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Old 08-20-2016, 08:26 PM   #1
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Best Product to Finish New Wood

We are replacing our countertops with beautiful #1 grade 3/4" birch. We want to leave it as natural-looking as possible but need to seal and harden it up. A couple of people have suggested 2 coats of varnish. Does anyone have any other suggestions? We want non-glossy and something that won't turn yellow.
Any suggested brands or techniques? Thanks in advance.
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Old 08-20-2016, 09:13 PM   #2
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Best Product to Finish New Wood

Look into Deft brand wood finish or use water-clear water-based polyurethane. Gives a hard finish that still has some flex to it.

I use Minwax water-based Polycrylic finish if I don't want stuff to change color. It needs multiple coats and scuffing with a nylon steel wool equivalent (Scotchbrite) pad between coats. Vacuum the entire area you are working in plus what you are finishing most carefully, and use a clean tack rag to keep dust specks out of the finish.

I find it to be quite durable when I build up 5-6 coats. It does dry very fast in low humidity so you have to be quick. Comes in a variety of sheens from gloss to flat. If I want it flat, I use layers of gloss for transparency and a final coat or two with flat. Flat has a fine filler in it that obscures grain a little. Porous woods will take more coats to get a slick finish.

With a little care, good brushes, and super tight dust control it looks great, and there are little to no fumes.


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Old 08-20-2016, 09:27 PM   #3
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Is this solid birch? If so, I'd just apply mineral oil which is food safe and available at any drug store. The wood will absorb it like a sponge for the first several applications, but it gives a very nice appearance that you don't have to worry about marring, as you keep applying it periodically until the wood is saturated. This is what I use on the wood counters of my home kitchen and it's the way to go, in my own humble opinion.
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Old 08-20-2016, 09:36 PM   #4
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I use General Finish on all of my furniture projects. It is a wipe on oil urethane which does require more applications due to the thin coats but leaves no brush marks. As rmkrum noted use a gloss for the first couple of coats and the remainder with satin. This will give you more clarity in the finish. Personally, I do not use a tack cloth due to the residue left on the surface. Lightly sand between all but the last coat with 0000 steel wool. Good luck.
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Old 08-20-2016, 10:01 PM   #5
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X2 on General Finish
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Old 08-20-2016, 10:32 PM   #6
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Don't EVER, EVER use steel wool.

It leaves small metal particles in the wood grain that will eventually cause rust stains!

Use the non-metallic ScotchBrite equivalent. Or, if you absolutely insist on metal, use bronze wool or stainless steel. No finish is totally waterproof, and steel wool is guaranteed to rust, period.

Rust stains under the finish are impossible to fix. Been there, learned it the hard way. Modern abrasives are better than the traditional stuff.

I learned this doing varnished bright work on boats with my dad.

He didn't allow steel wool of any sort on the yacht--not even Brillo pads in the galley. It's that bad.


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Old 08-20-2016, 11:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmkrum View Post
Don't EVER, EVER use steel wool.
Interesting. I have seen similar remarks about using steel wool on aluminum, with also a claim about eventual rust.

Steel wool on unfinished, open-pored wood is not a good idea because small bits of the steel wool can end up in the pores. Despite that, care and a strong magnet will eventually remove all steel bits.

I make bamboo fly rods and regularly use steel wool as part of the finishing process without ever having rust flecks show up, even after years of use of a rod. Careful cleanup is necessary, but not terribly difficult.

Just for the record, I have also used steel wool on aluminum exposed to weather without any subsequent traces of rust.

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Old 08-20-2016, 11:33 PM   #8
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I'm unsure about the soak in vs sealing type finishes. I'm inclined, as this is a food preparation surface, to lean to the sealing type finish. Wouldn't want any latent places where bacteria can infect. Maybe someone can convince otherwise.
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Old 08-21-2016, 12:01 AM   #9
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I'm unsure about the soak in vs sealing type finishes. I'm inclined, as this is a food preparation surface, to lean to the sealing type finish. Wouldn't want any latent places where bacteria can infect. Maybe someone can convince otherwise.
I've used wood cutting boards and food prep surfaces my whole life with no treatment or just mineral oil and am still alive. The problem with plastic sealers is they wear and flake and get into your food. Not sure I want plastic in my system. Mineral oil, on the other hand, is food safe and does a good job of sealing the work surface.
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Old 08-21-2016, 12:25 AM   #10
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Food grade oil is the only NSF approved wood surface treatment.
Sealers and urathanes/varnishes can flake and allow places for bacteria to grow.
An oil finish is a great looking minimal maintenance solution for countertops.
If things look dry give it a wipe with oil!
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Old 08-21-2016, 12:57 AM   #11
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Absolutely agree if the countertop will be used to lay raw food on it, or cut on it, oil is the best finish.

My wife, however, would probably forcibly remove my head if I did such a thing to her precious countertops, and probably have the same reaction if I even scratched it. Ours, as a point of reference are laminate in the AS, stone at home. Same attitude both places.

We are required to use separate cutting boards at all times. Either plastic, or properly cleaned and oiled wood...

So the correct answer is, (putting my paid consultant hat on) "it depends on exactly how you are using the surface"


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Old 08-21-2016, 01:49 AM   #12
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if you must use a clear coat then

Quote:
Originally Posted by rmkrum View Post
Look into Deft brand wood finish or use water-clear water-based polyurethane. Gives a hard finish that still has some flex to it.

I use Minwax water-based Polycrylic finish if I don't want stuff to change color. It needs multiple coats and scuffing with a nylon steel wool equivalent (Scotchbrite) pad between coats. Vacuum the entire area you are working in plus what you are finishing most carefully, and use a clean tack rag to keep dust specks out of the finish.

I find it to be quite durable when I build up 5-6 coats. It does dry very fast in low humidity so you have to be quick. Comes in a variety of sheens from gloss to flat. If I want it flat, I use layers of gloss for transparency and a final coat or two with flat. Flat has a fine filler in it that obscures grain a little. Porous woods will take more coats to get a slick finish.

With a little care, good brushes, and super tight dust control it looks great, and there are little to no fumes.


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I have done wood finishing for 20 plus years and agree this formula will work the best . You need a durable high build product and this would do it . Do not waste your time with with thinner wipe on products they will not stand up to water etc . The only other product would be a 2 part conversion varnish sprayed on multiple coats .http://www.mohawk-finishing.com/cata...asp?ictNbr=577
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Old 08-21-2016, 02:24 AM   #13
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Best Product to Finish New Wood

Thanks. It's what I have found to work best, the hard way.

I've been doing woodworking for 'a bit' longer than I'm willing to admit.

My family is Norwegian, and we've been messing about on wooden boats and doing other woodworking for centuries. Dad was an expert. He would be proud of what I've accomplished.

He used traditional tools like badger bristle brushes and hand scrapers to refinish bright work on some of the nicest wooden boats I've ever seen. Would that I could do even half as good a job as he could.

That said, UV-cured varnish can get almost as good a finish as he could in far less time.

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Old 08-21-2016, 07:37 AM   #14
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The OP did not say that they wanted to use the surface as a cutting board, if they do, then the NSF is the way to go. I prefer a more durable treatment to a countertop and then use a separate cutting board when needed.
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