Need input on dining table finish - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 03-31-2016, 10:18 AM Thread Starter
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Need input on dining table finish

I am refinishing a dining table top. My two major considerations are: I want a finish that will withstand water and be durable, but doesn't look like plastic on top.

If I was strictly going for durability and water resistance, I would probably use a polyurethane. But it is a nice old dining table, grandmothers, and I want to retain the richness and depth of the wood grain. And I know that polycrylic can leave a wood finish looking real flat and shallow doing nothing to enhance the wood grain.

I have sprayed minwax polycrylic satin and general finishes high performance flat before on other items and got a nice look from both, using a HVLP sprayer. Although, the nice look I got from the minwax may have been due to not having sprayed but 3 coats, and underneath that was an oil-based walnut stain, that was allowed to dry for 72 hrs before applying the polycrylic, so the grain was brought out by the stain. The finish looks almost like an oil finish

The general finishes flat was sprayed over a black chalk paint on a side table, as a test run. It sprayed very much like the minwax polycrylic, with no thinning, and dried to a nice even look and feel. I am not sure if it would have a similar look over wood to the minwax or not. High Performance is described by General Finishes as being the “hardest, most durable consumer polyurethane top coat on the market”, and is recommended as a floor finish. But, I realize that a product that is suitable for a floor is not necessarily suitable for a dining table top. But, of course, the help line at General Finishes assures me that their product will be suitable for a table top finish.

My concern is that the waterbased polycrylic is a compromise in water resistance. I don't want to put a finish on the table that will have to be worried over. I realize any finish will not be waterproof, and if a spill is allowed to remain on a table for an extended time will be a problem for any finish, but would still like to strike a good balance between a nice satin rich deep grain look and feel and a useable, durable water-resistant finish. (I live in the south where iced tea glasses are known sweat when left on tables.)

I am not opposed to spraying an oil based product, lacquer, or waterbased polycrylic. Perhaps I should be looking at a product other than the polyurethane or polycrylic. I have read that most purchased dining tables come with a lacquer finish, is this true? I have been reading about Target Coating (EMTECH) line, and they seem to be the choice of many high end contractors, but their many selections leave me confused. I am leaning toward the general finishes high performance because of the quick drying time, (I do not have a controlled environment for oil based to dry without picking up all sorts of particles that drift through the air.)

What product will provide a rich high end look, but be durable and water resistant? I guess my end goal is to produce a finish that would look as much like the original as possible, but take advantage of the new advances in finishing products. I do not know what the original finish was, but it has held up pretty well considering it is 40-50 years old, although it is now definitely needing a new finish.

You input will be GREATLY appreciated.
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post #2 of 13 Old 03-31-2016, 10:30 AM
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A pre-catalyzed lacquer would be about as water resistant as polycrylic. It would make the grain pop and be a whole lot easier to work with. A conversion varnish would be more expensive and more difficult to touch up but would be the best finish for a table top. Polyurethane would be pretty waterproof but like you said gives a plastic look. Most of the furniture in my house was done with a nitrocellulose lacquer decades ago before I found out about some of these other finishes. While inferior to pre-catalyzed lacquer my dining table is just now starting to need to need refinishing. It's water resistant to a point but if you sat a sweaty glass in the same spot over and over it would lift the finish in about a year.
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post #3 of 13 Old 03-31-2016, 10:57 AM
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For about the last 80 to 100 years, nitrocellulous lacquer was king. So if you have any tables 20 years old or older, it is probably nitrocellulous lacquer. It is no longer recommended by several commercial furniture organizations and cabinet making organizations.
Now we have the new king of finishes - pre-cat lacquer. The "king" not meaning the best, but the most common. Conversion Varnish is superior to pre-cat but more environmental control is required. This finish is more temperature sensitive when applying. The best finish is probably going to be the 2 component polyesters and 2 component polyurethanes. These are quite expensive - usually well over $150/gallon.

Getting back to Pre-cat Laq which would be your best choice, although it is self sealing, I would use a vinyl sealer which will enhance the water resistance of the finished product. Both the sealer and the pre-cat are easy to spray. Usually no more than 1 coat sealer and 2 coats pre-cat are recommended.

What you see on commercial furniture is what you will get with pre-cat lacquer.

If you dont want that plastic look, stay away from standard polyurethane finishes.

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Retired woodworker, amongst other things, Sold full time cruising boat and now full time cruising in RV. Currently in Denison, Tx
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post #4 of 13 Old 03-31-2016, 12:50 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks so so much for your response.
I have meanwhile been reading concerning your suggestions.
I am a little intimidated by the conversion varnish. I take that it is a post cat and must have an additive to bring about the cross-linking, which creates a chemical conversion cure. Although, it seems the ultimate choice according to my criteria, I feel the prospect for my success in proper application would at this point be slim.
So, that brings me to the pre-cat lacquers.
1. I have read that one would benefit from using a sealer under the pre-cat. Either a Nitro sealer, or vinyl sealer or use pre-cat as a self sealer. That this helps with the water resistance. What can you tell me about this? Some suggest 2 coats sealer then lacquer?
2. Also, what brands have you used and found to be reliable? Do you have a favorite? I have access to Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore retailers. (Read that good pre-cats will need to be purchased outside your big box home centers.) Although, I am very inclined to order online as well.
3. Does it spray and cover similar to a polycrylic?
4. Cat, or Pre-Cat?
5. Oil Based or Waterbased?
6. How many coats are needed for a durable finish?
7. Avoiding blushing? (humidity a factor?)
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post #5 of 13 Old 03-31-2016, 01:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ydees View Post
.....
I am a little intimidated by the conversion varnish.
Other than temperature sensitive, it sprays just like lacquer. My last few shops were not heated or cooled so I could only use the conv. varnish in the spring and fallTony B

I take that it is a post cat and must have an additive to bring about the cross-linking, which creates a chemical conversion cure.
They mix it at the store and put a sticker on it with the date.Tony B


So, that brings me to the pre-cat lacquers.
1. I have read that one would benefit from using a sealer under the pre-cat. Either a Nitro sealer, or vinyl sealer or use pre-cat as a self sealer.
Although pre cat does not require a sealer, it is advisable to use a vinyl sealer on table tops to add to the water proofing/water resistance characteristics. Tony B


2. Also, what brands have you used and found to be reliable? Do you have a favorite
I used a lot of Gemini products and really liked them. There was a Finishing/Refinishing supplier about an hour from my shop. They carried just about any finishing supplies you would ever need. They delivered to my shop, so there was no hazmat fees or extra charges. Tony B
I am not really familiar with other finishing products as I always used lacquer or conversion varnish with rare exceptions. Others on here will probably be of more help on that.
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post #6 of 13 Old 03-31-2016, 02:42 PM
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The only problem with conversion varnish other than the cost is you mix it as you use it and what is left over goes into the trash so you have to be careful how much you mix.

With conversion varnish or pre-catalyzed lacquer the sealer you use is a vinyl sealer. Using a nitro sealer you might as well topcoat with a nitrocellulose lacquer. On issue with nitrocellulose is it is made from dissolving cotton in nitric acid to make the resin. Since it is derived from cotton it is prone to yellow as it ages. The benefit of using a vinyl sealer is it will remain clear. The pre-catalyzed lacquer is formulated from acrylic resins so it won't yellow like nitro. While we are on the topic of lacquer watch the expiration date of pre-catalyzed lacquer. It is made with a mild hardener which gives the lacquer a shelf life of about six months. Another option would be a fully catalyzed lacquer. It has a more aggressive hardener which makes a better finish however you have to mix the hardener in as you use it and what is left over goes in the trash like the conversion varnish. The benefit is it would have a longer shelf life, only the hardener would go bad.

I don't use that many different brands but I really don't see any difference in brand. I'm currently using lacquer from Mohawk Finishing Products, mainly because it's nearly half the price of Sherwin Williams and Gemini is in an out of the way place for me to buy from.

Lacquer covers a great deal better than polycyrlic. With polycrylic since it is a waterborne finish raises the grain so you have to put several coats on before you get to the level of one coat of vinyl sealer. With lacquer unless you are doing a glass like finish on a wood like walnut one coat of sealer and two coats of lacquer and you're done.

I don't know if I'm just cheap but I prefer lacquer over conversion varnish. It's just simpler to use. With a fully catalyzed finish you have to thoroughly clean the sprayer every time it's used. With pre-cat I leave lacquer in a sprayer for months at a time.

I never have liked waterborne finishes. It's very thin, raises the grain and takes a lot of elbow grease to do the same thing with other finishes. Oil based finishes are alright however they take a long time to dry and unless you have very clean working conditions is difficult to keep dirt and bugs out of the finish.

Humidity is a problem with fast drying finishes. When you spray any finish it picks up moisture out of the air and gets in the finish. With fast drying finishes it skims over the top before the water can get out. This makes the finish cloudy. It's usually at 70 percent humidity lacquers begin to blush. When it's not more than 75 percent humidity you can add a retarder thinner to slow the drying time down to allow the water out. Retarders also make the finish take longer to harden so more drying time between coats and more time to put the furniture to use. For this reason don't use retarders unless you have to. When the humidity gets north of 75 it's just best to wait until another day.
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post #7 of 13 Old 03-31-2016, 09:44 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the input, Steve and Tony. Your willingness to share your knowledge and experience is really appreciated. Such good info is hard to come by short of a woodworking forum like this. I love it when I encounter people who know their profession and are willing to share with beginners.

I am really getting a good feeling about the pre-cat lacquer. It seems to not be quite as temperamental as the conversion varnish. I think what tipped the scale in it's favor was the tip of using the vinyl sealer under it to improve water resistance. That, plus knowing the finish on the original table was likely traditional nitrocellulose lacquer and has held up fairly well for 40 plus years. I think it will be more than adequate and I feel confident that I will be able to produce a nice finish that will hold up for maybe 40 more years.

I can't wait to see how it turns out.
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post #8 of 13 Old 03-31-2016, 09:50 PM
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Now, what are your intentions to remove the old finish? That can have a lot to do with the outcome.
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post #9 of 13 Old 04-01-2016, 01:55 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
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Now, what are your intentions to remove the old finish? That can have a lot to do with the outcome.
I believe the finish to be degraded to the point that sanding will probably easily remove it. Although I am not sure. I have used stripper before.

But, meanwhile, I called the local Sherwin Williams and was informed that they only sell their Pre-Cal in 5 Gal containers. BUT, she said, they do sell a product she called Dull Rub and Med Rub that is a lacquer product that she felt will be suitable to my needs. She indicated that she felt using a Pre-Cat was over-kill. Are you familiar with the product she is talking about?
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post #10 of 13 Old 04-01-2016, 02:12 PM Thread Starter
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After nosing around on the Sherwin Williams site http://www.paintdocs.com/docs/webPDF...&prodno=T77C35, this may be the product she was referring to, which is what I thought I asked for? it comes in Dull Rub T77F38 and Med Rub T7737. Maybe she thought I wanted Gloss, but that was not discussed. I suppose they will be adding the catalyst before I leave with it, so I probably need to be pretty much ready to apply it when I purchase it. (I have been known to over complicate matters that should be relative easy.)
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post #11 of 13 Old 04-01-2016, 02:14 PM Thread Starter
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By the way, suggestions on removal of the old finish will be welcomed. (Based on the age of the table, I believe it to be traditional lacquer.) Any way to tell for sure?
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post #12 of 13 Old 04-01-2016, 02:18 PM
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It's not enough to sand off a finish. You end up removing what is on the surface and not what is penetrated into the wood. When refinishing wood you should always start with a methylene chloride type paint and varnish remover.

The dull rub and med rub is a nitrocellulose lacquer. It isn't overkill to use pre-cat lacquer on furniture. Sherwin Williams says this about it. "Ideal for finishing chairs, office furniture, household furniture, novelties, and a wide range of interior wood products." It's a much more water resistant finish without anymore trouble than using nitro lacquer. You might try a different Sherwin Williams. They don't want your business. Sherwin Williams does sell it in gallons. For some reason that store doesn't want to get you any.
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post #13 of 13 Old 04-01-2016, 03:00 PM
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Pre-cat

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Originally Posted by ydees View Post
....... what I thought I asked for? it comes in Dull Rub T77F38 and Med Rub T7737.

I cant get any of the above numbers to come up with something that pertains to lacquer. They do make a Gloss pre-cat and probably only available in 5 gals. I have no idea what dull rub and medium rub is. This might be one of those Sherwin Willaims that sells mostly paint and she has no idea of what you want. She is just trying to sell you something. Tony B

Maybe she thought I wanted Gloss.....
Actually, gloss is what you want. Regardless of the finish you ultimately want, you always build your layers in gloss first. That is as clear as you can get it. If you want a satin finish, you apply the satin as your last coat. If you make multiple coats of satin, the finish will be lifeless.


I suppose they will be adding the catalyst before I leave with it, so I probably need to be pretty much ready to apply it when I purchase it. (I have been known to over complicate matters that should be relative easy.)
Yes, they will apply the Catalyst when you are there. They will/should also put a sticker on the can with a date on it. No need to rush, the mixed pre-cat lacquer will last at least 6 months if not exposed to temperature extremes.
This is relatively simple stuff, I think she made it complicated by giving you those item numbers.
All you know is that the label on the can should read "Pre-catalyzed Lacquer - gloss"


You need to call another sherwin williams store or stop by a cabinet shop and ask them where they get their pre cat.

If you live anywhere near a decent size town or city, theer may be a refinishing supplier. They would have everything you need.

When I had my big shop, I bought lacquer by the 55 gal drum. It was not unusual for hobbyists to come by with their own buckets and I would sell them a gallon or 2 at a time.

Where do you live - like what town and state. With this we may be able to help you more.

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Last edited by Tony B; 04-01-2016 at 03:03 PM.
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