Original Waterlox Finish for Countertop?

ZoeCat17October 9, 2011

I've just done two coats of the original (medium sheen) Waterlox on my black walnut countertops and they look beautiful.

The instructions that came with the counters say to do coat 3 and 4 in a 50-50 mix of original and satin finish, but I actually like the way they look so far with just the original.

Plus, the instructions have kind of freaked me out about how difficult the satin mixture is to work with. I've got a really nice, bubble free finish so far, and I don't know that I should mess with success.

So my question -- is there any reason why I couldn't just use 100% original for the last two coats?


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Not really; most waterlox varnishes are a little thinner than spar varnishes, although waterlox used to make a spar varnish. Spar varnishes are made to withstand wet environments. I use a tung oil/phenolic resin varnish and love it, but it is not Waterlox. Waterlox just didn't get hard enough. A note on finishing varnish. The duller finish varnishes just have talc, or other substances, in them to refract light and give them a duller finish. It also makes them softer, and more difficult to rub out. High gloss doesn't cloud the visibility of the wood through the finish. I was taught by a Master finisher to never use pre-dulled varnishes.

I just finished a cherry "butcher block" trestle table with three coats of varnish (25% turps, 10% turps, full strength, leveling w/ 320 between coats) Three days after final I did a final 320 level then, wet sanded w/400, then 600, then 1200. After buffing it is impossible to walk past it without fondling the finish. I'm told by other finishers that both drying isn't that fast and hardness isn't either.

Spar (marine) varnishes are ideal for tables that might get wet and need water to clean up. Se if Waterlox makes a spar varnish. Or Epifanes makes a partial tung oil phenolic resin varnish that is quite good. Actually tung oil and phenolic resin is a very old varnish formula.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 11:24PM
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Use the original for all the coats.

The satin is for less sheen. Be advised that additional coats of the original will build more gloss. A true finishing process should involve polishing the finished surface after the last coat is fully cured. No need to use satin; it is not as hard of a finish.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 5:56PM
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Do you have a reference for this statement?
> Spar (marine) varnishes are ideal for tables that might get wet and need water to clean up.

I've always heard that because spar varnishes are long oil, they are more flexible (what they are designed for), but less water resistant.

Here is a link that might be useful: See MEE

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 8:15PM
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Marine varnishes are indeed more flexible and they are more resistant to water environments. Phenolic resin varnishes were formulated especially to be marine varnishes because they were so water resistant. Tung oil also imparts water resistance to substrates by itself and more so when incorporated into a varnish. Typically, long oil varnishes take longer to cross-link, but my experience with the tung oil/ phenolic resin varnish I use, "drying" takes 3-5 days to be ready to rub out.

Most varnishes' qualities are a result of the chemical properties of the resins since most use a common oil. Tung oil is the exception, but due to its expense, they skimp or use "modified tung oil" and linseed oil. Real 100% tung oil varnishes are rare and expensive. My point here, I guess, is that I have been varnishing yachts for over 35 years, and water and spray is a major concern.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 10:09PM
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"Phenolic resin also produces a very hard varnish. This property makes varnish made from phenolic resin an excellent choice where hardness is desirable, for example for table tops, desks, floors, etc."
This is from the same source you linked to in your comment. The water resistance statement comes from my experience with these marine varnishes over several years. Perhaps I've been fortunate with the varnishes I've used, but I have to stick with my claim (with a caveat) that marine varnishes I've found and used have exhibited excellent water resistance.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 11:20AM
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I accept that varnishes from phenolic resin + tung oil can have more water resistance. I also accept that thicker film finishes are more water resistant than thinner film finishes of the same finish.

However, not all spar varnishes are phenolic + tung, and not all phenolic + tung varnishes are spar varnishes.

I'm just leery that someone reading this comment out of context is going to run to the big box and pick up a can of Helmsman Spar Urethane and be really disappointed in it. I've seen well-intentioned, but un-knowledgeable, painters use this stuff on desks and end up with pen impressions all over the place in no time.

Certainly, if you are using Epifanes, Petit, Woolsey, or the like, you are getting a better varnish.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 6:24PM
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Bob, I certainly agree; I stand mostly corrected. And I wholeheartedly agree regarding Helmsman Spar Urethane and those like it. I will be more careful and less dogmatic in the future. My comment about the Waterlox being softer is really based on a single use and should be noted as such.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 8:09PM
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