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Best Finish to use?

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  • Best Finish to use?

    OK, I've been a lurker here for months...but thanks to everyone for the tips--for every person who posts a "thanks for the tip!" here, there are dozens that read it and appreciate it as well.

    I've been dabbling in woodworking for about 10 years now, and only recently started building from lumber as opposed to kits. Thanks to all your recommendations, I bought a TS3650 in April...then an R2930 dual-base router in April...then an R27201 Belt Sander in June. (my table saw just changed from "3 years" warranty to lifetime--woohoo!).

    Over the past year, I have built three large projects--a mate's bed for my son (red oak), a bookcase (poplar), and just recently an aquarium stand (red oak).

    I like red oak.

    For pictures of these projects, go here:

    Aquarium stand

    Now, the question. I have read everything I can about finishes--tung oil, shellac, danish oil, boiled linseed and wax, polyurethane, etc etc. I've tried quite a few over the past 10 years, but being completely honest, the best I've found is Minwax Wiping Poly. In my experience, this is a darn-near foolproof finish; you can't put on too much, you can't put on too little, no brush strokes, no runs, and great protection. Cleanup is a snap--I just turn my latex glove inside out with the rag inside it, throw it away, and I'm done.

    All of the projects I've done over the past year have been with this.

    So, my question--am I just naive? Is there something better, easier, or faster? Why would I NOT want to use wiping poly?

    Oh, BTW -- I have the designs, cutting diagrams, etc for these three projects in Visio...if anyone wants them, just let me know, I'll be glad to share!


    Dave Hightower
    Last edited by Dave_Hightower; 09-09-2007, 09:34 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Best Finish to use?

    I have to agree. I have had good results with the Minwax wiping poly on several projects and on different types of wood. I like being able to wipe it on with a rag (one without much lint) then just toss the rag when I am done. I have always used the satin poly, haven't tried the glossy finish.


    • #3
      Re: Best Finish to use?

      All the projects I've done have been with the satin poly, believe it or not. The aquarium stand has 3 coats; just rub lightly with #00 steel wool, wipe down the wool dust (?) (A magnet works great for getting the wool out of the pores), and you are ready to recoat in 4 hours or less.

      Now, I recently refinished a kitchen table, and used the gloss wiping poly...umm, it's almost TOO glossy, but if you are looking for an easy, no-cleanup, glass-like finish, I don't know what else could beat it. It does take more coats to build up the finish (I put 5 on the table), but with no cleanup required, it's a win-win in my book .


      • #4
        Re: Best Finish to use?

        I agree the wipe-on finish is easiest, and also that it requires more coats. I don't buy the "Wipe-On" solution as you are paying more for thinner and getting less coating. I usually thin the regular poly with 1/2 to 1/3 mineral spirits for wipe-on, and do a 1:1:1 ratio of poly, mineral spirits and BLO for "Danish Oil". Good results at the end with the caveat that I think (have not done a comparison test) that the homemade mixes may dry a bit slower, giving a bit more drying time between coats.
        I have done this with gloss, satin and semi-gloss with good results. With the satin and semi-gloss, you do have to keep stirring the coating (about every five minutes) to keep the flatteners in solution as they settle out pretty fast with a thin mix. By the way, if all you have is satin finish, you can increase the gloss with rubbing compound applied with a ROS and a piece of terry cloth, or for high gloss, use polishing compound. I have not tried to de-gloss any with rubbing compound, but have heard rottenstone or pumice will work to break down the gloss. I have not yet tried it myself.

        Practicing at practical wood working


        • #5
          Re: Best Finish to use?

          When I first started wood working I too used to wipe on or brush on all of my finishes, but over the years I found that spray finishes are tough to beat. Spraying provides me the versatility I didn't have with wipe on finishes, and I can put on a two to three coats in one day oppose to one coat every 4-8 hours.

          I will usually use the DEFT nitrocellulose for finer finishes (formal tables, fine furniture etc...) furniture that is not going to see a lot of abuse. The nitro goes on very smooth, IMHO an absolutely fantastic finish. I use water based poly on furniture that is designed to take a beating like children’s furniture. I even spray my latex finishes, I like to either blend poly with my paint or apply a satin coat of poly over my paint to protect it from the elements.

          I recently purchased a 4 stage HVLP; this is the third spray gun I have added to my collection. My other two include a Binks 2001, and a wagner 835all three have their strengths and weakness. My first assesment of the HVLP: the technology has come a long way since I first tried it back in the late 80's, not to mention a heck of a lot cheaper. It looks like my new HVLP gun kit it is going to work out really for my applications including latex.

          You may want to consider looking a book called "Spray Finishing and Other Techniques" one of the many great books from Taunton publishing.

          I hope it helps, I certainly didn't mean to babble on too long.



          • #6
            Re: Best Finish to use?

            Poly is probably about the hardest, longest lasting interior finish out there. It's tried and true and proven to be a great product. For most jobs, you are doing exactally right. No runs, no drips and a great finish. If it was a really huge job, you may want to spray but with the slower drying time, wiping just might work for that too.

            Congratulations to Mr. "the sky is falling" Al Gore, nominated the new Village Idiot!


            • #7
              Re: Best Finish to use?

              I always had the best luck with Zip Guard finishes sprayed on.


              • #8
                Re: Best Finish to use?

                Poly is durable, but I find it (IMO) to be cheap looking.
                There are plenty of oil finishes out there that are easy to apply and give great looking results. I mix my own, even amounts of BLO, tung oil, varnish and thinner. A very light use of very fine steel wool between coats. Put on as many coats as you want.


                • #9
                  Re: Best Finish to use?

                  I read this thread with interest. I have some rather basic questions:

                  - Does BLO mean boiled linseed oil??
                  - There were several "mixes" using BLO, varnish, tung oil, and poly. Can you add stain to these mixes, like the minwax stains? Maybe just a little to darken it if needed??
                  - Can these mixes be applied over an existing poly that is roughened with something like steel wool??

                  Thanks DW


                  • #10
                    Re: Best Finish to use?

                    BLO is boiled linseed oil.
                    I do not know if you can add stain to the mixes, the mixes will darken the wood a bit anyway, not much. Test to see how much they darken.
                    Oil finishes generally cannot be applied successfully over poly that is roughened up. Test in a small area to see if it will work.
                    Look at it this way, poly is essentially a barrier that is applied to the wood. Oil finishes are penetrating finishes, I wouldn't use them to protect a surface from scratches, heat, food and such.
                    Poly is a film finish that is good at protecting the wood