Douglas Fir Dining Table - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 13 Old 09-09-2015, 04:43 PM Thread Starter
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Question Douglas Fir Dining Table

Complete amateur here. I'm putting a new top on our old dining table. We decided to go with a rustic-ish farmhouse look and I'm using construction grade douglas fir that we picked up from a local lumber yard. Cost was also a concern. The wood is a little wet. Not actually wet, but a bit cool to the touch. I've cut the pieces down to size and I'm just about ready to put the slats together using pocket holes and/or strips of wood on the underside.

This is the design:


For finishing I'm going with antique walnut gel stain from General Finishes. I've read that douglas fir can be very blotchy if you use a standard oil based stain, and you can generally get more consistent results with gel stains.

These are my questions:
  • Should I condition the wood first before gel staining?
  • Should I stain/top coat AFTER everything is put together, or do the individual slats, and then put it all together?
  • What kind of top coat should I use, or more specifically, HOW do I top coat? I have two kids so I need it to be as durable as possible. I'm thinking satin.
  • What problems will I run into using wet douglas fir in the future? Will the wood shrink even if it's sealed with a top coat?

Any advice, general or specific to my questions, on how to improve the overall longevity and appearance of the table would be greatly appreciated as well. And yes, I sort of wish I would have used a different wood but it's kind of too late now. I'm expecting to get dings.
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post #2 of 13 Old 09-09-2015, 05:24 PM
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How do you intend to attach the 8 1/2" boards on the ends? If not done correctly it can cause the table to split apart. Is the strips and screws under the table the only means of fastening the top together or do you plan to glue the planks together too. If glue is used I wouldn't recommend using the strips. Too many strips would restrict the shrinkage of the top and cause it to crack.

If the wood has gotten wet from rain or other source it should dry enough to not be an issue before you get the table done. It doesn't take very long.

The wood conditioner is really intended and needed if you were going to use a oil stain. A gel stain is more like paint which you may not need a conditioner. Try some on some scrap wood or the underside of the table and see how it goes. The underside of a table should also be finished anyway to prevent warping.

I would wait until everything is assembled and sanded to do any staining. Otherwise you need to mask off any place that is to be glued.

The type of finish depends a lot on how much abuse you think it will get and if you have the means of spraying a finish or not. The hardest finish you could use would be a conversion varnish however it must be sprayed. The next would be an oil based polyurethane. It can be finished with a brush but a lot of folks have trouble with brush marks showing. When brushing polyurethane find as soft of a paint brush as you can and apply it as thin as possible with as few strokes as possible. The more you brush it the more air gets in the finish and causes it to thicken while you are still brushing so it shows the brush marks. If you just brush it with a few strokes it sits and flows together before it thickens making for fewer brush marks. If the weather where you are is especially hot you may need to add some Flood Penetrol to the varnish so it doesn't thicken so quickly.

Another finish which is quick and easy to use for the topcoat is lacquer however it should be sprayed. You can use a nitrocellulose lacquer which is a good finish that is easy to repair and maintain. Over time when the finish gets all scratched up you spray another coat on and the new finish will melt into the old finish making the white marks disappear. Then there is another type of lacquer that is called a precatalyzed lacquer. It's a harder finish than the nitrocellulose lacquer however when the time comes to recoat to clean up the damage it doesn't melt in as well and needs a much thinner coat for the first coat to melt it together. Then a regular coat can be applied. The down side is the unused portion has a shelf life of about six months before it goes bad. The nitrocellulose lacquer will last for many years if the can is sealed well.

When using a satin finish the substance in it which makes it a satin also makes the finish cloudy if enough coats are applied. To minimize this you can start the finish using a gloss finish and use a satin finish on the last coat.
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post #3 of 13 Old 09-09-2015, 05:25 PM
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Construction grade Fir will be rustic if it's not #1 clear grade Fir.
I would join the table top edges with a 1/4" plywood blind spline, stopping about 3" from each end. This will give you a strong table top
Fir is used in a lot of beautiful millwork and can be really nice.
But Fir is as soft as Pine, so I would plan on distressing the table prior to applying your stain. A stain conditioner can help, but you will still have some blotchiness on something as large as a table top. This will just be part of the rustic look of Fir.
If you want to erase all blotches, I think you will need to use a Toner after the staining is complete.
Good luck to you.
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post #4 of 13 Old 09-10-2015, 12:11 AM
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One way to reduce stain blotchiness is to brush on a coat of shellac before applying the stain- it will help even out the stain uptake by the different parts of the wood. Personally, though, I'd recommend using a dye instead of stain. I've had good success staining Douglas fir with Transtint dyes- they give a much more even coloring of the wood than do stains, and are much more forgiving to apply. You can start with a dilute dye solution, see how it goes, and build up the color intensity with additional coats or increasing the concentration.

As far as a finish coat, I'd say go with a water based polyurethane. It's almost as durable as oil based polyurethane, but is much easier to apply smoothly, and dries and cures much more quickly. It also does not have the lingering odor that oil base poly has.

You could also try a wipe on ("Danish oil") finish- easy to apply, not as durable as polyurethane, but can reapply (so requires more ongoing maintenance). It does have a duller (more satiny) sheen.

No finish will prevent shrinking, warping, splitting, etc. of wood. If it occurs, you may just need to accept that as part of its rustic charm, or you can fill gaps as needed with wood filler or epoxy. The best prevention is to let the wood dry out and acclimatize as much as you can before you assemble the top. That way, you true up defects more effectively.

As far as finish sheen, satin isn't per se any more durable than any other finish- it just tends to show wear less than, say, a gloss finish. Decide what type of finish (poly, whatever) and then within that family, decide on the sheen.
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post #5 of 13 Old 09-10-2015, 12:52 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
How do you intend to attach the 8 1/2" boards on the ends? If not done correctly it can cause the table to split apart. Is the strips and screws under the table the only means of fastening the top together or do you plan to glue the planks together too. If glue is used I wouldn't recommend using the strips. Too many strips would restrict the shrinkage of the top and cause it to crack....
I was originally planning on attaching the ends with pocket holes. But I read somewhere else that this could be a bad idea, and the wood could split later on because of the wood being slightly "wet". And for the center slats I was also originally planning on pocket holes as well, but I thought maybe a combination of pocket holes and strips that go adjacent to the top slats would be best on the underside. I was not planning on using glue. Is there a better way of doing it that would be simple?

Underside plan:
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post #6 of 13 Old 09-10-2015, 01:48 PM
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The wood being slightly wet isn't really the issue. It's your method of construction that is pushing limits. If you're not gluing the parts of the top together you could get away with the way you are building the table however the ends though if you put more than one pocket screw per board would invite the individual boards to split. It would build up stress between the screws when the board tries to shrink. The way you have it planned when the wood shrinks the top will just come apart at the seams and probably only have a gap 1/16" between some of the joints.

A better method of construction would be to glue the long boards together into a panel. Then attach the 8 1/2" ends as a breadboard end. By doing this the table would likely stay together for a hundred years with only the center of it shrinking a little where the breadboard ends stick out a little past the top. Then to attach the top to the table use these metal clips to attach the top to the skirt. You would just have to run a dado in the skirts to attach the clips. http://www.rockler.com/table-top-fasteners
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post #7 of 13 Old 09-10-2015, 06:18 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
....
A better method of construction would be to glue the long boards together into a panel. Then attach the 8 1/2" ends as a breadboard end. By doing this the table would likely stay together for a hundred years with only the center of it shrinking a little where the breadboard ends stick out a little past the top. Then to attach the top to the table use these metal clips to attach the top to the skirt. You would just have to run a dado in the skirts to attach the clips. http://www.rockler.com/table-top-fasteners

Thanks. Mortise and tenon sounds like it would have been my best option for strength, unfortunately I already cut the boards down to size and I don't really have any extra room to bring in the ends. They'll only extend 2.5" passed the frame as it is on either end, so I really don't have enough to accommodate it, do I? I could get by with 1.5"-2" extension if needed I suppose, but even 1" tenons wouldn't be enough to do it properly.
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post #8 of 13 Old 09-10-2015, 06:28 PM
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Yes you could do that with 1" tenons.
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post #9 of 13 Old 09-10-2015, 10:38 PM
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Even a quality gel stain will look quite blotchy and stripey on Doug Fir unless you paint it on rly thick for more of a faux paint look (concealing the wood grain). A friend and I built a bed frame with kiln dried DF and had decent results using dye, shellac, dark walnut gel stain, wb poly. The grain striping was still pretty visible but the dye and shellac coat helped even it out and stop the blotching enough to look pretty nice.


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Last edited by sheperd80; 09-10-2015 at 11:04 PM.
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post #10 of 13 Old 09-11-2015, 05:33 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by sheperd80 View Post
Even a quality gel stain will look quite blotchy and stripey on Doug Fir unless you paint it on rly thick for more of a faux paint look (concealing the wood grain). A friend and I built a bed frame with kiln dried DF and had decent results using dye, shellac, dark walnut gel stain, wb poly. The grain striping was still pretty visible but the dye and shellac coat helped even it out and stop the blotching enough to look pretty nice.
Can I ask what kind of dye you used? I was thinking about using shellac for conditioning the wood.

Wait, you can use water based polyurethane with oil based stain?
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post #11 of 13 Old 09-12-2015, 04:01 PM
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Yes you can use wb over ob, as long as you let the stain cure sufficiently and dont leave alot (if any) on the surface of the wood. Ive done it a few times and have not seen any problems. The oldest project i did that with is probably 3 years old in doors with no issue.

I used Gemini NGR dye, because its what was available. Thinned with laquer thinner (roughly 80% thinner, 20% dye) sprayed on with hvlp. It works great for evening out the color and reducing the blotching. And you can add it to most topcoats as a toner if you want to darken just a little more.

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Last edited by sheperd80; 09-12-2015 at 04:05 PM.
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post #12 of 13 Old 09-18-2015, 11:41 AM
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Speaking from experience, set the wood aside (propped up somewhere with air circulation all around) for at least two weeks, a month would be better. I've worked with home center douglas fir before, and while it's great wood, those boards may still be soaking in the center. If you don't let them dry more, they'll shrink a LOT once you've got everything put together.
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post #13 of 13 Old 02-05-2016, 01:21 PM
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Home Center lumber is intended for construction use, not for fine woodworking. The major concern is that it is only minimally dried to make it lighter for shipping. This means that is is going to shrink quite a bit in width as it dries out. You should stack and sticker it for at least a month before you begin to machine it.

Carefully consider your construction methods given the expected wood movement. Things like cross grain end pieces create problematic issues. As the wood reduces in width as it dries indoors the end pieces will be resisting movement. Something's got to give. The only effective way to deal with it is to attach the breadboard using a method that allow free movement. Any bottom cross pieces again need to be designed to allow the top to expand and contract.

Howie..........
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