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OakStBeachBum

Hard Maple Table Top (clear, sun-proof, tough)

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Hey guys - sorry in advance if this question has come up before but after 2-3 days of searches I decided to just ask away.

I'm making a dining table out of hard maple and I am trying decide on how I would like to finish it.

Goals:

  • It needs to preserve the light color of the maple and not yellow over time.  The room has a bright aesthetic and needs a light color. My better half initially suggesting painting it white (*gasp*) so I chose maple specifically for its light color to avoid that cruel fate. I know the maple itself will darken over time naturally but by then it will have too much sentimental value to paint over!
  • It will get a lot of natural light. I live in a very new apartment building so the windows likely have some sort of UV protection but to be on the safe side I would like a finish that provides an additional suit of UV armor.
  • It needs to be usable as a primary eating/living service. I don't want to have to remind people to use coasters. It needs to be able to take a punch.

What I have considered:

  1. General Finishes High Performance water based topcoat. Checks the box on finishing clear without yellowing. Claims to have a "UV stabilizer" (whatever that means). My main fear is that it is less bullet-proof particularly  around liquid/heat/alcohol.
  2. Some sort of self-leveling epoxy (like System 3 Mirror Coat or something similar). Seems like this surface would be the most indestructible but I'm not crazy about the idea of a high gloss finish and based on my research it appears that the epoxies that come with UV protection are the ones that are less clear and more yellow-ish. I'm also concerned about not having a very good setup for actually executing this finish.
  3. Some sort of varnish specifically formulated for a table top application. I looked at Belhen's Rock Hard but it seems like it causes a yellowing effect.
  4. Lacquer? Seems like it would achieve the goal of being clear but unsure about its UV or moisture/heat resistance qualities.
  5. Something else?

Anything else I should keep in mind for finishing maple?

Thanks!

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General finished has an exterior WB poly. I don't know what it looks like in application but if the UV resistance is key that's something to add to the list. No finish is bulletproof. If your looking for steel you'll be disappointed no matter what finish you chose. If you chose a WB poly you'll get excellent durability and the ability to fix the finish down the road when you need to.

Remove from consideration the epoxy. I don't think the flooding epoxies are all that good they scratch easily and show the flaws a lot. Also they yellow over time and just end up looking like a cheap bartop. Lacquer will also yellow over time on maple.

I guess i should add maple it's self will yellow slightly over time. It's part of the oxidation of the wood. If you want it to stay more white a soft maple might be more fitting.  I linked the episode of wood talk where shanon talks about maples and their differences.

I have a dining room table finished with varathane waterborne poly and it's solid. It gets abused and i put how stuff on it all the time and it takes it in stride. Don't worry about the UV as much inside mine gets sun from 3 sides and i haven't noticed any changes in it and i have checked.

 

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Thanks - that is a very helpful response. Do you have any experience with how the WB poly stands up to cold drinks and hot plates? Am I going to need to be chasing people with coasters all the time?

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10 hours ago, OakStBeachBum said:

Thanks - that is a very helpful response. Do you have any experience with how the WB poly stands up to cold drinks and hot plates? Am I going to need to be chasing people with coasters all the time?

I never use coasters on any of my furniture. I throw pans strait out of a 400 degree oven on my table. Make sure you give it a good month before you start the abuse. The finishes will cure to being usable quickly but don't reach their fulls strength for some time.

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5 minutes ago, Chestnut said:

I never use coasters on any of my furniture. I throw pans strait out of a 400 degree oven on my table...

:o I use coasters on my workbench LOL...but hey they are nice wood coasters :) 

  • Haha 1

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Most of the waterbourne finishes I have used in recent years do fine with cold drinks and very warm plates but hot from the stove or oven needs a trivet /coaster /whatever. If you can't hold it with your bare hand it's too hot for most finishes .

I made a little table to hold drinks in my bathroom  about 8 -10 years ago and gave it 4-5 coats of M L Campbells waterbourne finish. Hot stoneware coffee mugs and cold sweating drinks haven't been an issue at all. Fine scratches from daily use buff out pretty easily. 

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13 minutes ago, pkinneb said:

:o I use coasters on my workbench LOL...but hey they are nice wood coasters :) 

I use coasters on my table saw. Even that makes me cringe a bit so it's only in a pinch.

@wdwerker Huh i put hot stuff from the oven on my table all the time and it's never even bothered it. I tried to find some literature on temperature limits but never could do you have anything?

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Warmed in the oven or baked at 350-400 ?  Never remember reading anything specific but I had a pan from the toaster oven start to stick on a finished wood table. I reacted quickly then a light sanding & sprayed a fresh topcoat the next time I was spraying clear at the shop. If it had stuck & melted through the fix wouldn't be as easy.  Why risk it ?

Laminate counters can bubble & de laminate just over 400 degrees. Just under 400 you can bend post form grade laminate to a 3/4" radius and stick it down while fabricating. Heat one spot too long and you hear a pop as it blisters. Even a 350 degree pan can soften the glue under the laminate.

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9 minutes ago, wdwerker said:

Warmed in the oven or baked at 350-400 ?  Never remember reading anything specific but I had a pan from the toaster oven start to stick on a finished wood table. I reacted quickly then a light sanding & sprayed a fresh topcoat the next time I was spraying clear at the shop. If it had stuck & melted through the fix wouldn't be as easy.  Why risk it ?

Laminate counters can bubble & de laminate just over 400 degrees. Just under 400 you can bend post form grade laminate to a 3/4" radius and stick it down while fabricating. Heat one spot too long and you hear a pop as it blisters. Even a 350 degree pan can soften the glue under the laminate.

Yeah i know laminate glue gets iffy, well for that matter i don't think woodworking glue fares any better. Yeah 400 degree oven for 55 min strait out and on the table. First time i did it as an experiment and let it cool to the touch and it never bothered it. Never stuck yellowed or burned the finish. It's like nothing ever happened. Pretty sure I've done cast iron strait off the gas burner as well. I don't really think about it my counter tops are granite and the table hasn't shown any signs of not being able to handle the abuse either.

Now your right i don't suggest this either but on a solid wood top a few mine of something super hot might not cause worry. Anything warm defiantly isn't going to cause worry.

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Osmo is junk imo. It's going to be endless work to maintain the finish. The finish contains 75% of the VOCs that oil based poly does but offers zero protection. It's expensive. Whole lot of cons and not many benefits.

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