Light wood finish: varnish vs. oil

Natalia Kolomiets

Posted on Jul 24 2020

NordicStory Mesa de comedor extensible de madera maciza de roble nordico

There are many light wood finishes on the market today. Two of the most popular are polyurethane varnish and stain tung oil. While polyurethane is a synthetic material, the tung oil stain is organic and made from the pressed seed extract of the tung tree. This article compares the two in terms of pros and cons, application and equipment, and maintenance and cleaning of your solid wood furniture.

Polyurethane varnish

As a liquid plastic, polyurethane continues, as opposed to wood. A certain skill is required to apply, but it can be used by novices if they do their homework. The end result is a durable, high-gloss protective coating. This finish can be applied to both raw wood and freshly stained wood or over old varnish if the wood is sanded completely. Polyurethane is best for most exterior wood surfaces subject to moisture, mold, or mildew and is a must-have for any marine environment. May require a coating as frequent as every year According to items like boats, but in protected areas or indoors, the surface can last for years without Need to reapply. When used in furniture and cabinets, it can be maintained with a typical wax powder spray.

The biggest drawback to varnish is that it will eventually crack or peel, and water and mold can discolor the wood underneath.

  

Rectangular solid wood dining table

Tung oil stain

But your house is not a boat, is it? Tung oil is primarily used in furniture, cabinets, interior doors, and trim, and is very easy to apply, coat, and maintain. It penetrates into wood, so the finish will never crack or peel, unlike polyurethane. It has less shine than varnish, but it has a more velvety feel and a visible grain. For maintenance, just wipe clean with a dry cloth, but never uses a wax spray because that will avoid that I can  return to apply. A great final advantage is that it can be reapplied without sanding.

Polyurethane application

Polyurethane application requires a fine bristle brush designed for oil-based paints, paint thinner, a small bucket with a handle, lint-free rags such as old cotton T-shirts, a wire bristle brush, 220 sandpaper, and lots of patience. In a sense, the varnish is like nitroglycerin in that it does fun things when it's agitated, eg, creates many air bubbles. To avoid bubbling, youa a pressurized plastic pour tube for a gallon can. Transfere less than what is neededs to the cut bucket, since pouring the excess back into the gallon bucket causes more of those pesky bubbles. Focus the spill against the side rather than directly at the bottom.

Then moistence Brush minimally, brushing excess off the edge of the bucket. Using a drying brush will help prevent dripping and puddles. Hold him at a different angle with the handle closer to the wood and applyca with long and uniform movements. The first layer should be the thinnest of all, so don't overdo it.

Use all the varnish on the brush and slightly remove drops, puddles or bubbles. Small bubbles may disappear during drying, but can be sanded before the next coat. Waita 24 hours between coats and remoa excess powder with a cloth dampened in paint thinner before each new coat. Usa a minimum of two thin layers instead of a single thick layer, as thin layers are essential to prevent cracks caused by exposure to sunlight and the elements. The final dry coat can be smoothed with extra fine steel wool, number 0000, or synthetic steel wool to avoid any metal "filing" left on the surface, but stay away from sharp corners, concentrating only on flat areas. Again, a lot of patience and slow, light but long strokes are the keys to an attractive finish.

 natural furniture finished with oil

Tung oil application

This is where tung oil shows its advantage. You will need to a high-gloss tung oil, dyed sponges (a small sponge covered with a towel), clean cotton cloths, and a cut bucket. Depending on your surface, a blunt screwdriver covered with a rag is also helpful in removing excess oil from tight corners.

Mojarquickly a large part of the wood, as much as possible in four or five minutes. Do not allows Let the tung oil dry more than five minutes before removing excess oil with a cloth and then again with a second dry cloth, buffing vigorously until the surface becomes slippery. This touch of hands is more important in the final layer than the first. Apply a minimum of three coats, allowing 24 hours between each one. Almost no sanding required if you have polished well. Subsequent coats can be applied at any time to refresh the luster after light cleaning with a cloth dampened in paint thinner.

Just before the final coat, for a super smooth, silky finish, lija Very lightly flat areas with 440 grit wet or dry sandpaper from an auto parts store. Moja the paper with a minimum amount of oil before sanding.

Here You can see how to apply an oil on the wooden surface.

Clean

To clean the varnish brush, dipge all the brush in paint or lacquer thinner in a clean bucket, working the brush against the bottom of the bucket. Work the diluent through the bristles with your fingers and a wire brush, concentrating on the base of the bristles. Repeate until the varnish is gone before doing a final cleaning with fresh thinner. Brusha the diluent on a clean board or a piece of absorbent cardboard. I endeda banging the brush back and forth on a corner of a clean board, and workeda a dry cloth through the bristles for the last time. To clean the bucket, wipeHello with a rag and a thinner, and dsale a final wash with detergent and warm water.

For oil cleaning, empaca lrags and oily sponges in plastic and tírto the to the trash. Limpiduntil If necessary with a thinner, an ammonia-based window cleaner cuts off the smell of the solvent, dish soap, and water. I cleaneda the dry cut bucket.

And that's why using oil is so much easier. No skills, less equipment, little cleaning, and no "hard brush in the morning" worries. However, no matter what finish you decides use, good luck and remembera that patience and hard touch bear fruit.

 

solid wood furniture

 

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