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I am making a dinning room table out of recycled century old wood.
Oak and Pine.

I want to bring out as much of the grain as possible, but I also want to have a smooth finish.

Any help would be appreciated.
'
 

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The result is going to depend a lot on the way the wood was sawed.

Apart from that, really anything you put on it is going to make the grain pop. After sanding to around 220, try rubbing some mineral spirits on it and that will show you what just a polyurethane will likely look like. It might surprise you what a "clear" finish can do to enrich the wood grain. Often times with finishing, less is more, as they say.

I will advise - the oak will finish different than the pine. Pine is notoriously blotchy when when stain is applied, and unless you use a grain filler (not wood filler/putty), oak can have issues with deep grain and texture problems later on.

Post a picture if you can of the pieces together and maybe we can better suggest some options? Like I said, try rubbing some MS on it to see if you like the look of a clear finish; then think about colored stains.
 

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All you really need to bring out the grain is a natural stain or linseed oil. Both of which are incompatible with water based finishes if that is what you intend to use. Depending on the temperature and humidity it might take three days to a week for the oil to cure enough to topcoat. An alternative would be to put a coat of Zinsser Sealcoat on as a barrier coat. It would be good to use anyway to prevent the water in the finish from raising the grain. An oil based clear coat would be another alternative however on light colored woods may look yellow as it ages. Oil based finishes tend to yellow as they age especially if they are in a sunny location. Another clear finish that could be used if you have the means of spraying is a pre-catalyzed lacquer. It's a much easier finish to use however is not as durable in wet locations.
 

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I have 'burnished' tung oil and had fantastic results, much better than the old soak and wipoe off method.

Have just started useing dewaxed hardened shellac, I think it is the best finish yet. Brings out the grain, that real nice 'wet' look with out the plastic look.

food for thought.
 

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I am refinishing a hard rock maple desk. I have already started to strip it. Do you have any tips that would be helpful? And how do I get the wood grain to show?
 

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The result is going to depend a lot on the way the wood was sawed.

Apart from that, really anything you put on it is going to make the grain pop. After sanding to around 220, try rubbing some mineral spirits on it and that will show you what just a polyurethane will likely look like. It might surprise you what a "clear" finish can do to enrich the wood grain. Often times with finishing, less is more, as they say.

I will advise - the oak will finish different than the pine. Pine is notoriously blotchy when when stain is applied, and unless you use a grain filler (not wood filler/putty), oak can have issues with deep grain and texture problems later on.

Post a picture if you can of the pieces together and maybe we can better suggest some options? Like I said, try rubbing some MS on it to see if you like the look of a clear finish; then think about colored stains.

This is spot on. The oak is more straightforward; however, pine is a difficult wood. It tends to blotch quite easily, and as such, you have a balancing act of accentuating the grain, avoiding blotching, and grain color reversal. You'll need to do more research and refine your questions.
 

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I would like to know how you are using pine and oak together. In my opinion, it would make a difference on how you finish it if use any stain.
 
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