Finishing Magnolia Live edge coffee table


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I am a newbie when it comes to live edge coffee tables. I was able to get some magnolia wood that is 22"-24" wide 8/4 thickness(or 2" thick) and 11' long. I cut the board into 3 pieces to make coffee tables. Around 44" long all three The magnolia was milled over 25 years ago and cured by a friend that owns a sawmill.

Question1. I have not planned the wood yet but there are some other smaller pieces that have been planned ans sanded. looking on the internet also the magnolia seems to be lighter colored with a yellowish tint. The grains seems to be dense and straight. It looks great I attached pictures. the coffee tables will be Xmas gifts could u recommend an oil based stain and color that would make the magnolia wood look great. From my understanding magnolia wood 22" wide straight and over 8/4 or 2" thick is rare. I don't want to stain the wrong color and ruin a rare wood. I think it is rare because i cant find it in this size in many places on the net. And i dont want it to be a run of the mill internet garbage.

2. I plan on finishing with zar oil based polyurethane matte finish. My friends the tables are for don't want the high gloss look and after reading varnish type topcoat will need reapplications every few years not to mention the person that doesn't use a coaster and ruins the table. any tips or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. As i stated i am a newbie I have read a lot on this forum and plain to sand using an orbital sander stepping up the grit amounts slowly and finishing by hand sanding. It will be a coffee table so besides drinks spilled i can see kids coloring etc on them

3. third question is HELP i am a newbie really don't want to screw this beautiful wodd up.I got the magnolia wood for a great price 200$ for whole board 11' long 22-24" wide and over 2' thick and figured it would be something different. the tree is from the mill property in south Carolina. as i stated it was milled 25-36 years ago and stacked properly according to wood man.

In the pics below is one of the boards before i have planned or sanded it.  Second shows a little bit of live edge.  Im removing bark because after reading around i am told moisture can get trapped below polyurethane and grow mold.   Third pic was planned and sandede but i was told not stained.  It is very yellow i know my sister whom is getting one of the coffee tables would want it darker.   any help appreciated

I have attached pics of one of the boards. It has not been planed Yet the one with color has been planned and sanded. Not that well i believe but the gentleman that did it said he didn't stain it.

thanks for any tips





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Hello Chris! Those are some beautiful pieces of wood. I have never worked with magnolia, but those photos strongly resemble poplar in coloration and texture. If those similarities hold true, the wood will be on the softer side of the spectrum, and you should take care not to dent it. A hard film finish might be your best bet for protection. Oil-based polyurathanes, such as General Finishes Arm-R-Seal or Minwax Wipe-on poly are easy to apply, fairly durable, and available in non-glossy formulations. They will impart somewhat of an amber tone to the wood, so if you prefer to avoid that, a water-borne poly, like Minwax Polycrylic, may be a better choice. Beware that many people feel the water-borne poly leaves wood looking 'cold'.

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Question 1:  I would not stain this at all.  A lot of people have this weird hangup where they think stain is a necessary part of the finishing process, but to be honest, if this wood is indeed as rare as you say it is, and if it is as impressive as the pictures above make it seem, I would not touch it with any stain.  All it really needs is a good clear coat.  Polyurethane is a good option, especially if these will be coffee tables, as poly can take a beating and still look good.  That said, if you absolutely must use stain, look up the brand General Finishes.  They are well-known for producing high-quality stains, dyes, and topcoats.


Question 2: For your topcoat, as I said, polyurethane seems like the way to go.  I just made a kitchen table and finished the top with Minwax Wipe-On Polyurethane.  I applied innumerable coats, probably 10 or more, over the span of a couple of weeks, and sanded it right on up to 2000 grit.  It's baby-butt smooth.  I used the satin finish and polished up to 2000 to attain a lustrous but still matte sheen.  You can see it here:



After the finish had plenty of time to dry, it has been very durable.  


3. Ok!  I tried to help. :) 



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  • 2 years later...

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