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Red Squirrel 10-08-2012 01:42 AM

Question about wood finishing
 
I am building a computer desk from 2x4's and the top will be a thick piece of presanded plywood. The 2x4's are in rough shape as none of them where whole, but all the edge of a tree with some having bark on them, so I will probably end up just painting them which will hopefully somewhat "mask" their rough shape. Most of them wont be visible anyway.

The plywood top I want to keep the wood look, but I want to darken it, and I also want it to be very durable. I want to be able to put down a computer or drop a screwdriver or tool and not have it scratch. Basically I want it as strong as the faux wood you see on ikea type desks. It's not really easy to scratch that stuff unless you really try.

So I'm thinking of staining it first to darken it but then I'm not sure what the next step would be to make it stronger. Do I just go for a clear coat varnish? Or is there another product I could look at? I'm thinking some kind of product made for hardwood floors may be what I want.

DexterII 10-08-2012 08:45 AM

Since you want it dark anyway, Masonite?

funfool 10-08-2012 12:52 PM

I prefer oils, reason why is future maintenance.
Just google Danish oils, Watco is a brand I like. It already has colour to it, wipe it on and you are done.
Couple years down the road if needed, just wipe on some more.

If you get a scratch or indentation on it, lightly sand and apply more. Is actually called distressing and gives it a warm touch.
I had a client that ordered who ordered a set of 8' x 36" arched entry way doors.
They charged $500 extra to have them distressed before staining.
Basically they take a heavy chain, other items and whack the crap out of your new doors before they stain them, the imperfections show up darker and makes them look 100 years old.
Do not sweat the dings you will get on the desk.

Get a clear desk cover for it if you are worried.
I used oil based hardwood floor urethane, was given to me from the guys we use for flooring. I used it for a project, I really regret using it. Is a tool and receives lots of use and weather. I need to totally sand it down and just use an oil on it.

user1007 10-08-2012 01:18 PM

Your desk legs sound like they could be rather cool looking. You sure you want to disguise them? If you have not bought the desktop ply yet? Rescued doors make great desktops and are a good size. And they have one hole already bored for electrical pass through.

Most IKEA stuff is thinly laminated so you could put a sheet of wood grained Formica or whatever brand down. I represented photographers who had sheets of the stuff around for different backgrounds and some of the slate look stuff was great. The stuff comes in thousands of textures, colors and patterns. It also comes in different thicknesses. You can get it solid core so if you do ding it, the damage will not show. Obviously it will not show off the wood grain of the plywood but unless yours is veneered, it is not going to offer much to look at anyhow?

You could stain the plywood and see if you like the look. Then finish it with mulitple coats of a "clear" urethane or epoxy reinforced floor finish. You could choose gloss or satin. If you don't like the stained plywood, use a porch patio and floor paint in a color or colors of your choice. I know Benjamin Moore's best and the oil is urethane reinforced and the waterbased epoxy based. If you need chemical resistance you might look into industrial coating options.

Next step would be to put on some sort of two part urethane or epoxy. At the extreme end of this approach would be poured on finishes like used for bar tops and so forth. Remember the restaurant craze for a time where bottle caps, pasta, and beans were embedded in resin to make tabletops? That was a poured resin---usually epoxy but sometimes polyester.

Finally, you could cut something like a piece of lexan to lay on the top.

You do present two resistance challenges. Some materials may hold up better than others to abrasion and scratches but may crack or micro-fissure when something is dropped on them.

Sort of a postscript, if you have not worked with laminates before read up. It is not difficult but the process involves coating both surfaces with contact cement. When they touch, you should not be able to pry them apart. You can use dowels or wax paper to keep the surfaces apart until you are ready but it comes in handy to have a helper. Once firmly joined and rolled out with a floor roller? A sharp laminate bit in a router makes short work of trimming the stuff.

Red Squirrel 10-08-2012 02:12 PM

Actually one thing I did forget to mention is I also want it to be somewhat water resistant. Ex: if I spill a drink or something.

I want to keep the grain of the plywood as I paid extra to get it like that vs rough. I'll look into the stain + urethane. Will that give me the water resistance I want as well? We also have a Benjamin Moore here so I can get it there.

This is the plan:

http://gal.redsquirrel.me/thumbs/lrg...lan_view_1.png

Wood:
http://gal.redsquirrel.me/thumbs/lrg-1467-dsc04674.JPG

And one of the leg sections:

http://gal.redsquirrel.me/thumbs/lrg-1466-dsc04678.JPG

I'm still debating on if I want to stain the legs too.

user1007 10-08-2012 02:32 PM

If you plan on the possibility of spilling liquids, I would definitely go with a bar type finish on top so you do not have to worry.

That is one sturdy desk, by the way! Given the weight, have you provided for any sort of levelers? I personally would trim out the edges of the plywood to make it look thicker and better match the structure. Nit picky I know.

As for deciding whether to stain the legs? Why not try one and see how it looks to you? Once the stain is dry, you can always prime and then paint over it if you do not like the look.

Don't forget you are going to need a sealer/conditioner to get a stain to look decent on soft woods like that. Otherwise it could be absorbed weird and look blotchy.

Red Squirrel 10-08-2012 02:58 PM

For the edges I was thinking of putting something to "cap" it but think I will just stand it down very smooth and slightly round it. If I had a table saw I could probably cut some edging pieces to fit exactly. I think once stained it should look ok though. For the conditioner, is that something I'd have to put before the stain? I'll look at the bar epoxy finish as well, sounds like what I want.

And yeah, this thing will be a beast once done. I wanted something overkill sturdy.

user1007 10-08-2012 03:09 PM

I would definitely add some levelers to it! Or given it's weight? Will your budget allow for some industrial strength, locking casters under it? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to move it if you ever had to? Without taking it apart?

I have had kitchen islands made for clients and they balked at me insisting they have casters under them. All have thanked me even it if it took years.

Yes, you have to condition/seal soft woods like fir and pine before staining. A mix of 75-80 percent mineral spirits and 20-25 percent processed, not raw, lindseed oil will do the trick. The paint store will have a commercial product though. A woodworker or woodworking shop will have a better tuned formula.

Since you lack a table saw, I would still pick up some picture frame molding and trim it out for an edge. Just me. I think the top will look undersized without you faux-ing the thickness?

Red Squirrel 10-08-2012 03:24 PM

By levelers do you mean those things that are like screws typically on appliances like stoves? I could see if I can find some somewhere. Only thing, will that cause an indentation in the floor after a while? My goal was to put lot of padding under the legs for even distribution. But now that you mention levelers I see why I may need them as this may be wobbly given it's one of my first projects of this kind.

So for the finishing I'm looking at:

Conditioner -> stain -> urethane epoxy

Does this sound good? Do I need the conditioner on the plywood too, or is that only for the 2x4's?

funfool 10-08-2012 04:01 PM

sikkens is another oil based product I recommend, at $80 a gallon I save it for outdoors. while the Danish oil is good indoors.
But I like this photo to show what will happen with age. If you look at the ceiling on the porch, that is 2 years old, It is exact same material that the electrical cover I just built.
You can see that the ceiling has a nice golden orange glow to it, when it was first done, it was just as white as the cover I built, it darkens with age. couple years later the cover now matches the porch ceiling. Is an obvious difference in colour and what your pine legs will look like in time.
Again. is colours you can choose and will darken it, I like natural as in this photo, whole point in my mind is maintenance, and have regular customers I have to deal with and the urethanes is simply not an answer, I avoid them like a plague.
http://i48.tinypic.com/2vi5jif.jpg

user1007 10-08-2012 06:31 PM

funfool. Did you read the original post. Great work but what do you figure the odds of anybody setting a computer, spilling a drink or dropping a screwdriver on those posts or ceiling are? The OP was asking how to protect a desktop. :laughing:

And yes OP, you must pre-condition the plywood, unless what you showed is not what you have in mind for the top and you have a piece of veneered w hardwood somewhere.

And yes appliance type levelers or casters could indent the floor with that much weight on them but you will drive yourself nuts trying to do the old matchbooks under the bar tables routine. And when you drop your fave screwdriver behind the desk and you cannot reach it without moving the desk? Won't you be please with casters?

funfool 10-09-2012 12:45 PM

my pic was to indicate what staining pine will look like with a quality oil product.
Even Cabbott's $35 a gallon at Lowes will get the same effect. Do not need a gallon for a desk though.

I do not know what veneer the plywood is, maybe was mentioned and I missed it.
Also not mentioned what edge banding would be used.
Birch plywood would be common, using natural stain will be a nice colour, add some maple edge banding, pine frame, would be 3 different colours of wood, I think it would look sharp.

So in my photo, the box on the wall is white, it was just stained natural. Colour is non existent, does not even look like it was stained. The original poster will hate it and want to change it. I think this photo is a good before and after pic.
We built the addition and after 2 years, They really hate the ugly 200 amp service panel on the front entryway, what can we do?
I built the box with exact same material as the 2 year old ceiling.
Give it 6 months and will start to see the patina coming, 1 year and will start loving it, longer and it just gets better.

Would I suggest this for fine furniture? nope.
I mean no disrespect to poster, but having a hard time lumping some #2 2x4's with bark showing (I would leave it) and a piece of plywood as fine furniture.
This is a very simple and easy way to finish it.
In the first post was going to paint the pine and I suggested Watco danish oil for the top, then they talked about staining the pine.
That prompted me to post the pic.

I apologize for being a wind bag, I was not trying to impress anyone, I am new to this forum and do not want to come off wrong or rub others wrong way. I have better photo's of that project, also built an interesting cover for the gas meter using latilas.
They do not show the difference in the natural patina that occurs if you have patience.


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