Choosing a finish.
Customers always ask what finish I recommend for their project. My answer: finishing is a riddle only you can solve, knowing what you want it to look like, and how
much time + money do you want to invest. There is not one does-all finish that I recommend for everyone because each finish has it’s pros and cons and everyone has a different vision of how they want their heirloom to look. I will list several of the common types of finishes and the pros and cons as I see it through my experience.
Penetrating Oil – UV Stabilized
Pros Easy application, very quick rich results showing a high percentage of the figure within the wood, sophisticated matte sheen, Inexpensive, easy touch up maintenance, penetrates fibers deep within the wood protecting integrity, UV sun rays do minimal degradation.
Cons Not a developed surface finish. This means spills such as red wine will not be stopped from entering the pores of the wood.
2 Part Epoxy
Pros Shows all hidden figure within the wood. The “truth serum” for wood. Hard surface, fast build up, strengthens any pith , fills checking, and hardens softwoods. A “5 in 1” type of finish. 4 coats of epoxy is similar to 40 coats of polyurethane.
Cons Glossy, less margin for error. generally low UV stabilization, many brands yellow over time when outside in sunlight
Polyurethane – Water based
Pros Easy clean up,Fast drying, Easy “powdering up” sanding. Dries faster than oil based polyurethane and can be heavier coats too. Barrier to moisture and spills. Many available sheens- gloss, semigloss, satin, flat, and matte.
Cons Not as rich as an oil or an epoxy, more bland. A developed finish is slow building. Each coat takes several hrs to dry and many coats are generally needed to have a “marble like”end result.
Polyurethane – Oil Based
Pros Rich, deep coloring . High levels of contrast. Durable. Barrier to moisture and spills. Many available sheens- gloss, semigloss, satin, flat, and matte. Many UV stabilized versions available.
Cons Intense fumes, stickier clean up, respirator required , tacky feel compared to water based. Slow building, cannot lay heavy coats. Heavy coating runs risk of “skin over”. The top surface dries, creating a thin layer preventing the off gasing process and leaving a sticky, tacky finish that will never properly dry and cure.