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I'm a woodworking virgin, but have some building skill. I made a oak kitchen island cart/table with a 2" thick oak top. My question is I want to stain this med oak, but have no clue about other coatings, sealers etc. there will be food prepared on this. I've tried searching the web and YouTube etc. but ther' so much info out there I'm confused as h$ll! Is there a place for info that can dumb this down for me? Or just tell me what I need lol. Right now my project is nearly finished so I'm close to needing some answers.
I need a chart or a list of what the products do but can't find anything that I can relate too.
 

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A lot depends on what products you are able to get and what equipment you have and how much money you want to spend. If you have the means of spraying the most durable would be a conversion varnish. Also if you have the means to spray probably the easiest would be a pre-catalyzed lacquer. If you don't have the means of spraying you might use a wipe on polyurethane. It's thinner than regular polyurethane and might take 6 coats but it's easier to apply without getting excessive brush marks. You could use a regular polyurethane. Just use the softest brush as you can find and apply the poly as thin as possible with as few strokes as possible. On oil based poly you could add some Flood Penetrol to the finish which would help it flow out and go on smoother. Another finish if you are patient would be a tung oil finish such as Waterlox. It's very thin and goes on like a Danish oil finish however it dries real slow. It may take a week between coats. It dries to touch quicker than that but not to recoat. The best way to tell when it's ready is to briskly rub the finish with a clean cloth and see if the tung oil smell rubs off onto the rag. When there is no smell the finish is ready for another coat. There are also water based finishes you could use but they aren't as durable and a lot more work to apply. The water in the finish raises the grain roughening it so you have to do a lot more sanding between coats to smooth it out.
 

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Oak. Red Oak or White Oak? The wood anatomy is different, red needs oak paste sealer, white does not (or whiskey barrels would leak like a sieve.) Then you work on Steve's post #2.
 

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Let me say first, that oak is not the best choice for a food preparation surface. Red oak is particularly problematic. It's large pores absorb and trap food and juices and are very difficult to fully clean. Second, a film finish like poly or varnish does not work well on a surface where foods will be prepared using knives. The knives cuts will penetrate the finish allowing food and juices to be absorbed.

As for a finishing treatment here is one that many use. An excellent treatment for wooden food preparation surfaces like cutting boards and butcher blocks is a mixture of mineral oil and either paraffin or beeswax. This is what is used on many commercial wood surfaces. It will last longer and be more protective than just mineral oil. Mineral oil can be found in most supermarkets in the pharmacy section or in a true pharmacy. Paraffin is found in the canning section of the store or in a hardware store.

Heat the oil in a double boiler and shave in some wax. The exact proportions are not critical--a 5-6 parts of oil to one part of wax will work fine. Stir the mixture until all the wax is liquefied. Apply the mixture heavily and let it set 10-12 hours or overnight. Next day do it again and continue until the wood will no longer absorb the finish. Let it set for 10-12 hours and then lightly scrape off any excess. Then buff it with a rag.

Reapply whenever the wood begins to look dry.
 
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