I am helping my brother-in-law build a bar in their basement. The top is glued up with 8/4 Maple. I purchased the Maple elbow rail from the hardwood shop also. My question is the finish. Obviously this bar will not get the abuse that a “normal” bar will, this is only in his basement. However, what finish should I go with? Any suggestions?
Funny you should ask. I was at Woodcraft on Sunday. They had a product specifically for this application. It is a pour on finish that looks like it builds up to an eight of an inch or more. Typical big bar type finish.
If you are looking for something more furniture like, I would suppose I would shoot many coats of solvent based lacquer. It seems to withstand abuse and wetness pretty well (but still scratches more easily than the bar type finish described above.
Others on this site will have more experience with actually doing.
Behlen Rock Hard varnish.
Sand the maple to 220. Thin the first coat about 50% with mineral spirits. Give it at least 48 hours to harden. Scuff sand 320 . Follow with at least 3 coats full strength. Let each harden a minimum of 1 week, 2 weeks is better. Scuff sand each coat. Level the surface to a completely dull scratch pattern, carefull removing any shiny areas each time.
Let the last coat harden 4 weeks. Sand with 400 grit lubricated with soapy water. Wiipe dry frequently to check for an even scratch pattern. Then 600 grit with soapy water. Then auto rubbing compound (red) then auto polishing compound (white).
Final step involves 12 year Scotch. Don't let a drop of it get on the top. Not that it will harm the surface in the slightest. It's just too good to waste!
Without getting into one of the catalyzed spray finishes (e.g., conversion varnish), the most durable finishes are varnishes (including polyurethane). Pour-on epoxy finishes are very good for water-proofing, but scratch easily. Whenever you use a pour-on finish, you can sand it and apply a varnish over it for added durability.
Within the varnish category, you have a number of options to choose from. The oils and resins used to make the varnish affect its appearance and durability. Many varnishes are based on tung or linseed oil and have a yellow to amber coloring. This may be a concern on light/white woods like maple. Other varnishes are based on soya or safflower oil and aren't nearly as yellow and will preserve the color of the wood better. Polyurethane is the most durable varnish, followed by phenolic resin varnishes, followed by alkyd varnishes, followed by fast-dry varnbishes (styrene or vinyl toluene resins). Here's a list of some of the choices and the characteristics of each;
Old Masters Super Varnish - An alkyd varnish with amber coloring. Dries pretty fast. Sands well and has low odor. Brushes well without thinning and can be used as a wiping varnish after thinning with naphtha or mineral spirits.
Pratt & Lambert #38 & McCloskeys Heirloom - Alkyd varnishes with light coloring. Good to retain the light color of white woods like maple.
Waterlox Original Wood Finish - Tung oil & phenolic resin interior varnish with exceptional durability (use to be marketed as a Gym Floor Finish). Rich amber color. Thinner than Behlen RockHard and can be brushed or wiped.
Behlen RockHard Table Top Varnish - Phenolic resins and tung oil create a rich amber color that darkens with time. An extremely hard gloss finish with excellent resistance to abrasions, water, alcohol, chemicals, etc. This finish rubs out extremely well.
Daly's ProFin - A urethane and alkyd resin blend finish that dries hard and fast. Pale yellow color.
General Finishes' Arm-R-Seal - A blend of tung oil and alkyd and urethane resins. Has a medium amber color. It's the "tung oil" finish used by David Marks on his TV show; though it's really a nice looking wiping poly.
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