A Hard Bar Finish for Soft Wood

No finish will make a soft wood hard. But for a redwood bar top, some finishers suggest a penetrating epoxy. August 21, 2006

I have refinished a redwood bar with shellac sealer and a closed-pore polycrylic finish (Minwax). The finish is doing pretty well but the bar is denting so easily through the finish that even credit card signatures are sometimes legible. I have to redo, and Iím hoping for advice on how to toughen up the surface. I'm thinking of redoing it with Target Coatings Poly but it builds slowly and I'm thinking I'm going to need a heavy film to solve the problem.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
This problem is not caused by the finish and cannot be fixed by altering the finish. Stiffer coatings may be very slightly harder to dent, but they will dent. The redwood is very soft. I would make it a thin wipe-on finish and then fill all dents with a dark glaze. That way, you can touch up damage easily and create a priceless patina as the finish ages and naturally distresses.

From contributor B:
I've not tried it on redwood but a wood consolidant may do the trick. It's a very, very thin 2 part epoxy. I use it to consolidate partially rotted or eroded wood when there's no other choice. I use System 3 but I know others who thin down regular structural epoxy with acetone. Try it on a scrap of redwood.

From contributor C:
Your finish is only as hard as your wood.

From contributor B:
Finishes do not harden wood despite the claims that they penetrate and harden. My background is in restoration and I know that a consolidant (which is not a finish) does stabilize and harden wood that is compression checked, damaged by fungus or insects, or is excessively erroded. How much it will stabilize and harden the wood depends on how much it can penetrate. What I don't know is how much it will affect redwood. If you want to try it, be sure all traces of finish or sealer are removed. Get the wood as dry as possible (Redwood is notoriously hydrosopic and won't absorb anything if it's aready full of moisture). Thin some slow dry epoxy way down with acetone (thinner is better) and swab it on as you would an oil finish - let is soak in and wipe of the excess. Wish I had a piece of redwood.

From the original questioner:
Thank you to all who have responded to my posting. I knew this forum was the place to go. In my experience with CA glues - using them to fill small defects in WB poly finishes in table tops before the topcoat, and seeing how in soaks in and hardens wood - I'd spray the thing down with SuperGlue if I could get a bucket and it wouldn't kill me! I'm thinking about trying a very thin epoxy, then a barrier of Target WB shellac and Target Poly with a fair number of coats.