finish for white oak that will not ever turn yellow/amber?
Hi all, planning a kitchen island and intend to use rift sawn white oak (for the cabinets, the surface will be quartz).  Looking for finish recommendations that will provide protection but will retain that light color of the unfinished oak and not ever turn yellow/amber.  (Kinda like the below image, which isn't rift sawn, but is close in color) Thoughts?

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My first thoughts are to make sure you don’t compromise a durable finish due to aesthetics. I wouldn’t use a finish unless it’s KCMA rated or I know from experience that it won’t fail prematurely. For many years, builders in my area used cheap nitrocellulose lacquer in kitchens and baths that don’t hold up very long…..just long enough to get past the warranty period.

I did my best to achieve what you’re trying to do with my white oak floors when I finished them. I used a UV inhibitor with a commercial water based floor finish and I’ve still experienced some “warming” of the overall tones. Not ambering—in my opinion—but warming.

I would call Sherwin, MK Campbell, General Finishes, and maybe Benjamin Moore for starters. Don’t be surprised if they can’t help you as much as you’d like. I’d also consider posting this question on SawMill Creek which seems to get more traffic nowadays.

I’d also be prepared to spend some money and time on testing different finishes. I’m curious to see what others have to say. Also, are you able to spray your finish and do you intend to finish these yourself or just supply the product. Some finishers are gun shy to use products they’re not familiar with…..and rightfully so. I have seen and help re-finish a set of cabinets that were murdered by a “finisher” using a product he had no idea how to apply properly.

I like Minwax Water Based Helmsman Spar Urethane. They have both a satin and glossy. Easy to apply, and soap and water clean up. Goes on clear. (milky white in the can.) I can't speak for 20 years, but it does not seem to change to amber over a couple of years anyway. I recommend either spraying, or I use a painting pad rather than a brush. If using a pad, you must work very fast, as this dries so fast it can start to get tacky by the time you are overlapping the next strip. I go back and forth 3 times, the last time one clean swipe from end to end, re-dip the pad, and do the next strip, with some overlap to the last pass. You really must sand between coats, though I get good results with a power sander and 220 grit, just one or two quick light passes. Of course, hand sanding would also work fine. Minwax recommends 4 coats on bare wood. You may get away with 3, but the 4th often evens out the finish. If you can find one of their frequent coupons, Sherwin Williams is by far the cheapest for this product.
No, I have no affiliation with Minwax nor Sherwin Williams.
Any oil based finish will do what you don't want....darken over time. But then, so will the wood (remember that). So you're pretty much left with shellac , which isn't going to be durable/chemical resistant enough, or a water borne. The problem with waterborne finishes is that some of them have an amber tint in them to mimic an oil based finish, though they are still light fast. There is another form of finish now called an "oil modified" water borne (GF's Enduro Var is one) and while I have no idea what that measn, I understand they will shift color with you probably want to avoid them as well.
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.
Thanks all.  To answer some questions - Spraying is an option. I'll be doing the work myself as opposed to supplying the product to somebody else. Hoping to keep it relatively simple. I don't mind a subtle "darkening" over time but need to avoid it ever taking on that orange/amber look of all the 90's oak cabinets.
(12-14-2021, 11:46 AM)Kansas City Fireslayer Wrote: I did my best to achieve what you’re trying to do with my white oak floors when I finished them.  I used a UV inhibitor with a commercial water based floor finish and I’ve still experienced some “warming” of the overall tones.  Not ambering—in my opinion—but warming. 

Do you happen to have any pictures? Is that the process I've heard described as "pickled oak floors"?
It’s definitely not the “pickled” finish from the early to late 1990’s. That process is diluting white paint with lots of water and applying like a stain.

The “orange” amber color you speak of is typical in oil based polyurethanes and cheap nitro lacquers—think standard lacquer.
I can’t think of any oil based finish that doesn’t impart an amber type of hue. You will most likely need a waterbourne finish and I would lean towards a low sheen.

I hate amber finishes unless we are talking yellow pine log cabin styles. Maybe even walnut if I want a warm rustic or again log cabin style.

My favorite clear finish for non-heirloom pieces is clear seal coat shellac followed by Enduro clear poly in satin sheen. I could even do flat sheen if they make it. I can’t recall. Even so, the clear shellac will impart “some” warmth—just like wiping a bare board with water. I’ve also used a lot of pre-cat lacquer and I love that too…..but it stinks, it’s highly flammable and clean up is more tedious.

All finishes have pros and cons. There’s no magic bullet when it comes to finishes. I haven’t explored any new finishes the past 5 years but if I did, I’d look into ML Campbell, GF, and Sherwin. SW has a great website. Sourcing what you want from them may be a bit of a challenge right now. Personally, I wouldn’t use any finish offered at the retail box stores. Not for kitchen cabinets.

If you want to PM your email address I’ll send you some pics from my phone of some WO stuff I’ve done. I seem to struggle posting them on the forum now. My pic size is the problem.
With any luck, John T will chime in. He’s is a very knowledgeable finisher.

Good stuff, thanks!

Anybody have experiences with Rubio Monocoat? I feel like I've been hearing about it alot lately on the innerwebs, but never used it.
(12-14-2021, 08:24 PM)mound Wrote: Good stuff, thanks!

Anybody have experiences with Rubio Monocoat? I feel like I've been hearing about it alot lately on the innerwebs, but never used it.

I used RM on a recent project that I posted here.  It's super easy to use but the "pure" color I used imparted an amber sheen to the birch plywood I applied it to.  Like KCF said the finishes that are water clear are waterbornes.  For them to stay clear they need to have a UV package.  For the wood underneath not to age the finish needs to have a dual UV package, one system keeps the finish from aging, the other protects the wood.  That system is called HALS.  The only one I know that has both is SW's Kem Aqua Plus, but there are others.  

Most water based poly's are clear. Just about any oil based will cause an amber tint.

My choice would be one of the Target Coatings varnishes or lacquer. Give Jeff Weiss a call he's a good guy and will advise you well.

How do you plan to apply it?

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