I am in the process of refinishing a dining table top. It is cherry veneer with birch solids. I have stripped the old finish and have applied the stain. I will be applying a brown oil based glaze as well. Should I apply a varnish first, then the glaze. Also are varnishes, lacquers, clear coat etc all the same thing. Everyone seems to call it something different. What would be the best clear coat to use on a dining table for a matte finish?
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I just visited a table I finished 25 years ago for a relative and it looks like new. It was used every day without a cover. I used Gemini lacquer stain, Gemini vinyl sealer, and Gemini Apollo 202 conversion finish. It's a nitrocellulose lacquer with a polyurethane resin that converts to a poly finish after 30 days at 70 degrees. I understand Gemini still makes Apollo. I quit using it when the SW pre-cat lacquers came out and tested very well for me.
The Apollo is hard but not brittle when applied over a vinyl sealer, will pass an 8 hour water submersion test, and will ward off a host of chemicals. Apollo goes on to an amber tone and didn't have the UV blockers when I last used it, so it yellows in sunlight.
I seldom mess with glazes. I put them over the sealer and under the top coat. For cherry and mixed woods (sigh) I usually work on top of a NGR base coat just to give me something to start with. The original guy that did your table probably worked over bleach.
Varnishes, lacquers, polyurethanes are all clear coats, but they are not all the same. They all have different base chemicals and uses for different applications.
For a table, I would use lacquer. Lacquer come in several forms, water based, nitrocellulose, acrylic, and variations of each.
If you have already applied stain, I would then apply a Sanding sealer. You can use Dewaxed Shellac, Lacquer based, Polyurethane, or vinyl sealers for lacquer with great results. Then lightly sand it smooth with some high grit paper or steel wool analogs. Spray again, smooth again. Then start applying multiple coats of lacquer.
If you want a mirror finish, you can wet sand and buff the lacquer finish. Or you can just sand it lightly to have a nice satin finish. Or just leave it the hell alone. Just depends on what you like. In my opinion, lacquer is about the easiest and most beautiful finish to spray. It is very forgiving, and its easy to fix mistakes. Plus it cleans up easily with water or lacquer thinner depending on its base.