Waterlox / antique door finishing question

slateberry51May 3, 2010

I've had my eye on waterlox for a while now and with the humidity climbing, it's time for me to quit dithering and get some to finish my project.

I have my wood (poplar doors) stained to match the woodwork in the rest of the house, and I need to finish coat them with something to keep the humidity out and also to provide a protective finish against dirt, skin oils, etc. I already have the color I want and I'm just looking for a clear coat. I've tried polyurethane in the past but I want to get away from the modern, plastic look of it (this is an older house). I always thought of waterlox as a clear finish, but watching the how-to video on their website, it looks very dark. Has anyone used it? I'm thinking perhaps it is clear, and they just tinted it in the video to show more contrast. If not, then I probably can't use it bc I was going to do a coat of original and a coat of satin, and the color build up could get quite dark.

If it's not clear or at least lighter than shown in the video, are there any other suggestions for what I should use? The doors are 120 year old poplar salvaged from a house of similar age and style to my own, stripped bare, sanded, and have a washcoat of denatured alcohol/dewaxed shellac, then 2 coats minwax gel stain (1 in a light color to fill pores, 2nd in my desired color), then a sealer coat of dewaxed shellac. At this point, if I go much more than a shade darker, it won't match the original molding surrounding the door. (Previous owner took out all original panel doors and replaced with contrasting hollow core. Yipee.)

Here is a picture of the door, stained and just waiting for the finish coats:

Here is a picture of the hollow core it replaced:

Here is a picture of what the door looked like before I started. The two on the left are poplar; ignore the pine one on the right, it will be used elsewhere. I love how red and green the poplar looks raw, but how it stains up into such a rich brown finish. People can't believe it's the same wood after it's finished.

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sombreuil_mongrel

Once you have shellac sealcoat and stain on the wood, you have to use the waterlox in a wipe-on mode. Brushed on it can't penetrate the wood and has every right to run like crazy. I've only used waterlox on floors, so I'm making a guess. I personally prefer gel varnish. It is brushed on and wiped smooth with a cloth. I did the top coat of this door (poplar, too) with it, after a barrage of stains shellac, etc. It's the satin finish bartley's gel varnish.

Casey

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 2:08PM
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slateberry51

Your door looks incredible! I spent two weekends of my life fiddling around with various finishes and techniques to get new poplar to match the original in my house, and while I'm proud of my results, I see I have barely scratched the surface.

Thank you for the tip about the Bartley's. I will definitely try it.

Does the Bartley's give a slight yellowing to the color tone the way polyurethane does? Because if you look in my first picture, you'll see that the molding framing the door has a yellowish cast when compared to the door itself. I was counting on my last clear coat to impart a bit of yellow to bring it all together, but if the Bartley's is really clear, perhaps I should do something else first.

I'm curious because in your picture it looks like you used the varnish for the exterior side of the door as well. I've been looking for something to finish the front door of my house, which is in an enclosed front porch, but still, the exterior side is subjected to temperature and humidity extremes that might not be compatible with some interior finishes. Do you think the Bartley's would work in that setting as well?

Thank you, again, from steering me clear of a disaster. I am looking forward to trying waterlox on bare wood, but you are right, a penetrating finish over sealer would be challenging. The more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn... :-)

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 8:58AM
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sombreuil_mongrel

My door is sheltered, and faces north, so it only gets a bit of evening sun a few times per year. If a varnished door gets sun, it has to be a very tough product, and a wipe-on isn't that. It would need three-four coats of spar varnish to begin with, with a close eye kept on things; the minute you notice it starting to lose gloss, it will need a recoat. I installed an antique door on my parent's home in Arkansas, where it faced south, and needed recoating every two years.
AFAIK, if you can't find Bartley's line in your area, the General Finishes line is just as good. The wipe-on gels don't add much color, they are virtually clear in the can, and are applied very thin.
You can, I believe, order either online if you prefer.
Oh, as an aside, the weird thing about that door (an ebay find) was that the exterior side was originally varnished, while the interior was originally painted white. Thank god for gel stains, because you can never get that fine-ground white lead primer completely out of poplar grain.

Casey

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 7:48PM
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slateberry51

OK, so not Bartley's on my front door. I think I could keep up with the spar varnish. It's an east door, but because of its depth in the porch, doesn't get much sun per day.

I think I'm good to go, but I'll post back if anything interesting happens. I think the Bartley's web site said I could tint their varnish by mixing in a bit of their stains, but I'm thinking I'll just do an intermediate stain step instead, to get that slight yellowing effect, so I don't have to worry about unintended color build up.

And thanks for sharing your photos! Your door is an awesome example of what can be achieved with poplar.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 9:28AM
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