Birch finish ideas
#10
  
Hi everyone,

I am new to woodworking and building a side table out of 3/4" birch plywood. 

My question is what is the the best way to finish it? 
I don't really want to stain it, just protect it (it will be used and probably have wet glasses on it from time to time). I like the natural look of the plywood but a little darker would not be too bad either. 

From what I've read, you have to seal the plywood first then finish it?

Thanks for any advice.
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#11
  Re: Birch finish ideas by Poeticchampion (Hi everyone, I am...)
I re-finished the Baltic birch table tops from my local Starbucks with 4 coats of oil based Minwax semi-gloss after the factory finish failed in about 6 months.  The finish I applied looked good until the day they retired them which was after almost 10 years of commercial use.  

In a residential setting I would use just three coats.  Adding the 4th coat gives it a bit of a plasticky look, but adds durability.

Regardless, let it cure for 200 hours (about one week) before giving it any hard use (and don't leave any objects on it for those 200 hours or it may make an impression on the finish.  

Finishes "dry" overnight but do not fully cure for much longer times.  I find that it is mostly cured after 200 hours but the finish continues to harden over time.
No animals were injured or killed in the production of this post.
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#12
  Re: RE: Birch finish ideas by Cooler (I re-finished the Ba...)
(09-07-2017, 08:30 AM)Cooler Wrote: I re-finished the Baltic birch table tops from my local Starbucks with 4 coats of oil based Minwax semi-gloss after the factory finish failed in about 6 months.  The finish I applied looked good until the day they retired them which was after almost 10 years of commercial use.  

In a residential setting I would use just three coats.  Adding the 4th coat gives it a bit of a plasticky look, but adds durability.

Regardless, let it cure for 200 hours (about one week) before giving it any hard use (and don't leave any objects on it for those 200 hours or it may make an impression on the finish.  

Finishes "dry" overnight but do not fully cure for much longer times.  I find that it is mostly cured after 200 hours but the finish continues to harden over time.

Thanks, Cooler.

I assume you mean Minwax oil-based polyurethane? 

Do you find the smell lasts a long time with oil-based poly? 

Do you have to condition the plywood before applying the poly?
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#13
  Re: RE: Birch finish ideas by Poeticchampion ([quote='Cooler' pid=...)
(09-07-2017, 10:35 AM)Poeticchampion Wrote: Thanks, Cooler.

I assume you mean Minwax oil-based polyurethane? 

Do you find the smell lasts a long time with oil-based poly? 

Do you have to condition the plywood before applying the poly?

I used oil based poly for a drawer once and it retained the odor for months and months.  I will never do that again.

After one week (200 hours approximately) there is no noticeable odor.  I say "noticeable" because I built a furniture style dog crate once and finished the interior with oil based poly and my dog  would not step inside it after two weeks.  I sprayed the interior with shellac and the very next day he was sleeping in the crate with no issues.

The condition of the plywood table tops was that the old finish had gotten soft and you could scrape it off with your finger nail.  I sanded off the old finish (top only) and used some blond wood filler where someone had carved his initials into the table top.  Other than that the plywood was solid.

The oil based poly will warm up the appearance a bit because it has a bit of amber color to it.  That was hardly noticeable.  

Others have had good luck with water based poly.  That may be so.  But the only job I did that faced a really hostile environment and stood up to it for nearly 10 years was oil based poly.  They wipe down the tables at Starbucks with  a Windex like product several times per shift.  10 years in that environment is probably equal to 50 or 75 years in a residential environment.

As I mentioned modern water based poly is supposed to be excellent.  However the only long term experience I've had is with the oil based.
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#14
  Re: RE: Birch finish ideas by Cooler ([quote='Poeticchampi...)
(09-07-2017, 11:11 AM)Cooler Wrote: I used oil based poly for a drawer once and it retained the odor for months and months.  I will never do that again.

After one week (200 hours approximately) there is no noticeable odor.  I say "noticeable" because I built a furniture style dog crate once and finished the interior with oil based poly and my dog  would not step inside it after two weeks.  I sprayed the interior with shellac and the very next day he was sleeping in the crate with no issues.

The condition of the plywood table tops was that the old finish had gotten soft and you could scrape it off with your finger nail.  I sanded off the old finish (top only) and used some blond wood filler where someone had carved his initials into the table top.  Other than that the plywood was solid.

The oil based poly will warm up the appearance a bit because it has a bit of amber color to it.  That was hardly noticeable.  

Others have had good luck with water based poly.  That may be so.  But the only job I did that faced a really hostile environment and stood up to it for nearly 10 years was oil based poly.  They wipe down the tables at Starbucks with  a Windex like product several times per shift.  10 years in that environment is probably equal to 50 or 75 years in a residential environment.

As I mentioned modern water based poly is supposed to be excellent.  However the only long term experience I've had is with the oil based.

I will give the oil-based poly a try. 

Nothing to apply before the first coat, correct?

Thanks very much for your help!

J
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#15
  Re: RE: Birch finish ideas by Poeticchampion ([quote='Cooler' pid=...)
(09-08-2017, 03:33 PM)Poeticchampion Wrote: I will give the oil-based poly a try. 

Nothing to apply before the first coat, correct?

Thanks very much for your help!

J

If the surface is sanded and clean I go direct to the finish.  If not, I use SealCoat shellac for the first coat which improves adhesion.

Whenever possible I like to brush onto horizontal surfaces.  It allows a heavier coat with no runs.  The heavier coat allows gravity to smooth out any brush marks.  The oil finish dries slowly enough for this to occur.

I've always waited 24 hours between coats and lightly sanded between coats.  I like 3 to 4 coats for horizontal work surfaces (like table tops) and 2 - 3 coats on vertical surfaces which receive less abuse.

My butcher block kitchen counter tops have 4 coats.  I cannot chop directly on the tops, I use cutting boards.  But it is almost two years old and appears blemish-free.  If I used oil finish on this (as I was told to do) I would have had to do maintenance coating at least 6 times in that interval.  I'm too lazy for that.
No animals were injured or killed in the production of this post.
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#16
  Re: RE: Birch finish ideas by Poeticchampion ([quote='Cooler' pid=...)
(09-08-2017, 03:33 PM)Poeticchampion Wrote: I will give the oil-based poly a try. 

Nothing to apply before the first coat, correct?

Thanks very much for your help!

J

The first coat of the oil-based poly will act as a sealer for subsequent coats, so nothing else is required.  It isn't really necessary, but you could thin the first coat somewhat with mineral spirits.  It will spread a little easier over the raw wood and will still give you a base to sand smooth before applying the next coats.
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#17
  Re: RE: Birch finish ideas by Bill Wilson ([quote='Poeticchampi...)
(09-11-2017, 11:05 AM)Bill Wilson Wrote: The first coat of the oil-based poly will act as a sealer for subsequent coats, so nothing else is required.  It isn't really necessary, but you could thin the first coat somewhat with mineral spirits.  It will spread a little easier over the raw wood and will still give you a base to sand smooth before applying the next coats.

Thanks for the insight. 

You guys rock.
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#18
  Re: Birch finish ideas by Poeticchampion (Hi everyone, I am...)
Tell us how it works out.

P.S. :  I usually use the cheap Harbor Freight foam brushes.  They only last about 30 minutes but that is usually enough for a single coat.  Then I toss them.
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