Top Coat to protect while grouting? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 02-15-2014, 12:01 AM Thread Starter
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Top Coat to protect while grouting?

Hi all, I'm pretty new to wood working. I'm making some simple stuff to get my feet wet and to get the feel of all my tools, but I hit a bit of a wall and all the Googling in the world is just sending me around in circles.

What I'm doing is mosaic tiles, but using hardwood to inlay them in. I'm using a straight router bit to clear out the bulk of the wood except for a border and edgework. This area that is cleared out is the depth of they mosaic tile I'm going to lay in there, that way the wood edging and the tile height are flush. These are just going to be some small decorations to hang on the wall.

Where I'm hitting the wall is how to finish the wood. I have a few different ones going to try out different hardwoods. Right now I have an Aspen, Mahogany and a White Oak. The plan is to stain them (not the Mahogany but I'll come back to that), seal them, then put down my tiles, and then grout. I'm paranoid that the finish I use could get messed up by the grout. It goes on wet, to work it in to the tile gaps some is bound to get rubbed into the wood finish. The broken up tile will have gaps larger than 1/8th in. so I should use sanded grout I think, but I worry that might be abrasive to the finish on the wood. Obviously I'm not going to smear it all over the wood, but it would be pretty unavoidable to not get a little on the wood and especially to wipe it up with a sponge and not make contact with the wood. I would dry as quickly as I could, but what would be the best finish to put over a stain that would protect the wood for this phase and for the long haul? I'm routing out rounded shapes, so taping it off with painters tape while I grouted probably wouldn't work too well.

After this step its just going to hang on a wall, so I don't think I need to get anything super protective long term. Would just a poly be the best? or maybe lacquer?

Any ideas on the Mahogany? The piece I got has a really good color and grain pattern already. Would a teak or tung oil be good for that or would it not hold up to the grouting phase? Can I put a top coat over a teak or tung oil or is that just nonsense?
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post #2 of 7 Old 02-15-2014, 12:54 AM
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There's probably a "proper" way to protect the piece, but you might try making a mask on a small test piece with contact cement (spray or bottle, I guess). You could spray or brush it on and let it dry to its rubbery state, then do your grouting, then rub it all off.

What about finishing after grouting? You could touch up any scratches from the sand in the grout and get rid of any raised grain, and then mask the tile.

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post #3 of 7 Old 02-15-2014, 02:47 AM
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Mostly I do red oak with a satin polyurethane finish and have grouted tile right up to it with no issues. JIm
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post #4 of 7 Old 02-15-2014, 06:37 AM
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For long term durability I would finish with a coating suitable for the tile. Anything would bond to the wood but not everything bonds to the tile. Probably your best bet would be an acrylic urethane. I would seal the wood first, then route out for the tile. That way there would be raw wood to apply the tile to and the surface would be sealed to prevent you from getting anything on the wood. Then you could put a finish coat over all of it.
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post #5 of 7 Old 02-15-2014, 09:05 AM
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I'm thinking instead of routing for the depth, start with a level field. Cut your strips of wood for the thickness of the tiles, and finish them with any topcoat...lacquer, oil base poly, or wb poly. then glue down. This would likely work well for straight lines, but not if you are routing free forms.

For curves and free forms, just rout out first, then finish with a topcoat. If you finish then rout, you could get some tear out.

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post #6 of 7 Old 02-17-2014, 01:51 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone. I think I'll do the stain then poly then tile/grout. I worry about grouting before finishing because any wet grout on the unprotected wood would probably soak in a little and probably affect how the stain sets in. Plus with wanting to stain evenly I think I would have trouble staining evenly and not hitting my tile\grout, causing stains on them.

My biggest issue is with the winter it is pretty cold in my garage so I need to wait for it to warm up to do any poly.
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post #7 of 7 Old 02-18-2014, 08:36 AM
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When doing this I stain the wood first, before tile. Stain does not seem to affect anything. I doubt it would bother the tile, but do not know for sure?

When I polly I do my best to keep the poly out of where the grout will be. A little will get in there, can't be helped. Poly is a plastic, I am not sure that the grout would bond to it?
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