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HELP! Confused on Stains, Finishes, Care

Posted by titanzombie (My Page) on
Thu, Apr 23, 09 at 11:06

Well, I love DIY jobs and woodworking - although I would consider myself a novice. I got interested in woodworking in Iraq where I built my own stuff (walls for my room, a footlocker etc) but now that I have to spend my own money to make stuff I've realized how little I know and I need some help.

I was in my local hardware store the other day and my head started spinning when I went down the wood care/stain/finishing isle.

I'm looking for advice on what the following items are (the differences) and the pros/cons to using them on DIY projects like furniture, doors, etc.

1. Spar Varnish v. Spar Urethane

2. Danish Oil v. Tung Oil v. Teak Oil
- I know these are "varnishes" so why do the manufacturers of these products recommend using a top coat such as wax or polyurethane?

3. Lacquer - spray on only or are there paint/brush on versions? And can I use a lacquer to protect metal products from rust (indoor use on display type items)?

4. "Spray On, Fast Drying Polyurethane". I saw this product from Minwax but it did not say water or oil based. From the ingredients I would say oil based. Any thoughts on the quality of this over the polyurethanes you brush on?

5. Lastly I saw a product that was a "Crystal Clear" epoxy type product that was advertised as simply mix and pour onto table tops/counter tops. Supposedly it is used on bar tops and table tops to produce a clear, high-gloss finish that is stronger than "60 coats" of lacquer. Anyone used this product or has any opinions on it?

And after using any of these products (varnish, lacquer, polyurethane, danish oil etc) what do any of you recommend for care? Use a wax? Use a spray on type cleaner like Pledge? Use something like WATCO's Rejuvenating oil for wood then use wax or what?

Thanks for any and all feedback!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: HELP! Confused on Stains, Finishes, Care

I suggest you spend $20 and get a copy of Bob Flexner's "Understanding Wood Finishes" (2d edition). It will go a long way dispelling confusion and bad advice from the orange apron guys.

1. Spar Varnish v. Spar Urethane
Spar varnish is a generic term for a "long-oil" varnish. This means that a higher proportion of oil to resin is made in the manufacture. This is done so that the finish has more flexibility and is less resistant to cracking when applied to spars on wood boats. It is generally both softer and less water resistant than "short-oil" (standard furniture) varnishes. Urethane is simply one of the three common resins used in varnish manufacture. The other are phenolic and alkyd. Most spar varnishes don't indicate which resin without a lot of research. A quart of good spar varnish (Epifanes, Pettit and Interlux) will cost about twice what a gallon of the cheap stuff will cost. Spar Urethane is a particularly useless product as the urethane resins are not very UV resistant and the common brand is likely to fail in just a few weeks exterior exposure. Unless you are finishing a boat, there is little or no reason to use a spar varnish. I can't think of any reason to apply to interior furniture.

2. Danish Oil v. Tung Oil v. Teak Oil
- I know these are "varnishes" so why do the manufacturers of these products recommend using a top coat such as wax or polyurethane?

These are really marketing terms and can mean about anything the manufacturer wants to put on the label. There is a real tung oil, but 90% of things that say Tung Oil _Finish_ have absolutely 0% tung oil in them. Most are simply thinned varnish or oil-varnish blends. Danish Oils and Teak oils are often about 2/3 mineral spirits (paint thinner), 2/9 boiled linseed oil, and 1/9 varnish. Why recommend something else? They double their sales this way (not kidding).

3. Lacquer - spray on only or are there paint/brush on versions? And can I use a lacquer to protect metal products from rust (indoor use on display type items)?

Most lacquers are designed to spray as they are very fast drying. There are brushing lacquers that have been retarded to allow brushing and flow out. Watco Lacquer and Deft Wood Finish are two common versions. There are special "brass lacquers" to apply to brass. I would not necessarily recommend for other metal items without testing.

4. "Spray On, Fast Drying Polyurethane". I saw this product from Minwax but it did not say water or oil based. From the ingredients I would say oil based. Any thoughts on the quality of this over the polyurethanes you brush on?

I believe what you saw is oil-based. Normally this is highly thinned to get it to flow up the feed tube and atomize. Thus is will have a much lower build than brush on. "Fast dry" is also stretching things a bit. Aerosol lacquer will dry in less than a minute in light coats. Aerosol shellac will be ready to recoat with anything in 15-20 minutes. A "fast drying" polyurethane means a couple of hours.

5. Lastly I saw a product that was a "Crystal Clear" epoxy type product that was advertised as simply mix and pour onto table tops/counter tops. Supposedly it is used on bar tops and table tops to produce a clear, high-gloss finish that is stronger than "60 coats" of lacquer. Anyone used this product or has any opinions on it?

It has some problems:
- It is prone to bubbles. Passing CO2 over the surface, such as combustion from a propane torch will get them to pop.
- It is not very repairable. If you get cracks in it, you're toast.
- You get one shot to get it right. There is no "fix in the next coat."
- It scratches fairly easily

And after using any of these products (varnish, lacquer, polyurethane, danish oil etc) what do any of you recommend for care? Use a wax? Use a spray on type cleaner like Pledge? Use something like WATCO's Rejuvenating oil for wood then use wax or what?

Pledge contains silicone that once you have, you never get rid of. It will cause severe problems should you ever need repair or refinishing. I have also found it traps and holds airborne dirt and after a period of years makes the finish look dull and dirty.

Not sure what is in Rejuevenating oil. You do not want to add products containing drying oils (linseed or tung) over top of a film-forming finish. Over time, you will simply end up with a sticky soft mess.

Another thing that you never want to use is a homebrew concoction containing linseed oil, vinegar, and any other ingredients such as beeswax, butter of antimony, turpentine, etc. This is disaster in the making. (See the link)

After that, there are three camps:
1. Use nothing.
2. Use wax. Apply sparingly, buff out fastidiously, and repeat every few years.
3. Use polish. An emulsion polish (white) such as OZ or Guardsman will both clean and leave a shiny surface. Use about once a month, wipe on-wipe off.

Here is a link that might be useful: Polishes


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RE: HELP! Confused on Stains, Finishes, Care

I took a look at the tech sheet and MSDS for Watco Rejuevenating Oil. It is designed for refreshing OILED finishes.

First it is 70% mineral spirits. This will provide a light cleaning of waxes and oils. Then it evaporates away.

Of the remaining ingredients,
The following materials are non-hazardous, but are among the top five components in this product:
Chemical Name CAS Number
Raw Linseed Oil 8001-26-1
Resin Solution NOT AVAILABLE
Hydrocarbon Resin 152698-66-3 <- based on CAS#, this is Distillates (Petroleum), C3-6, Piperylene-Rich, Polymers With Isobutylene, that is also used for pothole repair (!?) Likely used as a Gilsonite substitute for colorant.

No specific information about what the "Resin solution" means. Could be a splash of varnish.

Most oil-only finishes need refreshed from time to time. Simply more of the same (e.g., Boiled Linseed oil, or oil-varnish blend) will do the job. Raw linseed oil is extremely slow drying. This is not a "every cleaning day" product, but once a year or so, based on what I see.

If you apply this regularly to a film finish (lacquer, varnish, shellac), it will merely sit on the surface and become soft and gummy as it cures.


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RE: HELP! Confused on Stains, Finishes, Care

Awesome advice guys - thanks a ton. I'm glad I didn't use that WATCO Rejuvenating oil on my fine bedroom set (which is almost certainly finished with a lacquer). That would have been a disaster.

I also just bought my copy of Bob Flexner's book and I'll be studying that tomorrow.

The last question I have for you guys is this: You mentioned Polishes and Waxes. I don't mean to sound to stupid but what is the difference between a furniture polish and a furniture wax?

Also, what do you recommend with using Pure Tung Oil to finish a product as far as using a stain first or not using a stain? I want to use a stain first for some furniture and finish with Tung Oil, but for a walking stick I'm doing I don't want to hide the color of the wood so I just wanted to use pure tung oil (no stain first). Is there a problem with using a stain or not using a stain when using Tung Oil?

Thanks again!


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RE: HELP! Confused on Stains, Finishes, Care

Polishes typically have light oils that may or may not be emulsified in water. Waxes are "waxes" that are softened in solvents. The amount of solvent determines if they are paste or liquid.

It can be a bit confusing because in British English, "Polish" is a synonym for "Finish."

Here is a link that might be useful: What is a wax


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