Clearcoating paint grade maple cabinets

bigdogloverNovember 12, 2011

This is cross-posted from the Kitchens Forum.

We had new kitchen cabinets custom made out of paint grade maple, with the intention of having a painted white kitchen. We also extended our oak hardwood floors into the whole kitchen area. It is still unfinished, while it acclimates. The cabinets were installed yesterday, also unfinished. We were bowled over by the beauty of the paint grade maple with all its mineral streaks etc. We just LOVE it! We feel the same way about the unfinished floor. They both are about the same color in their unfinished state, and we are seriously considering just putting clear coat on cabinets and floor and enjoying the look. It is light in color (which was why we were going white, to brighten things up) and warm at the same time, and just gorgeous. The cabinets (and our entire decor) is 100% 18th century traditional.

First question is, if we simply clearcoat the cabinets, what might we use? I've learned on GW and elsewhere that lacquer yellows, so does varnish. Is there a more natural product we might use? What about Waterlox? I've heard many here mention it. How about just oiling them? Our favorite varnish when we finish furniture ourselves (seldom) is a wipe-on varnish, totally fool-proof, and always looks wonderful on our furniture. Our floor finisher will use Duraseal for the floor, and we will have to have all the rest of the floors re-sanded if we go au natural. We've had a matte finish on the floors, but I thought we'd give them a little shine this time, but leave the cabinets more matte.

Second, thoughts about the natural floors and cabinets idea are welcome. Otherwise it will be creamy white cabinets and either natural floors, or floors in their current sort of golden tan (toasty) color.

Thank you in advance for your ideas.

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The doors etc were most likely not sanded to a finish that most would consider ready for a clear coat finish. A clear coat my bring out the scratches etc. The manufacturer was planning on primer and paint covering up the imperfections so they did not spend the extra time finishing them. That is why the paint grade is cheaper. Not to say that would stop me from giving them a hand rubbed oil finish if that is what I wanted.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 8:35PM
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Waterlox is EXTREMELY orange. If you use any oil-based product at all, the wood will be much darker and much more orange than it is unfinished. I too actually prefer the color of unfinished white oak and unfinished maple better than their finished colors. But you cannot maintain the natural color and look with typical finishes. You would need a water-clear, water-based finish. Get some scraps of both woods (or at least same species) and test the colors of any finish you're considering.

For floors, I think Bona makes some durable, completely clear finishes. For the cabinets...I don't know. I'm in the same boat, wanting a clear (not amber, yellow, or orange) finish for some oak cabinets I have stripped and chemically aged. Yet, for kitchen cabinets, you need a durable, protective, highly cleanable finish. I have not personally found any of the clear, water-based polys to be durable enough for kitchen cabinets. There are specialty products used by professional finishers (like Faux Effects/Aqua) that are supposed to be extremely durable, but I have not tried any yet. For the kitchen cabinets, I would consider finding a finish professional to spray on a durable water-clear lacquer. I have done lots of wood finishing and normally would do it all myself, but water-based products that are fairly durable don't apply nicely with brushes or rollers. I do have a HVLP sprayer, but I don't want to deal with any overspray in my home or even my garage.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 9:31PM
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Water-clear varnish (not available in the 18th century) is not a period-appropriate look for an 18th century house.
The most period-appropriate finish would be linseed oil on both the floors and the cabinets. It will quickly darken down to a very warm look and not have any glossiness.
Of course you will do whatever you want, but since you dropped the "18th century" factoid into your OP, I thought I'd give you a bit of grounding in what could or would have been used.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 11:17AM
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This is true, but linseed oil is not very durable, the reason why other finishes like varnish were developed. I wouldn't think a modern family living in a home would want a 100% 18th century home, literally.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 11:02AM
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My response was referring to color and sheen as well as actual finish. There are families of "oil finishes" that can give a mellow surface with little or no gloss. And plain linseed oil applied yearly eventually builds to a quite durable finish. And it's more period-appropriate for a "100% 18th century" house than film-forming finishes.
Then again, you can get a flat oil varnish with very little sheen and more "protection" than oil, though if you're interested in true character, the wear and patina that oil will develop over time can't be matched.
Some say patina, some say damage...

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 8:28PM
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I know this is an old thread, but what did you decide to do? Do you have any pictures?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 3:56PM
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