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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am making a table that will have walnut top and the base made of Alder. The top will be about 16x40”. It will have plants on it so it needs to handle getting wet occasionally. It will get light usage.

In my mind I want a glossy, mirror finish for the top. I want to show off the walnut figure. I do not want to make it real dark. I am very confused by all the finishing methods and choices. I have a done a ton of reading.

I know I need to seal the top. I am looking at using Zinser SealCoat.

I need to apply a grain filler. I want a clear filler. I am looking at Aqua Coat.

I am looking at General Finishes Seal-a-Cell and Arm-R-Seal (glossy) for the top coat. I will use a satin finish for the base.

I have never finished anything of this size.

Am I on the right track? Is the order listed the proper sequence?

Thanks.
 

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I'm sure others with more experience can provide more info. However, here's what I did for a coffee table that's 40 x 40 with some modifications since I went for a satin finish. I started with Zinser Sealcoat. Then, since walnut is an open grain wood I used Solarez grain filler to get a smooth finish. (I Can’t Believe It’s Not Lacquer ~ Grain Sealer Formula ~ (4 Oz.) No Odor - No Waiting - Cures 3-5 Minutes!, Eco-Friendly, Zero VOC's, Perfect Sanding & Made in The USA! - - Amazon.com
) It's not cheap but very little goes a long way. It took 3 coats, applying it with a credit card and sanding with 400 grit between coats, but I had it done in an hour since the UV cure (sunlight) is fast. I then put 3 coats of Zar Satin Poly, sanding between coats. The first coat I put down full strength, the last two I cut it with 50/50 with mineral spirits to make it a wiping poly.

Since you're going for a glossy finish, and want to show off the grain as much as possible, I would use gloss for every coat. Semi-gloss, satin and matte finishes have flatteners in them which do effect the clarity to some extent.

As I said, this worked for me, others may have better approaches.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'm sure others with more experience can provide more info. However, here's what I did for a coffee table that's 40 x 40 with some modifications since I went for a satin finish. I started with Zinser Sealcoat. Then, since walnut is an open grain wood I used Solarez grain filler to get a smooth finish. (I Can’t Believe It’s Not Lacquer ~ Grain Sealer Formula ~ (4 Oz.) No Odor - No Waiting - Cures 3-5 Minutes!, Eco-Friendly, Zero VOC's, Perfect Sanding & Made in The USA! - - Amazon.com
) It's not cheap but very little goes a long way. It took 3 coats, applying it with a credit card and sanding with 400 grit between coats, but I had it done in an hour since the UV cure (sunlight) is fast. I then put 3 coats of Zar Satin Poly, sanding between coats. The first coat I put down full strength, the last two I cut it with 50/50 with mineral spirits to make it a wiping poly.

Since you're going for a glossy finish, and want to show off the grain as much as possible, I would use gloss for every coat. Semi-gloss, satin and matte finishes have flatteners in them which do effect the clarity to some extent.

As I said, this worked for me, others may have better approaches.
Thanks Barry. Sounds like I am on the right track.
 

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I pretty much stick to sanding sealer, sand with the 3M flexible sanding medium, rarely more than 220 grit. Stain, then wipe on poly for one or two coats. For something like a table top, I would consider using a scraper instead of sandpaper. It cuts the grain rather that abrade it, leaving fuzzy fiber tips. I make a lot of picture frames from hard woods, but always prefer lighter wood to work with and then stain to the finish I want, depending on the wood used. I stain to enhance whatever wood I'm using and to go with a particular painting (wife's an artist). I love the look of a glossy Cherry frame. I have sanded between coats, but since using the 3M sanding medium, I haven't had to do much of that. I rarely thin the poly, but it may help. Be sure your pots don't leak because poly and many other finishes develop rings when wet.
 
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