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Recommendations for finish on bar rail please

Posted by magothyrivergirl (My Page) on
Fri, Mar 7, 08 at 12:44

The Bar Rail is unfinished red oak. What finish / stain / poly do you suggest for this? We want to achieve a natural - not dark - look as the rest of the bar is light as well. I also have to stain or apply a finish to the oak veneer and trim.
Thanks for any suggestions and tips you want to share!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Recommendations for finish on bar rail please

I like Waterlox Original. It has a slight reddish cast to it. So try it on scrap before you commit to your bar. The choice to stain or not stain is yours.

Don't believe everything you read on the label, they have taken to stretching the description like most finish makers, but it is a fine product none-the-less.

Here is a link that might be useful: Waterlox Original


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RE: Recommendations for finish on bar rail please

You can mix stain to come with a nice color. A combination of Minwax Colonial Maple and Fruitwood makes a nice one. Even the Fruitwood alone may be something you like.

Thinking it might be a good idea to use an exterior poly since it would hold up better to wet conditions,abrasion,etc. I've had Zar exterior poly on the exterior of my front door for 4 years. Still looks great, and even holds up to the dogs who sometimes scratch it. It's a real hard finish.


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RE: Recommendations for finish on bar rail please

Contrary to popular opinion, spar (long oil) varnishes are made for flexibility. They are less waterproof and softer than short oil varnishes. I have seen some interior woodwork that was done in spar poly and it was not holding up well.


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RE: Recommendations for finish on bar rail please

It's interesting that Spar varnish was originally made for the "spars" on boats!!! It was made to varnish unpainted wood, but had to be reapplied over and over to protect. Yep, it's soft. Guess that was because the mast of a boat flexes and the varnish wouldn't crack from movement. With today's good finishes, I can't find a good reason to use it.


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RE: Recommendations for finish on bar rail please

Thanks for your responses. I read the info on the Waterlox Original and tried to purchase some at my local hardware store this weekend - who was listed as a dealer. I have to order it - not a problem for me. Being a sailboat owner, I am familiar with the varnishes, finishes, etc for boats (not their technical properties, just what to use where on the boat!).
Bob - My questions: if I choose to stain, do I add the stain to the Waterlox or stain then apply the Waterlox? Sand in between coats?
I have now purchased oak from several sources - I was willing to get it all where I got the Bar rail - hoping for better quality and consistency - no luck.
You can tell I have limited furniture / fine staining experience.
Thanks for your help!


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RE: Recommendations for finish on bar rail please

Stain first, wipe off excess, then let it dry. Mixing stain into a brushed finish is not a good idea.

Here is my approach to a brushed finish:

* Coat 1: Thin varnish (in a separate container) 50-50 with mineral spirits. Stirred, not shaken. Brush on. Let dry at least overnight.

* Coat 2: same as coat 1.

* Coat 3: Sand with P400 sandpaper (I like 3M's 216U (sold as sandblaster)). Take off as much as you can without getting into wood or removing stain color. What you are doing is sealing the wood with the same product as you are using as a top coat. Wipe off dust with a mineral spirits dampened clean rag. Thin the varnish 2:1 with mineral spirits. Put on a light coat. From here on, you want to put on as little as possible consistent with full coverage. When you finish a section, "tip off" by holding an unloaded brush nearly perpendicular with the surface and lightly drag across to level high and low spots and smooth brush marks. Leave the area while the varnish dries. Let dry overnight.

* Coat 4: Lightly sand with P400 sandpaper. All you want to do is remove the defects like dust nibs and create a toothy surface. Wipe off dust with a mineral spirits dampened clean rag. Thin varnish 10% or so with mineral spirits. Pull out your best brush. Carefully brush on a light coat. When you finish a section, "tip off." Leave the area while the varnish dries.

* Coat 5: repeat same as coat 4.

After a week or two: [optional] Get some furniture wax and 0000 steel wool and buff the finish. Buff off excess wax, as much as you possibly can, with a soft cloth. It will be as smooth as a baby's butt.


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RE: Recommendations for finish on bar rail please

Thanks so much Bobsmyuncle. I appreciate your detailed instructions. I will follow them exactly. I use Corolla brushes for painting. I do believe in buying good quality brushes. Do you have a favorite size & type you'd recommend for this job?
Do I follow these directions regardless of the sheen I decide on using in the Waterlox?
I really hate to ask so many questions, but I find the people here at GW so incredibly helpful - again, thank you for all your tips!!


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RE: Recommendations for finish on bar rail please

I like the Redtree Badger Brushes, which I have recently found out are not really made from badger hair, but they are fine brushes. Jeff Jewitt has some oval varnishing brushes on his site, but I have not tried them. I recommend natural bristle for (oil-based) varnishing. I say if you use a 59 cent brush, you get a 59 cent finish.

There is differing opinion on the issue of how to apply sheen. Some people say do gloss all the way except last coat or two so you don't get cloudy. Others say it does not make any difference. Given the choice, I'm in the first camp, but I would not advocate having to buy two cans of varnish for a quarter-can project. If you have both around, fine, but I'm AC/DC on this one.

If you do use a satin or semi-gloss, the flattener (silica) is in suspension. When you thin the varnish, especially the first few coats, it will rapidly fall out of suspension, so keep the paint stick in and stir every few minutes.

I also believe in applying varnish from a separate container and discarding the left over. This keeps dust and debris from collecting in your can. Finish is usually the most inexpensive part of a job (considering wood, hardware and time), and yet is the first thing you see in the final job. Don't worry about wasting a dollar or two here.

And to anticipate the next question, see the link.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cleaning brushes


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RE: Recommendations for finish on bar rail please

lol - my next question!!!! You are right! Years ago, I watched a very good house painter taking care of his brushes & I started doing what he did. I am happy to say it is as described in the article - even down to washing with Dawn and twirling!! I would not have dipped the bristles in the mineral spirits prior to using the Waterlox, altho I do wet them when painting with latex paint, so another good tip - thanks again - I am learning alot. I have confidence that if I follow your directions I will achieve "baby's butt results". I'll name a drink in your honor - what's your favorite drink? even if it is non alcoholic - " I'll have a bobsmyuncle ?????? on the rocks. " Has a certain ring to it.


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RE: Recommendations for finish on bar rail please

The knowledge that you didn't just reach for a can of Minwax Polyurethane is reward enough. ;)


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