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Finish for red oak

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  • Finish for red oak

    The LOML has asked me to deisign and build her a new artist easel and painters caddy. Now that both of our children are
    in school she really wants to get back to her oil painting after a six year break.

    I have just about finished the design and probably will be picking up the lumber
    this weekend. We were contemplating maple but chose to use red oak for this project.

    What finish would you recommend to keep a natural look and tone and still
    provide some protection.

    Thanks in advance.
    (Cool! I still have 10 fingers!)

  • #2
    Kurt, I've finished several projects of red oak with ZAR #120 Teak Natural stain. I rub it on rather than brush it on. I like the results with just the stain followed by a couple of coats of paste wax or with a few coats of poly. YRMV.
    I decided to change calling the bathroom the "John" and renamed it the "Jim". I feel so much better saying I went to the Jim this morning.


    • #3
      I'm a Minwax fan myself, my father always used minwax.
      A clear poly urathane should be durable, several coats , so the loyl can easily wipe off the oils she uses. I love oak myself basically all I use for anytype of furniture. I'm planning on building Mission style furniture thats why i'm building up my garage woodshop now. I'll be putting on a stain first then the poly, but the poly alone should look nice for an easel. Have fun building , and post a pic too please .


      • #4
        Wow. Those were fast responses.
        Badger, where would you recommend getting the ZAR #120 Teak Natural stain. The local HD, Lowes, Woodcraft or are is that special order?
        (Cool! I still have 10 fingers!)


        • #5
          There are several issues with staining red oak evenly that I've read about, I just have to find the thread they're in. I don't know if they would apply to the treatment Badger Dave mentioned. If I find it I'll add the link to this post.

          Here's a link that begins to discuss using shellac to keep penetration even and to minimize bleeding,
          Last edited by Hector B; 10-12-2006, 08:04 PM.


          • #6
            What about a sealer? Some of the other posts I have seen mention that red oak is very pourous and bubbling/seeping may occur?
            (Cool! I still have 10 fingers!)


            • #7
              I've never had to seal it first, but I have always used a stain first just rubbed it on then let it sit and wiped it off, let it sit 24hrs. then used poly on it , trim only needs a coat or two of the poly , things that will have wear like the easel your planning on building id use 3 -4 coats , but im not sure if just using the poly alone would need a sealer first , I really dont think so though, I'll be using 1/4 sawn oak for the Mission things i'm planning on building ,and I never even gave using a sealer first a thought. Even resanding my oak floors I never used a sealer first and there BEAUTIFUL, been done 5 years now still look like it was done yesterday.(1 wiping of minwax stain then 4 coats of poly) oh DON'T shake the stain or the poly ,stir it slowly thats were you get bubbles by mixing in air.
              Last edited by American and Proud; 10-12-2006, 08:41 PM.


              • #8
                keep in mind, the board/canvas/medium rest will get caked in paint....especially oil. My easel is metal, and the paint really doesn't bother me (albeit looks like a mess), but it eventually builds up and can become annoying. I usually paint on the wall, since my panels/canvas are so big.

                Many artists just use olive oil, since it penetrates the wood, and re-oil over the months/years. When the oil paint dries, it usually just peels off.

                I was just looking at an article in one of the woodworking mags at Barnes and Noble, and the guy 1st sparingly rubbed the wood with Linseed Oil (maybe another oil), then wiped up the excess, and then lightly sanded i believe and applied thinned down Shellac, and finally used a paste wax. I think the paste wax as a final coat is a good idea, seeing the piece will see a lot of oil paint. then over the years/months, she can just rewax it.

                You should make her some stretchers so she can pull her own canvases. It's super easy, and will save you a ton of money, and they look a lot nicer than those cheesy ones you can buy. Plus you can make them exactly to size.


                • #9
                  Bird Dog,

                  I just finished a set of Bunk beds made from Red Oak and I wanted a natural finish on them. i used the Target Coatings water based shellac and water based lacquer. I posted pics of them in the "lets see some project pics" thread. Have a look at them and if that is the type of finish that you want let me know and I will post the schedule that Jeff at Target gave me to use. I think the beds turned out well and I really like the finish.




                  • #10
                    Red oak is very porous and normally "penetrating" stains will present a real challenge with bleed back. Gel stains are often recommended.

                    I recently remodeled our kitchen and the old cabinets were a darker color (ginger) and the waincoat was a natural color. All was fairly well scratched and rather dirty (cats... scratches and fur everywhere!). At first I thought I would refinish the wainscoat to match the darker cabinets. Using a scrap, I tried to match them with a penetrating stain and even after a proper wipedown, the stain on my sample was still bleeding three days later. The cabinets proved to be a bit nasty and we replaced them with new cabinets. I was very happy when the LOML decided she wanted to go with a natural finish on the new stuff.

                    With the kitchen redesign, I refinished all of the wainscoat, giving it a thorough sanding and some repair and replacement. These were 4-inch wide, solid red oak T&G planks.

                    The final finish consisted of three coats of oil-based polyurethane, no stain. I used Min-Wax, only because it was readily available. The water-based provides a clear finish with no coloring, but the oil-based provides some "ambering" that will deepen over time. The latter was my preference.

                    The first two coats were gloss, thinned to about 50/50 with mineral spirits. Applied with a brush, I got good penetration with no runs or bubbles (thinning, helps the bubble escape). The gloss was helpful because it was easy to see if I missed any spots after it dried. I lightly sanded between coats with a synthetic pad and then wiped away any dust with a rag dampened in mineral spirits. The final coat was satin poly, thinned with about 20% miniral spirits. After a couple of weeks, I used Butcher's wax for a final finish.

                    For your easel, I'd probably apply another coat or two, just to make it easier to clean up any oils that drift. Also, you'll want to make sure you've sanded everything quite smooth and eased or rounded any edges. That will make clean-up easier and will reduce the chance of a splinter developing from any sharp edges that a cleaning rag might snag. (Red oak is not only porous, but is inclined to splinter on any rough edges.)

                    I hope this helps,

                    Last edited by CWSmith; 10-13-2006, 10:09 AM.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by bird dog
                      ....Badger, where would you recommend getting the ZAR #120 Teak Natural stain. The local HD, Lowes, Woodcraft or are is that special order?
                      ZAR Dealer search
                      I decided to change calling the bathroom the "John" and renamed it the "Jim". I feel so much better saying I went to the Jim this morning.


                      • #12
                        Thanks Dave.
                        I found a dealer here in Brighton Michigan.
                        (Cool! I still have 10 fingers!)