Monday, September 9, 2013
The finished desk
I have a love/hate relationship with finishing the pieces I build. They look so amazing in the raw wood, but I've had a lot of problems getting the finished look I want. The projects I've painted turned out great, but the ones I've stained just haven't been anything special. I've been reading up on lots of different finishes and I came upon water-based polyurethane. I've seen it before but didn't know anything about it or why I should pick it.
I guess oil-based polyurethane is the standard finish for most people because it is so hard and durable. It has a yellowish cast, so it changes the color of the stain, though that's usually a good thing, not bad as it gives a richer glow to the finished product. Water-based polyurethane is also really hard, but not quite as hard as oil-based. The big difference is it dries completely clear. I was intrigued by that. I looked at some of the varnishes and shellacs too, but this desk is a pretty high traffic area and I just didn't think I'd get the durability I wanted with those. So I annied up the $23 for a quart can and crossed my fingers. I did some research on best brands and went with Varathane Satin finish water-based polyurethane. I read it had much better results than the Minwax you see at the big box stores.
So yesterday was the day. I can't tell you how nervous I was. I'm really pleased with this desk because I designed it myself from a basic plan I liked. I wanted the finish to look as good as the bare wood. We decided on a white base and dark top using a vinegar/steel wool blend. That was an experiment too. The desktop is oak, so when I stained it I got a super dark, rich, beautiful color. It has some kind of strange patterns in it, which bugged me, so I actually ended up going to the effort of taking it off and reapplying. That is not for the faint hearted and probably took me a couple extra hours to do. When I did it the second time and there were still some strange patterns, I decided it must just be the wood/stain combination and I let it be. It looks great, but I would have always questioned if it could look better if I hadn't done that so I don't regret the extra effort.
Once the stain was done I painted the bottom. That went really well and three coats later it was done. Now time to do the polyurethane. I started going on it and was so incredibly pleased with the water-based formula. It is SO much easier to apply than oil. It is thinner so it goes on smoother and more easily than oil-based. It only takes two hours in between coats to dry as opposed to more like four or five, and I ended up doing four coats on the desktop and three over the white. The finished product is amazing. It's a satin finish, so not super shiny, which is just what we wanted. I'm giving it a couple days to dry all the way through like is recommended, but I'm so, so, so excited to finally have a piece of furniture I made that I love the finish on as well as the build.