What stain and finish do you suggest?
I have an old farmhouse table that's been sitting on my covered patio for 28 years. I'd like to know what kind of stain and finish you would recommend I use?

I am not a woodworker at all and have very limited tools (power drill, palm sander, everything else will be done by hand). I'd like to use a rub on type of stain, if possible. The work will be done outside where insects can disturb any brush on finish.

I also don't know what to use to help protect the table once it's stained. Ideally, I'd like for it to repel insects. Should I finish it and then spray it with Raid? Seriously, is there anything I can to make the table less attractive to the insects? I don't want to glue the joints together to keep at least some of the original integrity of the craftsmanship. Or is that my only real option?

About the table:
From what I can tell, it was made around the 1920's. It's made of a very hard oak using mortise and tenon joints. It has two extensions that pull out. I've seen some call it a draw leaf or pull out table.

The finish on the table is all but gone. Dirt daubers and wood boring wasps managed to separate the joints. One leg lost the bottom of its foot, causing considerable rotting.

The table appears to have been handcrafted as the legs are all different sizes.

I started out with the idea of fixing the one leg. After getting into the table and finding all the insect damage, I decided to take it apart and clean it up. Now that it's apart, I'd like to stain it and put a decent finish on it to help it weather being outside. I'm not looking for perfection, but improvement in appearance and better protection from being outside.

Below are pictures of my actual table in pieces. I also post pictures of another table that appears to be very similar to give some idea of what it looks like when put together.

The legs on the table were cut to change it from a dining table to a coffee table. The glue on 3 of the legs came apart; the 4th one seems strong. I'm embedding a screw into the 3 legs I'm re-gluing to keep them strong which should help support the 4th leg.

Thank you for any help you can offer.


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So far, no one has any ideas so here's what I'm thinking of doing:
  • I'll use gel stain with a polyurethane finish. I've read that oil is best for exterior use, but I'm still trying to learn about that.
  • And I'll glue the mortise and tenon joints to prevent the wasps from separating the joints again. From what I can tell, the table is not that rare or valuable so I'll not worry about the original craftsmanship. I'll use Elmer's carpenter's wood glue max since it's supposed to be rated for exterior use.
  • I'm using some leftover Mohawk epoxy putty to glue the metal dowels inside the legs since it works with both, metal and wood. I'll use the Elmer's glue where the wood meets up. I'll dry fit everything before gluing any of it.
  • To rebuild the rotted leg, I'm using J B Weld Quickwood epoxy. It's supposed to work for filling large repairs.
  • Then I'll make sure the new feet can't come off so none of the wood legs will be sitting directly on damp concrete.

Anyone have any thoughts about any of that? I'm trying my best to figure it all out, but would really appreciate hearing from those with experience. I'm most interested in ideas of which brand gel stain and polyurethane finish to use.
I didn't reply to your original question because frankly I'm not sure all the things you want can be accomplished, though others (I thought) might have a different slant on it. Anyway, with your restated plan I do have some suggestions.  For a top coat anything urethane (or polyurethane) is going to be a poor choice for outdoor use. Urethane resins do not do well in an high UV environment.... the finish will crack and start to flake/peel off fairly quickly. If you use a stain you will need to top coat it, and an oil finish woul dnot do well on that. Give some consideration to a true marine spar varnish. When I say "true" I not talking about anything found at the box store. Even with a marine spar, the piece will have to be refinished (re-coated) on some regular basis. They way they protect against UV is by absorption of the UV and that does fade over time. A cconsumer grade marine spar I've used recently was McCloskey's Man 'o War, I've had a redwood glider finished with it ourt in the sun for 2 summers now and it's still in great shape. If you go with the marine spar brands there are several, one that gets a lot of praise if Epifanes. For the repair putty, I have another suggestion as well. A JB weld product called Wood Restore. Your use is exactly what it is made for. Lastly, the Elmer's glue would work (I guess, never used it) if you had good clean wood surfaces to glue together and the joints fit properly. But in this case I think a better choice might be epoxy. Epoxy will stick to less than perfect joints, and it has gap filling qualities if the fit is a little loose. Wish you luck with the effort!
I started with absolutely nothing. Now, thanks to years of hard work, careful planning, and perseverance, I find I still have most of it left.
I have no clue how you are going to get the wood fresh enough to take stain evenly but, assuming you do, you need to use exterior rated stain and finish.  General Finishes and others make exterior rated stains, and finishes, too.  As Fred said, Epifanes Marine Varnish is great stuff and will hold up a really long time as long as you follow the maintenance schedule.  I also agree with Fred that epoxy is a much better option for gluing things back together than yellow glue.  If there are gaps in the joints, wet the mating pieces with straight epoxy and then coat them with epoxy to which you add some sawdust to make it a fluid paste.  That will fill the gaps w/o losing strength.  Good luck.


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