Quantcast

Best finish for table tops?

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

Polly1313

Established Member
Joined
27 Jun 2020
Messages
20
Reaction score
0
Location
Hull
I need some advice on the best finish to use for horizontal surfaces which need to be resistant to use/wear and having things placed upon them, such as the tops of tables, sideboards and so on. I'm working with pine at the moment, and while I want to be able to bring out as much of the wood grain/pattern as I can, I don't really need a perfect, mirror glass finish.

I know that varnish, lacquers and shellacs provide more durable finishes, but I've ruled them out because I don't have spraying equipment/facilities (nor the skills) to apply them, and I just can't imagine that a brush finish is going to look much good. Am I right to dismiss them, or are there versions of these that can be simply wiped/rubbed in by a clumsy novice such as myself?

If I'm right to dismiss varnish, lacquers and shellacs, it seems that I am left with the less durable options of oils or waxes (I've also seen oil/varnish blends mentioned). What are the pros and cons of these?

Where does wood stain fit in here, by the way? Is it merely for adding colour?

Thanking you all in advance for your advice and expertise :)
 

mrpercysnodgrass

Established Member
Joined
29 Apr 2012
Messages
542
Reaction score
5
Location
Lingen Herefordshire
The best easiest tough wipe on with little skill or effort finish is Danish oil. If you follow the instructions you will get an excellent finish that will give you what you are asking for. The hardwax oils are similar but much more expensive and will give you a softer look and if applied with a mini roller gives a very acceptable result. Varnishes are a bit more complicated. Old fashioned solvent based varnishes will give the toughest finish but require time skill and a dust free enviroment to apply. There is a method of thinning down varnish (wiping varnish) which I have never used but many on this forum have and it gives very good results. Modern acrylic varnishes are very good and easy to apply with brush or roller, if cut back and waxed will give a hard wearing finish. Shellac is not a durable finish by any means, requires a fair amount of skill to apply and takes constant care and maintenance to keep it looking good on a piece of furniture that is going to be handled alot. There is a way of finishing with shellac and pumice powder that gives a lovely hard finish but is not suitable for pine. Wax is no good as a finish on its own except on pieces that are not going to be handled. Laquers are a whole subject on their own, for pine you can get a good finish by brushing on two coats of cellulose or pre-cat sanding sealer, cut back with fine 240g-400g paper, wire wool with '0000' and wax or dry buff.
If you are stripping and refinishing old pine it should have a nice mellow amber colour and will not need staining but if you are using new pine or are sanding through an old finish and the pine is comming up white then a stain will certainly help. Liberon 'Palette Wood Dye' is excellent.
 

Cheshirechappie

Established Member
Joined
30 Jan 2012
Messages
4,727
Reaction score
13
Location
Cheshire
I note that Mr Percy suggests not finishing just with wax. He's right! Years ago, I finished my oak dining table just with wax, and it didn't take long to deteriorate quie markedly.

My solution was to plane and sand off the finish back to bare wood, then to apply by brush three coats of yacht varnish (the good quality solvent based stuff, not water based). With a good quality brush and care in application, a good finish is easy to obtain - apply the varnish across the grain, brush out evenly, then very delicately 'tip off' with the very tips of the brush bristles along the grain. Allow to dry between coats, and for a good few days if possible after the last one, then rub down very gently with a very fine abrasive (I used wire wool). Clean off, then apply a coat of wax polish. The result is not a high gloss, but a soft sheen.

It's proved to be very hard wearing, having bourne a couple of decades of abuse without problems, and I've done the same on a few surfaces likely to see hard wear since with no problems so far.

I think us amateurs are right to avoid sprayed finishes. Good brushes are easier to clean than spray equipment, and even the best are far less of an investment, and with care, will last a lifetime.
 

MikeG.

Plodding on.
Joined
24 Aug 2008
Messages
10,152
Reaction score
635
Location
Essex/ Suffolk border
Polly1313":33pupcr0 said:
.......I know that varnish, lacquers and shellacs provide more durable finishes, but I've ruled them out because I don't have spraying equipment/facilities (nor the skills) to apply them, and I just can't imagine that a brush finish is going to look much good. Am I right to dismiss them,.........
No, absolutely not. I wish I'd known decades ago that varnish can be the simplest finish to apply, and it can be done in a dusty workshop without any equipment at all. All you do is A/ start with any old oil-based varnish (ie not a water-based one), B/ thin it down with white spirit (same volume as the varnish), C/ add some oil if you want to bring out the grain (in a rough 1:1:1 ratio with the varnish & white spirit), D/ slap it on any old how with a brush, E/ wait 7 to 10 minutes and wipe it off with any old thing (cloth/ kitchen roll), F/ wait 24 hours, give it the lightest rub over with the tiredest finest piece of sandpaper you can find, and repeat D/ onwards. Do this between 3 and 6 or 7 times and you have a lovely robust finish, silky smooth, and with just a hint of glossiness.

This works much better in the warm than the cold, so I tend to take pieces into the house overnight in the winter rather than leaving them in the workshop. Whatever glossiness the original varnish was, your finish will be slightly less glossy. So if you want a satin finish, use a gloss varnish. I found a cheap timer an invaluable investment, as you otherwise tend to get stuck into something else and forget to go back to the wiping stage soon enough.
 

robgul

Barry Bucknell is my hero
Joined
13 Feb 2020
Messages
99
Reaction score
33
Location
Stratford-upon-Avon
I've just made a plywood kitchen/dining table (cool exposed edges and chrome hairpin legs!) - after much consideration I used OSMO Top Oil for the finish - applying a total of 4 coats (the tin says 2) with very gentle de-nibbing between coats. There is then an OSMO day-to-day spray cleaner that maintains the surface.

So far, so good - surface is wipeable and seems durable.
 

MikeG.

Plodding on.
Joined
24 Aug 2008
Messages
10,152
Reaction score
635
Location
Essex/ Suffolk border
Osmo just isn't durable enough for a table top, I'm afraid. I did all my oak windowboards here with Osmo, and they are all stained and very tired looking. It looked great for a while, but none of them lasted more than 2 years. I'll be stripping them soon and using a wiping varnish instead.
 

AndyT

Established Member
Joined
24 Jul 2007
Messages
11,789
Reaction score
174
Location
Bristol
Mike, could you just clarify, which Osmo product you used that wasn't suitable? Was it Top Oil like Robgul used, or one of their other products?
 

Waka

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
8 Mar 2004
Messages
4,486
Reaction score
0
Location
Weymouth
I made a maple table for my kitchen about 5 years ago and finished it with Chestnut finishing Oil, probably applied 6 coats with de-nibbing with 600 paper after very coat, has really stood the test of time.
 

MikeG.

Plodding on.
Joined
24 Aug 2008
Messages
10,152
Reaction score
635
Location
Essex/ Suffolk border
AndyT":308mhrre said:
Mike, could you just clarify, which Osmo product you used that wasn't suitable? Was it Top Oil like Robgul used, or one of their other products?
It was Top Oil. I also have a similar negative experience of PolyX.
 

robgul

Barry Bucknell is my hero
Joined
13 Feb 2020
Messages
99
Reaction score
33
Location
Stratford-upon-Avon
MikeG.":1qyz6r90 said:
AndyT":1qyz6r90 said:
Mike, could you just clarify, which Osmo product you used that wasn't suitable? Was it Top Oil like Robgul used, or one of their other products?
It was Top Oil. I also have a similar negative experience of PolyX.
It may the timber that's the problem ? - my table is BB/BB Birch ply - in contrast I've found that OSMO Top Oil isn't much use on any hardwoods - and other OSMO products have been equally poor on some yellow belau timber.

Early days with my table, fingers remain crossed.
 

RogerM

Established Member
Joined
4 Mar 2006
Messages
1,274
Reaction score
1
Location
Devon
MikeG.":2o3k1zv0 said:
AndyT":2o3k1zv0 said:
Mike, could you just clarify, which Osmo product you used that wasn't suitable? Was it Top Oil like Robgul used, or one of their other products?
It was Top Oil. I also have a similar negative experience of PolyX.
I'm surprised at your experience with Osmo Top and Polyx Oil Mike. I've used it for table tops and other furniture, and have found it to be virtually bomb proof on oak, cherry and maple. Can't speak for pine though. The great thing with any of the Osmo oils is that if you get some localised damage it can be patched up without having to strip back the whole surface, as is the case with varnish. Just my two penn'orth.
 

gog64

Established Member
Joined
19 May 2018
Messages
94
Reaction score
8
Location
herefordshire
I think that when you find something that works you tend to stick with / swear by it. I’ve used the Osmo versions of hardwax and not been over impressed with it’s longevity. On the other hand I’ve been pleased with Fiddes hardwax oil. Much smellier (solvents) but I’ve used it on oak, walnut and cherry with very good results. One item is my own kitchen table and with a very large and boisterous family it’s stood up to 2 years hard use and abuse very well.
 

weekend_woodworker

Established Member
Joined
11 Dec 2018
Messages
86
Reaction score
8
Location
Bath, UK
Can I be a heretic here and say I have been very pleased with some Ronseal water based Matt varnish. It is simple to apply with either a foam roller or brush. I have used three coats with a light rub down between coats. It must have lasted at least 10 years on the oak table we use in the kitchen every day and has coped with everything the kids have thrown at it.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Polly1313

Established Member
Joined
27 Jun 2020
Messages
20
Reaction score
0
Location
Hull
MikeG.":2p50cjc8 said:
Polly1313":2p50cjc8 said:
.......I know that varnish, lacquers and shellacs provide more durable finishes, but I've ruled them out because I don't have spraying equipment/facilities (nor the skills) to apply them, and I just can't imagine that a brush finish is going to look much good. Am I right to dismiss them,.........
No, absolutely not. I wish I'd known decades ago that varnish can be the simplest finish to apply, and it can be done in a dusty workshop without any equipment at all. All you do is A/ start with any old oil-based varnish (ie not a water-based one), B/ thin it down with white spirit (same volume as the varnish), C/ add some oil if you want to bring out the grain (in a rough 1:1:1 ratio with the varnish & white spirit), D/ slap it on any old how with a brush, E/ wait 7 to 10 minutes and wipe it off with any old thing (cloth/ kitchen roll), F/ wait 24 hours, give it the lightest rub over with the tiredest finest piece of sandpaper you can find, and repeat D/ onwards. Do this between 3 and 6 or 7 times and you have a lovely robust finish, silky smooth, and with just a hint of glossiness.

This works much better in the warm than the cold, so I tend to take pieces into the house overnight in the winter rather than leaving them in the workshop. Whatever glossiness the original varnish was, your finish will be slightly less glossy. So if you want a satin finish, use a gloss varnish. I found a cheap timer an invaluable investment, as you otherwise tend to get stuck into something else and forget to go back to the wiping stage soon enough.
MikeG, when you say "add some oil", do you mean like Danish oil or something?
 

MikeG.

Plodding on.
Joined
24 Aug 2008
Messages
10,152
Reaction score
635
Location
Essex/ Suffolk border
Danish oil will do, but actually it is already a mix itself, being part varnish, part oil. Tung oil produces the best results in my eyes. Linseed oil works. Osmo works. In fact, any wood finishing oil works, and I've no doubt that even some food oils such as olive oil or rapeseed oil would work. The oil is what brings out the grain pattern , and in simplistic terms, it's the job of the varnish to then protect that highlighted grain.
 

MikeG.

Plodding on.
Joined
24 Aug 2008
Messages
10,152
Reaction score
635
Location
Essex/ Suffolk border
weekend_woodworker":1bwn5jov said:
Can I be a heretic here and say I have been very pleased with some Ronseal water based Matt varnish. It is simple to apply with either a foam roller or brush. I have used three coats with a light rub down between coats. It must have lasted at least 10 years on the oak table we use in the kitchen every day and has coped with everything the kids have thrown at it........
If you want a near invisible finish which just adds a little lustre and a lot of protection, then try a water-based lacquer. It's easier than varnish to apply nicely. And cheap, if you know where to get it.
 

Phil Pascoe

occasional purveyor of blunt tools.
UKW Supporter
Joined
29 Jan 2012
Messages
18,995
Reaction score
210
Location
Shaft City, Mid Cornish Desert
MikeG.":30km1uxg said:
AndyT":30km1uxg said:
Mike, could you just clarify, which Osmo product you used that wasn't suitable? Was it Top Oil like Robgul used, or one of their other products?
It was Top Oil. I also have a similar negative experience of PolyX.
I'm using Blanchon (very similar) atm, but my experience is much the same - it's a nice finish, but I wouldn't use it anywhere subjected to much abuse or hard wear.
 

Phil Pascoe

occasional purveyor of blunt tools.
UKW Supporter
Joined
29 Jan 2012
Messages
18,995
Reaction score
210
Location
Shaft City, Mid Cornish Desert
In NZ bare chipboard floors are common - they are more often than not treated with water based polyurethane. If it's hard enough for a floor ...
 

sammy.se

Established Member
Joined
3 Aug 2014
Messages
1,192
Reaction score
35
Location
London
I've had very good experience with morrells water based lacquer, both sprayed and brushed. It was on a bedframe, and shelf, both have withstood average usage quite well.

Sadly, I could only buy it in a 5L tub, and about 75% of that is now congealed and wasted. (It has a 12 month shelf life according to the manufacturer)

I would happily buy it again if I could find a smaller quantity.





https://www.morrells.co.uk/products/woo ... -lacquers/
 

MikeG.

Plodding on.
Joined
24 Aug 2008
Messages
10,152
Reaction score
635
Location
Essex/ Suffolk border
Not Morrells, but try Ingilby Paints, Sudbury. They make their own, and it only costs about £8 per litre. They'll actually make it to your specification if you want, with matting agents, colours added, UV inhibitors etc.
 

Latest posts

Top