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I am a complete novice at finishing wood projects, mostly just small items that dont really matter using run of the mill products you can find at the bigbox.

I just laid prefinished 3/4" red oak in a "natural" wirebrushed finish from Vintage, and installed an unfinished custom red oak newel post/top rail. Id really like to finish the newel/handrail properly and make it look really good...its basically a centerpiece in the main room.

The flooring place I worked with suggested H2Oil, but it didnt seem like that brand is available to retail consumers. I was doing some searching and it seems like i should be leaning oil based, either varnish or poly, but the newel is installed already, so I wasnt sure if oil would take too long to cure/make the house smell for days on end. Since its a natural finish, i dont expect ill want to stain it, but i wasnt sure if a pore filler was a good idea or a waste of time given the application. I guess to match the wirebrushed/satin finish, ill knock down the final coat with fine steel wool?

Any thoughts/suggestions?
 

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Using an oil based finish you would have some paint smell in the house for a couple days but it wouldn't be overpowering as little as you would be doing. One thing you might consider though is oil based finishes have a slight yellow cast to them and will yellow more and more as it ages and may not look good on light wood. A water based finish would remain clear but tends to make the wood look bland. You could wipe the wood with a natural stain or linseed oil to make the grain pop and then finish with the waterborne finish but you would need to let the stain dry a week first. Waterborne finishes are incompatible with the linseed oil contained in the stain and needs to fully dry first. Then waterborne finishes are a lot more work to use. It takes twice as many coats with sanding between coats to achieve the same thickness finish as an oil finish. The water roughens the wood and it takes a lot of sanding to make it smooth again.
 
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