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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am a novice furniture maker and have built a steel foundation for a cypress driftwood slab. The top is a 3" live edge piece that I have bleached and fine-sanded. It will be an indoor coffee table so needs some durability and resistance to water.

I've received several suggestions on finish options ranging from conversion varnish to pre-catalyzed lacquer. I'm hoping I can list some desired qualities here and get some expert opinions:

1. clear matte/satin finish - not high gloss
2. hard/durable since a working surface
3. won't yellow over time (water white?)
4. can be applied with a brush (preferably because I don't have a professional sprayer)

Thanks for any ideas you may have. I've also uploaded pictures in it's current form.
 

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Focusing on the water white quality you want, I'd guess a water borne will be your best choice. Consider GF 450, it should be quite good for that application. Be aware that brushing a water borne is not all that easy, so that may be a reason to pass on it and choose something else. You could get an oil based varnish that will yellow a lot less than most....that would be an alkyd/soya oil formula, Pratt and Lambert 38 is the best known brand for that formula. One thing that may be in conflict in your criteria is the "hard/durable" part. By their nature, hard finishes scratch more easily. Softer finishes (polyurethane varnishes) are more scratch resistant...but that assumes scratch resistant is is the same as "more durable".....just something to consider. Good luck with your choice, the table is very nice.
 

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Well precat lacquer is out from the brush application standing. I'd use watco brush lacquer in satin, I've used it on a number of knife blocks which get the occasional splash with good results.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks Fred. Brushing is probably my best option unless I could get away with using a cheap sprayer device (think disposable pesticide pump).

Good advice on the oil based varnish with alkyd/soya. Will research.

By "hard finish", I was looking for a material that wouldn't scratch if people put their shoes on it but also wouldn't become gummy and yellow like you often see in old restaurants/dive bars.

Focusing on the water white quality you want, I'd guess a water borne will be your best choice. Consider GF 450, it should be quite good for that application. Be aware that brushing a water borne is not all that easy, so that may be a reason to pass on it and choose something else. You could get an oil based varnish that will yellow a lot less than most....that would be an alkyd/soya oil formula, Pratt and Lambert 38 is the best known brand for that formula. One thing that may be in conflict in your criteria is the "hard/durable" part. By their nature, hard finishes scratch more easily. Softer finishes (polyurethane varnishes) are more scratch resistant...but that assumes scratch resistant is is the same as "more durable".....just something to consider. Good luck with your choice, the table is very nice.
 

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Working it by hand I would probably finish with a water based polyurethane however it doesn't work real great by hand because it dries fast. The oil based finishes are really not suited for light woods because they yellow as they age. If it were me I would get an air compressor and sprayer. Some very cheap equipment can do a fine job for you and would make for a lot less labor. The conversion varnish would be the most water resistant. It is a two part finish you have to mix by the batch and dispose of what is left over. The precatalyzed lacquer is a two part finish also however it normally stays good for 6 months at a time and is catalyzed at the store or factory. There is usually an experation date on the can. A fully catalyzed lacquer would be better but it is a two part finish like the conversion varnish. Then what a lot of folks use for slabs like that is a pour on epoxy coating.
 
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