Durable End Table Finish – Try Wiping Varnish!

Article - August 28, 2007

This week’s question comes from Chris and he’s looking for a durable end table finish. He writes:

I am making a end table with a walnut top and I am looking to protect the top from water rings, accidental spills etc. Do you have a suggestion for something that will provide a little more protection or would a oil -varnish blend work? A buddy of mine mentioned that I could use wax as a final protective coat that would be easy to reapply as needed. Thoughts? Thank you for the great shows and you are really doing a great job helping to teach other woodworkers.

And here was my reply:
An oil/varnish blend is ok, but probably not the right finish for a heavily used table. Your best bet would be varnish. I would recommend 5-6 coats of a wiping varnish like Arm-R-Seal. This will leave you with a beautiful finish that protects the wood from the abuse it will most likely see. And skip the wax. Wax is pretty useless in terms of protection. And not to mention, once you apply wax, you are committed to a regular waxing regimen in order to keep the surface looking good. Eventually you will have that wax buildup issue too. So save the wax for your car. :)

While Arm R Seal is a great option, there are other finishes on the market that you might also consider for a durable end table finish. Check out my Wiping Varnish Shootout for suggestions.

If you want to learn how to apply a wiping varnish finish,  check out my video A Simple Varnish Finish.  The video was originally made for DVD so it’s not very long, but it demystifies finishing by going over each and every step of the wiping varnish process. Even someone new to the world of finishing can create a show-stopping finish if they follow the methods outlined. Check it out!


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