol soluble, so if you are a drinker you have the distinct possibility/probability of damaging your finish if you use shellac for the top coat. The positives to shellac are that it is easy to apply and fix.

A poly should be able to rub out to the desired sheen.

I’m not a huge fan of the “bar top” epoxy finishes, but have had some success (meaning in my case not the thick, glossy, plastic looking finish that you see in so many applications of the stuff.)

And, of course, with any staining application that you are not familiar with, it pays to take the time to test your formula on a scrap of your project wood.

-- Jesse Felling - http://www.fellingstudio.com

View Rob's profile

Rob

66 posts in 1025 days


#2 posted 04-22-2014 04:19 PM

Thanks, and the top is not for me but for a customer. I did not even think of the alcohol spillage though! Freat tip…The copious amounts of Dogfish Head I drink on the weekends would almost def make its way to onto the table though.

As for the color adjustment, I ran a few tests and am pretty happy with the reults.
So it is possible to rub out a nice high gloss with poly then? Should I use a satin, and try to rub out to the desired sheen?Or start with a gloss? The “rubbing” to obtain a piano finish is confusing to me…bc I thought when u “rub out” a finish u are literally rubbing out the gloss down to a satin….. Or am I way off>..oh and as far as the poly Oil Based Or water?

I was thinking I’ll just use the de waxed blonde shellac as a sealer, and then a toner? Then top with how ever many coats of poly I need to “build up” a finish, so that I can rub it out to the high gloss?

I actually just read some good things about Waterlox having good rubbing qualities?

Please excuse my ignorance in finishing. I used to be in the painters union (right out of highschool) and did nothing but industrial and commercial finishing…None of which any ever called for the specialty type finishes.

-- Rob, Middletown NJ

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Rob

66 posts in 1025 days


#3 posted 04-22-2014 04:23 PM

And are you willing to share your method of using the epoxy “bar top” finish? Or is it your own recipe that you wouldn’t want to expose…

-- Rob, Middletown NJ

View bigblockyeti's profile

bigblockyeti

3668 posts in 1187 days


#4 posted 04-22-2014 04:54 PM

I’m currently getting ready to finish the top for a dresser I’m making for my wife, also walnut. My plan is to use either Danish oil or tung oil, followed by a liberal application of paste wax by way of a high speed buffer. Just not yet sure which oil I want to use. In the past I’ve used BLO, but it takes forever for even a light coat to dry sufficiently for the next step.

View FellingStudio's profile

FellingStudio

93 posts in 1149 days


#5 posted 04-22-2014 11:02 PM

My recipe for using the bar top finish is pretty basic … shellac followed by two applications of System 3 bar top finish. Hit the bar top finish with a heat gun to pop bubbles. Sand between coats at 400, sand after top coat. I probably stopped at 600 or 800. Wax if you like.

-- Jesse Felling - http://www.fellingstudio.com

View mahdee's profile

mahdee

3554 posts in 1234 days


#6 posted 04-23-2014 01:24 AM

Better follow Charles Neil’s video on how to make a top finish.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View kdc68's profile

kdc68

2526 posts in 1744 days


#7 posted 04-23-2014 01:57 AM

So it is possible to rub out a nice high gloss with poly then? Should I use a satin, and try to rub out to the desired sheen?Or start with a gloss? The “rubbing” to obtain a piano finish is confusing to me…bc I thought when u “rub out” a finish u are literally rubbing out the gloss down to a satin…

This may help answer your questions

http://homesteadfinishingproducts.com/htdocs/rubbingout.htm

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View Rob's profile

Rob

66 posts in 1025 days


#8 posted 04-23-2014 01:22 PM

Yes Jinx, I have watched that 2 part vid twice. A lot of good points and easy basic instructions. Will def be frubbing out a finish. My shop is DEF NOT a prestine enough enviorment to spray. I actually was close to purchasing an air compressor and spray equipment last night (one of those many impulse buys I have), but honestly just don’t have the enviorment for spraying. One day I will talk the wife into letting me build an addition, and build a spray room connected to my shop, but for now it’s hand rubbing for this guy I guess….Kdc I have a lot of Jeffs products (dyes really). Thanks

-- Rob, Middletown NJ

View mahdee's profile

mahdee

3554 posts in 1234 days


#9 posted 04-23-2014 04:21 PM

Rob,
You don’t have to spray to follow the procedure. If it is poly you are set on, just bush it on with foam brush and let it sit for a few weeks before sanding.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View Rob's profile

Rob

66 posts in 1025 days


#10 posted 04-23-2014 06:21 PM

Jinx I should have specified. I meant I’m not set up to spray pre cat….I have lots of experience with using poly, but have never rubbed out a finish…just have knocked down the fibers, but never rubbed to a gloss

-- Rob, Middletown NJ

View mahdee's profile

mahdee

3554 posts in 1234 days


#11 posted 04-23-2014 06:45 PM

The gloss looks on my projects are a brushed on poly that were sanded to 2000 and then rubbed with rubbing compound and finished with finishing compound. Once you get that much of gloss on anything, any small amount scratch will pop up at you.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View Rob's profile

Rob

66 posts in 1025 days


#12 posted 04-24-2014 10:39 AM

So from what I have been gathering is that there’s not really a truly durable glass like mirror finish that will hold up to every day wear and tear…But at the same time, I’m thinking someone that shells out big cash for a heavy solid walnut constructed table, prob isn’t going to be having many frat parties or kicking there dirty boots up on it…I will prob go the Charles Neil route, and just rub to a satin-low semi gloss sheen. Seems tedious but you really cant’t get look from a brush.

Thanks Jinx…
Btw how many coats of Poly would you suggest? I have some “High Build” Poly left over from doing some floors a while back, but I’m thinking this will be too aggressive for nice furniture. I also have the “Hand Rubbing” Poly all the big boxes sell, but I am now well aware that it is only thinned out Poly….Bastards. I’ll just use the norm stuff.

-- Rob, Middletown NJ

View mahdee's profile

mahdee

3554 posts in 1234 days


#13 posted 04-24-2014 01:41 PM

I used to use MinWax and the stuff truly suck. 5 or 6 coats provide a good film. Then I tried Cabot… This stuff is a lot thicker and if you are able to brush one continuous line at a time and overlap the next line just a little bit, you won’t even need to sand. It provides a beautiful thick finish; first coat. If you feel like you need a second coat, do it the next day after a light sanding. If you decide to do rub on poly (which is something like 4-1 poly/mineral spirit), put it on using your hands, wait a few minutes and wipe.. repeat 15-20 times; yikes!

-- earthartandfoods.com

View Rob's profile

Rob

66 posts in 1025 days


#14 posted 04-24-2014 03:49 PM

Cool, thanks. I have some Rustoleum in my finish stash. I like Cabots products that I’ve used before, maybe I’ll give it a shot. Also I use Purdy brushes ONLY. Wooster is ok in a pinch too, but the quality of brushes truly do make all the difference. Every project I’ve ever finished with a good quality Purdy brush has zero brush marks. They are mucho $$$ though, but worth it. I’ll post pics when finished.

-- Rob, Middletown NJ

View Rob's profile

Rob

66 posts in 1025 days


#15 posted 04-24-2014 03:53 PM

@Big Block,
I def was tempted to use tung oil or BLO, but from my understanding, they produce a nice looking finish but this method takes periodic maintenance. Being that I’m making this for someone who is paying, I want to make it as maintenance free as possible. I assume people that pay for quality furniture would take care of it anyway, but most people just spray Pledge and move on.

-- Rob, Middletown NJ

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