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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,
I recently bought a reclaimed elmwood dining table, used. I have 3 kids and would like to finish it with some sort of topcoat that is waterproof to make it easier to wipe down and to avoid stains when peanut butter is spilled and left on the table. :smile: Should I prep it before? Should I simply brush it on? Also, I noticed when we got it that it had a pretty big patch of spilled candle wax on it. I got most of it up using a towel and an iron, but I'm wondering if that would affect how the topcoat goes on in that spot. I couldn't include pictures for some reason. I am clueless about wood and I may be wrong and it's already finished...but I can scratch up tiny splinters so I'm thinking it's not. Thanks for any help anyone can give me!
 

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Assuming you are recoating a table with an existing finish on it, the table has more than candle wax on it. There is undoubtedly furniture polish on it that needs to be cleaned off first. I prefer to use an automotive wax and grease remover called Dupont Prepsol Solvent. It is available at places that sell automotive paint. An alternative a lot of folks also use is napatha. The solvent will liquefy the wax and if you wipe it down frequently changing rags you should get the majority of the wax off. Then I would scuff the finish with 220 grit sandpaper. If there is no white powder when you sand the finish it may just have an oil finish on it so you may need to do a more thorough cleaning. The polycrylic might work but I think your best chances of not having adhesion problems is to use an oil based poly instead.
 

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If it was me I would sand to bare wood. follow with oil based stain if you want, and two coats thinned dewaxed shellac. THEN a oil based poly.
 

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I think insuring that top is completely contaminant free (by cleaning) may be tough. Putting a coat of dewaxed shellac on it, and then the top coat of your choice may be the best way to guarantee no problems with adhesion. Zinsser Seal coat is a dewaxed shellac, a coat of it might be cheap insurance.
 

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I think insuring that top is completely contaminant free (by cleaning) may be tough. Putting a coat of dewaxed shellac on it, and then the top coat of your choice may be the best way to guarantee no problems with adhesion. Zinsser Seal coat is a dewaxed shellac, a coat of it might be cheap insurance.
+1. :yes: I agree. While oil base polyurethane can topcoat most all finishes, it would have some problem adhering if there remained wax/silicone residue.






.
 

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The best way to prepare an already stained and finished surface is to use a chemical paint remover containing methylene chloride. Sanding is not a good idea. Sanding will not thoroughly remove the prior finish that has been absorbed into the pores of the wood. Any residue will cause an uneven coloring of stain and/or clear coat. It will also do the best job in removing most of any remaining wax.

As Fred suggested, apply a coat of dewaxed shellac (Zinsser Seal Coat) which will act as a barrier coat between any remaining prior finish residue and your clear coats. Then you can apply your clear coats.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for all the advice. I am quite sure that the table has NO finish on it and is simply weathered wood. I wish I could include a picture but I keep getting the message that there was a security problem with uploading. So, assuming it has no finish and is simply weathered wood, and I don't really feel the need to stain it, it is probably still a good idea to sand, finish with a Zinsser coat, and then a polycrylic?
 

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Even without finish, it may still have some contaminants that need to be isolated from your final top coat. Sanding will be needed to smooth things out, and that may get the surface to where the Seal Coat isn't needed. It becomes a judgement call, if I sanded and it looked pretty good, I might be tempted to go without the Seal Coat.
 
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Three good reasons not to forgo seal coat; the shellac under your top coat makes it much easer to refinish if you ever want to, the shellac will harden the wood so whatever you top coat with will be tougher. Just cut the shellac 50/50 with alcohol. I would use two coats. I am not a fan of water based poly if you want toughness go with the real thing oil base poly Thinned 50/50 with paint thinner. Wipe on as many coats as you want. 3 is good.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
sounds good but I am wondering if the shellac will make it glossy? I am trying to keep the original look as much as possible & was planning to use a matte polycrylic. I want to stay away from a glossy look if I can help it.
 

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The gloss will be mostly determined by your final coat.
 
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sounds good but I am wondering if the shellac will make it glossy? I am trying to keep the original look as much as possible & was planning to use a matte polycrylic. I want to stay away from a glossy look if I can help it.
Use thinned gloss poly. If you want a less gloss look rub down when good and dry with 0000# steelwool to the level of gloss that suits you. Semigloss poly when applied looks uneven. Better to use gloss then take gloss down with steel wool or auto compound. Sorry, I know that is badly written but it's as clear as I can write
 
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