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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just built a picnic table and may have made some mistakes following the advice of some employees at a big box store. This was my first attempt at building something and I should have done some more research first, but now on to fixing the problems!

My first question is about pine. The top of the table and benches are entirely redwood, but the planks I used at the bottom to hold everything together are pine. (I've attached a picture in case that doesn't make sense!) Now that I've read some more about pine, it was probably a poor choice for outdoors. Do I need to replace these planks or supplement them with another type of wood? Or will it be okay as long as it is properly sealed? If the latter, what could I use to seal it? I've read some suggestions to use a clear oil based house paint. Would that do the trick?

My second question is about the finish for the top (since there is no pine on the top). I used a Minwax stain that is intended for indoor use on everything -- top an bottom. I now know that was also a bad idea, but if the only problem is that the stain will fade over time, I am okay with that. But I am wondering if I need to seal the top with anything additional, and if so, what is my best choice? I've seen a lot of suggestions to use spar varnish, but I am concerned that I will create a mess of brush strokes and I also really don't want the table to have a glossy finish. Is there any wipe on suggestion? Or should I just be using some sort of oil? Another thread said that oild would just attract dirt...

I am in Southern California, so other than some days of intense sun and heat, and a few days of rain, there isn't much inclement weather to worry about.

Thanks in advance for your tips!
 

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The pine on the underside won't matter so much. It won't last as long with the elements as the redwood but being on the underside should even it out. It would probably help if when you varnish it you let the varnish run down between the boards or pull the narrow strip of wood out of the center and finish it seperately. This would also allow you to get varnish on the center edges better. Be sure to varnish the underside as well.

I like spar varnish on a picnic table however if it sits in the direct sun will probably need to be refinished in four of five years. Annually I would put a fresh coat of spar on it. The finish will otherwise dry out and fail faster.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, Steve! That's a relief about the pine.

Are there any spar varnishes that don't have a high gloss finish? And are there any brands that you know are forgiving to beginners? I'm not too confident about my brushing skills.

I've also found something called General Finishes Outdoor Oil. Do you know anything about this, and if so, would you recommend it?
 

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Thanks, Steve! That's a relief about the pine.

Are there any spar varnishes that don't have a high gloss finish? And are there any brands that you know are forgiving to beginners? I'm not too confident about my brushing skills.

I've also found something called General Finishes Outdoor Oil. Do you know anything about this, and if so, would you recommend it?
Keep in mind for a exterior finish the glossier it is the more durable it is. The flattening agents that make the more satin sheens make the finish more porus and will accept water easier where the gloss is more prone to shed water. I often use the Helmsman spar varnish. It comes in gloss, semi-gloss and satin. Since you are brushing the finish try to do it early in the morning before it gets hot. Brush the finish on with as soft a brush as you can find. Brush each coat on as thin as you can with as few strokes as you can. The more you brush it introduces air in it and it sets faster showing the brush strokes more so brush it and keep moving. If you miss a spot, leave it and get it next time. Doing this will make the finish look more like it was sprayed. A better varnish would be the Epifanes spar varnish. It is a marine grade spar varnish. It would be available at a boat supply. It's probably a lot more expensive however it would last a lot longer.

I've never used the General Finishes Outdoor Oil. From what I can read about it, it is a linseed oil finish. I think I were going to use an oil finish I would be more inclined to use a tung oil finish. An oil finish would leave you free of the threat of having to someday refinish the table however you would have to treat the wood with the oil once a month for quite a long time and keep touching it up as it look dry. In the day or two after it was treated a person shouldn't use the table as they might get the oil on their clothing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you again, Steve! I guess I'll try the spar varnish with your tips and try not to make a mess of brush strokes!
 
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