Waterlox vs Poly


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A fellow woodworker uses Waterlox all the time for his projects. He claims it is a tung oil/polyurethane varnish and gives superior results. Any experiences or comments about it's use v.s. straight polyurethane or other finishes?

Hey Bob. Waterlox, like many finishing companies, makes it very difficult to determine what is actually in the can. Its been a while since I dove into their MSDS's and product literature. After about 5 minutes the picture is clear as mud. :) So the best I can discern is that both Waterlox (green can) and Waterlox Sealer (red can) contain varying levels of resins and oils. What resins? How much resin? How much oil? These are the things I can't seem to find the answer to and they can significantly impact how you actually use the product. But I digress.

The primary difference between Walterlox and poly is the presence of raw oil in the mix. The other possible difference could be that Waterlox contains something other than urethane resins. This resin mix could make a difference in the final appearance of the finish. For instance, I am a big fan of Arm-R-Seal, although its not all that different chemically from Minwax poly. But I just like the final look of the film left by Arm-R-Seal. Could just be my imagination but I think the resin mix in Arm-R-Seal is what makes it worth paying more for. Waterlox could very well be the same way in terms of using higher quality materials in their products. At their prices, they sure better. :)

Generally speaking, oil/varnish blends take longer to dry and ultimately are not as durable as a full-strength poly. If you apply several coats, it can certainly be a very durable finish. But not as durable as an equivalent number of coats of full strength poly. So I wouldn't say its superior in terms of protection. Is it superior in terms of appearance? I would say so, but that's probably a matter of opinion. And if you want to make your own "waterlox", just mix in some oil and a little mineral spirits. Might be fun to put your friend to a little test, finishing two boards with a homemade oil/varnish blend and a little waterlox. See if he can tell the difference. ;)

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