how to finish antique pine table

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Forum topic by yellabret posted 10-16-2014 02:29 PM 1344 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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56 posts in 2164 days

10-16-2014 02:29 PM

i am making the mother -of-all-farmhouse tables for my daughter and son in law who – wait for it -just bought a 100-yr old farmhouse in central Texas. so a farmhouse table made from 100 yr old wood is being re-purposed for 100-yr old house. at a Restore in Houston I found some 8/4 pine flooring (1-5/8). i planed the top enough to remove the finish, and the bottom enough to remove paint and discolored wood, ending up with 1-3/8”.

so my main question is -
(1) since it is 100 yrs old and it has had a finish on only one side all this time, can i assume i am safe only applying finish to the top? my plan so far is to stain with Watco dark walnut danish oil both sides, maybe two coats to get it dark enough, then topcoat with polyurethane.
(2) i have never used sealer on my live edge work, but should i use a sealer first to keep from having to use too many coats of poly?
(3) any guesses as to approx how many coats to expect with this wood? i realize that is a big “it depends” type question, but antique pine is fairly common so i figured there would be a wealth of experience with it in here
(4) it is a bit of a rustic piece, but i plan to use GF Arm r seal or maybe the Gel Topcoat just because it is so much easier to apply, especially with a piece this large and all the joints that will allow some leakage of a thinner poly.



8 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


4680 posts in 2313 days

#1 posted 10-16-2014 02:47 PM

First thought, staining pine is blotchy business, apply a sealer before staining to control blotching. Second thought, finish the underside so that the wood will react to humidity the same on both sides and save yourself cupping problems. Third thought, allow for wood movement when attaching the top to the base.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3547 days

#2 posted 10-16-2014 02:59 PM

Yes ditto what bondo said.So have fun and let us see your work/results. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View jdmaher's profile


426 posts in 2541 days

#3 posted 10-16-2014 03:14 PM

1. Do both sides, to even out humidity absorption. Also, perform each finishing step on the underside first – just in case.

2. You’re down to bare wood. Pine can be blotchy. DO seal it – FIRST – before staining.

3. Multiple steps, so multiple answers to “how many coats”. SealBEFOREStaining: I use shellac as a sealer (scant 1#), one coat. Stain: One coat at a time, to desired color. Be careful, second coat of stain often darkens more than first. SealAFTERStaining: I always seal after color. 2 coats of 1# shellac. Topcoat: 3 coats – lightly applied, just like the Arm R Seal instructions say.

4. I never used Gel. Arm R Seal is just fine for a tabletop, and I’ve never seen a reason to overdo it.

Pictures. Got pictures?

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View yellabret's profile


56 posts in 2164 days

#4 posted 10-16-2014 03:25 PM

so do i need the exact amount of finish on the bottom? and if so – do i do it first or last? if i do the bottom first, i risk some runs and drips, but i guess all i have to do is sand it out when i flip it over. this is one reason i want to use a gel. otherwise, if i do the top i have to flip it onto the top side, i guess i can cover the work bench with moving blankets to protect it. this is a large table, 9’3” and 46” wide. btw i always planned to at least stain the bottom for looks anyway.

below are pics. the wood is going from Houston to central Texas – i.e.more to less humidity.being 100 yrs in Houston with no finish on the bottom i would hope i would not have cupping problems since it hasnt happened yet, but i dont want to take the chance. the top just sits on the base, the small blocks you see on the bottom are where the tops of the base legs will fit – so no worries on movement here. the legs are antique 4-1/2×4-1/2 antique pine beam, with hand milled 4×4 elm for cross bars and stabilizer, and same wood for the 2×4 rails. when i saw hand-milled, i had an elm milled 2 yrs ago, and cut these pieces with a circular saw from a 4” slab, leaving uneven sides that add to the appeal. lastly, i found 5/6” antique black oxide carriage bolts with no head marks for fasteners.

being a rank amateur and minimalist woodworker i have to admit some pride in this so far … ;-)

View yellabret's profile


56 posts in 2164 days

#5 posted 10-16-2014 03:28 PM

oh yeah – the pic of the bottom is before adding the bread boards – i added supports perpendicular from the end support to support the breadboards from underneath. they are attached with pocket screws as well.

View OSU55's profile


1624 posts in 1951 days

#6 posted 10-16-2014 03:47 PM

Very nice project! Concurring with others, seal before coloring to help with blotching. No need to seal over the Watco – allow it to dry and the poly will not lift it. All surfaces need the same finishes applied up through 1st coat of poly. The bottom and end grain will be sealed and prevent warping/cupping. More coats on top will not contribute to warping.

View jdmaher's profile


426 posts in 2541 days

#7 posted 10-16-2014 05:17 PM

You SHOULD be proud! Very nice work!

Finish the bottom first, and let that coat dry before flipping it over to do the same coat on the top and sides. Be just a bit careful to ensure that the sides (including ends) don’t drip. (I just make sure that I sparingly apply the material on the sides (prevent sagging, runs, drips), and then I run a wiping cloth along the bottom edge – just in case.)

This IS time-consuming, and DOES involves many flips (and you’ll need help for each flip). However, you’ve put a lot of time and effort into making a great-looking table; its worth the time and effort to get a good finish. To be honest, I almost always apply the bottom coat in the early morning (dawn) and let that coat dry all day, flip and apply the coat to the top in the evening (8 PM), then let that dry overnight. That’s usually overkill for the finish materials I use, but better safe than sorry.

Me, I’d wrap some 2×4 lengths in old towels and set them on the workbench (which can be shielded with taped on plastic sheeting, if you like), and let the top lay on the 2×4s.

I hear you reluctance to fully finish the bottom. It’s up to you. I know I would.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View yellabret's profile


56 posts in 2164 days

#8 posted 10-16-2014 05:46 PM

thanks all for the advice and comments. i can do the bottom first, then set the base on that and finish that, then i will only have to flip once to do the top. i have flipped it a few times already and can do it, but it is an effort to do solo. i paid $150 for the pine, the legs were in my attic for the last 20 yrs, so materials wise i am only in this for about $200. a tidy profit could be had if i sold it….

first things first – i am going to slide it off the end of the bench then stand it up and walk it out into the grass, then rent a floor sander from Home Depot and give it a good going over with something like 120 then 220. right now the planks are planer smooth, but there are imperfections in original wood thickness (even though i planed it all evenly, the tongue and grooves dont all fit the same), plus i filled a few knot holes/crumb traps with clear epoxy.

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