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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I built an indoor farmhouse style banister / handrail from rough cut white oak in a style that matches the farmhouse table I built last year. We're finally at the point of staining / finishing. We have chosen Jacobean oil based stain, but I'm not sure what to use as a topcoat on top of the stain.

We need something durable, but easy to apply since there are a lot of vertical surfaces and corners. What do people usually use in this situation? Wipe on Poly?

Any recommendations?
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
This rail will be used constantly in our house, as it connects the 1st and 2nd floors. It will get dinged, dented, wear down, etc.... It's also next to an exterior wall that's almost entirely windows, so it'll get direct sunlight for about 4 to 6 hours a day - UV concerns....

Would Danish Oil hold up to the daily abuse?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Polyurethane is very durable. After using Total Boat varnish on some outdoor chairs, I can also recommend that as a durable product.
My only concern is that as the poly wears down, it will need re-sanded to be properly fixed. What about Danish Oil? Would it hold up to daily use?

I also like the idea of the natural 'touch' of danish oil compared to the plasticy touch of poly.
 

· The Nut in the Cellar
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Danish oil is an oil/varnish mix and is not really that durable. However it is easily renewable by cleaning, scuffing, and re-applying. I use it under polyurethane to enhance the grain. Polyurethane is a good, durable topcoating, just apply 2-3 coats, scuffing between applications.
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Danish oil is an oil/varnish mix and is not really that durable. However it is easily renewable by cleaning, scuffing, and re-applying. I use it under polyurethane to enhance the grain. Polyurethane is a good, durable topcoating, just apply 2-3 coats, scuffing between applications.
Gotcha - I appreciate the input. The previous banister we're replacing was (i think) finished with poly, and looked very worn - and not in a good way. I'd hate to have the same results with my new banister.

I understand Danish Oil would wear as well, but at least it can be refreshed more easily... and if that becomes a pain, I suppose I always have the option of applying poly later, right?

Is there a more durable finish that can be refreshed like Danish Oil?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Poly is probably more durable than you think. Check the Total Boat products I would imagine something that works on a boat would do?
Thanks for the suggestion - Poly is definitely very durable and I'll check out your suggestion. Just wanted to know if there was another option that could be re-applied down the road that doesn't require completely re-sanding like poly does.
 

· The Nut in the Cellar
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OP: How old is the existing railing? Have you really tested the existing finiish? If it's old enough, it might not be polyurethane. It could be shellac or pre-polyurethane varnish. I have refinished polyurethane by cleaning the surface, scuffing the old finish with 00 non-woven abrasive pad, touching up any stain wear throughs, and wiping on a new application of polyurethane. I did a red oak stairs, bannister, and railings with oil based stainand polyurethane varnish in our previous home. After ten years, it looked like new when we sold the home. No covering on the stair treads either.
Stairs Fixture Wood Building Interior design
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
OP: How old is the existing railing? Have you really tested the existing finiish? If it's old enough, it might not be polyurethane. It could be shellac or pre-polyurethane varnish. I have refinished polyurethane by cleaning the surface, scuffing the old finish with 00 non-woven abrasive pad, touching up any stain wear throughs, and wiping on a new application of polyurethane. I did a red oak stairs, bannister, and railings with oil based stainand polyurethane varnish in our previous home. After ten years, it looked like new when we sold the home. No covering on the stair treads either.
View attachment 447136
You know I actually had that thought just before you posted this. The house is about 30 years old, I suspect the railing is original. So maybe it's shellac or nitro of some sort. It's like it's rubbed off and allowed the underlying stain to rub off as well - particularly in high contact areas. It's not flaking off, and the finish seems kind of thin. Probably not poly I guess?

As for touching up poly as you said, maybe it's not such a big deal for future repairs afterall...

How do you suggest keeping the poly from running down vertical surfaces? Thin application of wipe on? Brush on?
 

· The Nut in the Cellar
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Experience applying finish to vertical surfaces is necessary to deal with runs and sags. I just came up from the shop after applying polyurethane varnish thinned to wiping consistency. The surface was a piece of vertical plywood. I brushed it on and lightly brushed it out as thin as possible bottom to top. I watched the varnish to make sure it wasn't pooling at the bottom edge and blotted any excess with a paper towel. I usually apply wiping varnish with a white paper towel pad (Bounty select-a-size is a good non-linty brand) which helps avoid putting too much material on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Experience applying finish to vertical surfaces is necessary to deal with runs and sags. I just came up from the shop after applying polyurethane varnish thinned to wiping consistency. The surface was a piece of vertical plywood. I brushed it on and lightly brushed it out as thin as possible bottom to top. I watched the varnish to make sure it wasn't pooling at the bottom edge and blotted any excess with a paper towel. I usually apply wiping varnish with a white paper towel pad (Bounty select-a-size is a good non-linty brand) which helps avoid putting too much material on.
I'm a beginner woodworker, at best, but I'm even worse at applying poly. This sounds like something I'm going to screw up.
 

· The Nut in the Cellar
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I'm a beginner woodworker, at best, but I'm even worse at applying poly. This sounds like something I'm going to screw up.
First word of my last post was "experience". My advice would be to practice on scrap to develop some "experience" before committing to the actual project. One reason I like wipe on poly is the forgiveness of it. It takes more applications and time to build proper finish thickness, but I have better outcomes with it now that I have learned how to use it.
 

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I used Dr. Robert's suggested product of Total Boat varnish on our every day use handrail/banisters. I lightly applied 3 even coats with a sponge brush, rubbing the first 2 coats with 000 steel wool between dried coats to smooth the surface. The final coat was leveled with 0000 steel wool and Butcher's wax -- wax applied to the steel wool pad (paste wax would work equally well).

The finish lasted well for about 4 years and was only slightly worn, non-yellowed, and the underlying stain was not affected on my project. I recently renewed the finish, using the same product and procedure. IMO, it turned out well.

Although I was much satisfied with Total Boat, any good Marine Spar Varnish would probably work. You could also use a good brush to apply, instead of a sponge brush. Just remember to control the runs and use light applications.
 

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Yeah I'm with the rest. For what it's worth I'd clean with warm soap n water. Dry with a paper towel if needed. Laquer was used a lot. Fast, no sanding claims anyhow but needs buffing after first coat. I would suspect 2-3 coats then on the job. To test for sure put some laquer on it. If it's laquer it will look good. Then put some more laquer on it. On the handrails that get wear I would use varathane polyurethane. Gloss everything. Wear will settle into a beautiful rail with luster littered with memories. The rest will wear in with regular cleaning with warm soap n water. For me a shot of whiskey n a beers always making those memories just pop up all over n the world is just so gosh darn great I want to go do more woodworking. Sure wish my hands didn't hurt like they do now but raising a family building a homestead for me n family's n lot's of other really cool satisfying things that just never stops, can you tell.
Going n figuring it out helped me on a lot of other jobs to. All these guys that took their time to use their talents are great craftsman n go figure what works for them to produce others dreams. A great talent pool here.
Good luck n have fun
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Poly is probably more durable than you think. Check the Total Boat products I would imagine something that works on a boat would do?
First word of my last post was "experience". My advice would be to practice on scrap to develop some "experience" before committing to the actual project. One reason I like wipe on poly is the forgiveness of it. It takes more applications and time to build proper finish thickness, but I have better outcomes with it now that I have learned how to use it.
With the jacobean color you don't really have to worry about UV protection. It's the red pigment in stain which is a risk of fading and that color has very little. The finish I would recommend an oil based polyurethane. It's as good as it gets for a finish applied by hand,
Yeah I'm with the rest. For what it's worth I'd clean with warm soap n water. Dry with a paper towel if needed. Laquer was used a lot. Fast, no sanding claims anyhow but needs buffing after first coat. I would suspect 2-3 coats then on the job. To test for sure put some laquer on it. If it's laquer it will look good. Then put some more laquer on it. On the handrails that get wear I would use varathane polyurethane. Gloss everything. Wear will settle into a beautiful rail with luster littered with memories. The rest will wear in with regular cleaning with warm soap n water. For me a shot of whiskey n a beers always making those memories just pop up all over n the world is just so gosh darn great I want to go do more woodworking. Sure wish my hands didn't hurt like they do now but raising a family building a homestead for me n family's n lot's of other really cool satisfying things that just never stops, can you tell.
Going n figuring it out helped me on a lot of other jobs to. All these guys that took their time to use their talents are great craftsman n go figure what works for them to produce others dreams. A great talent pool here.
Good luck n have fun
I agree with poly. I used the wiping poly by Minwax on mine. Rarely need touch ups but when required, cleaned with damp rag and rubbed a new coat. Three coats is usually enuf!

Wood Cloud Flooring Stairs Wood stain

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1st coat went on pretty well, decided to brush on with foam brush - not many runs at all. It is so dry that the poly set up very quickly... This wood was very thirsty. It also took forever (6PM to 2 AM).

Pretty happy with it. Thanks for the help
 
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