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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Two part question:

When finishing a table with exposed end grain, do the ends need special treatment/sealing to control movement?

Table will be white oak. I want a semi-formal appearance. Meaning, it will be in our “formal” dining room, but I don’t want to hide the character of the wood. I have no interest in a smooth, mirror finish. I was reading up on Rubio, but heard it might not be the best option where spills are likely. Suggestions?
 

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If you aren't putting on breadboard ends, I am not sure what special treatments will halt or manage movement. The wood will move, the wood always wins in a fight. You have to manage the movement so that it doesn't crack apart.

People talk about using alternate smiley face and frowny face placement of adjacent boards, but some say that doesn't matter and to go with the face placement that looks best.

The only thing you may want to do (purely for cosmetics in my opinion) is to fine sand the end grains to 600 grit or so. This will limit absorption of the finish and make the color of the end grain a better match to the face grain.
 

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I agree with Mud. Make sure the entire table top can move cross grain to prevent splits and polish the end grain before staining. I might not go to 600 grit, but certainly to 320-400. Good advice either way. Try it on a scrap of your wood to see what works for you.
 

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I agree with Mud. Make sure the entire table top can move cross grain to prevent splits and polish the end grain before staining. I might not go to 600 grit, but certainly to 320-400. Good advice either way. Try it on a scrap of your wood to see what works for you.
Yep, I've had success at 400 grit with no significant difference when comparing to 600.

Like you said, a test scrap from the project is a good idea.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I agree with Mud. Make sure the entire table top can move cross grain to prevent splits and polish the end grain before staining. I might not go to 600 grit, but certainly to 320-400. Good advice either way. Try it on a scrap of your wood to see what works for you.
Thank you and @Mud for the response. I am fairly certain my design will allow for movement. I was under the impression that the end grain would absorb/dry at a greater rate than the rest of the board causing uneven movement and possible checking. Is there a sealant that would mitigate this rate?
 

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The table top should be finished equally on all sides and ends. This will help stabilize the wood movement. Test on a bit of scrap to see if the end grain darkens from the edge and face grain wood. If so, the end grain may need an application of sealer like SealCoat. Practice your finishing schedule on scrap to avoid a mistake on the project piece. We have an oak dining table and the exposed end grain is finished like the rest of the surfaces. The Amish made table is over twenty years old and no issues with it. I refinished the top a couple of years ago due to wear of the sprayed on tinted conversion varnish on the edges/corners with dye and wipe on Polyurethane.
 

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Someone else can probably give a more technical answer, but I think the end grain splitting (checking) issue is more prevalent with wood that is still drying. Kiln or air dried wood is pretty stable and is much less subject to this problem. As Jim Frye said, just apply your finish evenly on all sides, provide for seasonal movement, and you should be good.
 

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I agree that orienting in the most pleasing to the eye is the way to go. For edge grain I usually sand up one grade from the top. With white oak I would sand 150 on the face and 220 on the end grain. Eventually going to buffing with 220 after sealer and 320/400 between coats. For table tops that are going to receive use I would suggest pre-cat conversion varnish. Target makes a waterborne CV (EM8000cv) that is just slightly less bulletproof than the 2k solvent version, and may be improved with a crosslinker additive. The coating is thinner than poly and has an excellent natural look.
 

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By the way I would love to see your table when completed. I have designed my own dining table (77" x 42-ish"), will start in March. Have not decided whether it will be ash, white oak or walnut.

How wide will each table top board be individually in yours?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
By the way I would love to see your table when completed. I have designed my own dining table (77" x 42-ish"), will start in March. Have not decided whether it will be ash, white oak or walnut.

How wide will each table top board be individually in yours?
Going to be 120” x 48” oval, more Tylenol shaped. Thinking about six 8” boards.
 

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Two part question:

When finishing a table with exposed end grain, do the ends need special treatment/sealing to control movement?

Table will be white oak. I want a semi-formal appearance. Meaning, it will be in our “formal” dining room, but I don’t want to hide the character of the wood. I have no interest in a smooth, mirror finish. I was reading up on Rubio, but heard it might not be the best option where spills are likely. Suggestions?
With white oak the end grain is sealed anyway. It would be just for appearance, I usually sand end grain smoother than the face and finish with the rest of it. Whether the ends were finished or not would have no bearing on wood movement. It will expand and contract with the weather regardless of the finish.
 

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Thank you and @Mud for the response. I am fairly certain my design will allow for movement. I was under the impression that the end grain would absorb/dry at a greater rate than the rest of the board causing uneven movement and possible checking. Is there a sealant that would mitigate this rate?
The wood for your project should already be dry and stable. The movement that is referred to is seasonal movement caused by the changes in humidity where a piece of furniture is located. So no, you do not need to seal the edges such as would be done to rough cut lumber while it is drying or seasoning.

You're jumping right into the deep end without the proper equipment or skills. Hopefully determination is enough to get you to where you want yo be. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
You're jumping right into the deep end without the proper equipment or skills. Hopefully determination is enough to get you to where you want yo be. Good luck.
I’m going to hang that little morsel of inspiration up where I’ll see it first thing in the morning. I’ve got a friend in AA that might benefit from it as well.
 
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