The Find Your Finishing System Tool and the Product Recommendations guides are comprehensive in what is recommended for particular projects. However, there are some cases where you may want to consider a specific product for your project.
Exterior Special Cases
The most difficult obstacle to overcome for exterior clear coatings is UV protection. If your project will be exposed to regular direct UV (the surface will be exposed daily at some point), then the only finishes that will hold up would be our MARINE Finishes as recommended by the guides. These are ideal for exterior doors (main/garage), patio furniture, railings, columns, bright work on boats, etc. They are not ideal for heavy traffic/working surfaces like decks. There is a good guide about Waterlox Products on Decks that goes into great detail why and some other alternatives (like our PURE Tung Oil on Decks guide).
If, however, your project is exterior, but will NOT see regular direct sunlight, other Waterlox finishes will work well to provide more durability from wear and tear. The second obstacle exterior finishes need to overcome is that the wood is not in a climate controlled environment. Wood is hygroscopic, meaning that it will pull in and release moisture to stay in equilibrium with its environment. In older homes, you may notice gaps in boards grow during the dry, winter months and close up in more humid summer months. This is the wood expanding and contracting. If the coating is too rigid, this can lead to cracking, chipping, peeling or other defects. More elastic finishes can stretch and shrink (a little bit) with the wood to avoid those issues. So, if your project will be outside, but not in regular direct sunlight (3 seasons porch w/ windows, large overhanging roofs, toys/equipment that is not stored in direct sun, etc.) you can use other Waterlox products. Waterlox ORIGINAL, H2OLOX and TRUETONE products all have enough elasticity to be used in non-climate controlled areas, but they will not hold up to direct sunlight. Be advised that if they may be in a wet environment, you may want to consider a mold/fungicide treatment to prevent/minimize any growth.
URETHANE products should NOT be used as these are the most rigid. They are oil modified, so they have some flexibility, but these would be the most likely to have issues when used on an exterior project.
All Waterlox products are designed to protect and beautify wood. This includes heavy duty surfaces like floors, tables, countertops, vanities and the like, but also small craft projects like jewelry boxes, salad bowls, pen turnings, etc.
Some Waterlox products may not be easy to use on some projects, so consider how you are going to or (or how you would like to) apply your finishes to your pieces. For wipe on type projects, see our Fine Woodworking and Waterlox guide. For projects that might be easier to spray on finish, see our Spraying Waterlox guide.
Rough Wood Surfaces
Most results from the Find Your Finishing System guide will recommend either a TRUETONE Color-Infused Tung Oil or our UNIVERSAL Tung Oil Sealer. Both of these product lines are low VOC, but high in solids. Because they are high solids, they require some help to penetrate into the wood surface. This is done by buffing the products into the wood and allowing them to soak in before buffing off the excess. This process is great for the majority of projects where wood surfaces are sanded smooth to be free of splinters or rough fibers. However, in some cases, wood is rough (in some reclaimed cases) or left rough to have marks from milling or perhaps from distressing. In these situations, the use of a buffer may not be wise as it could hang up on rough areas and cause damage to the wood or the equipment being used.
Option 1: Thinning of the first coat
If you cannot buff the TRUETONE or UNIVERSAL Tung Oil Sealer into the wood, you can reduce the solids with non-polar solvent (VM&P Naphtha, Citrus Solvent, D-Limonene, Paint Thinner, or Mineral Spirits*) at a ratio of 1:1 (50/50) to help the product soak into the wood on its own.
Blend the solvent and product together and mix well. The mixture should look uniform with no separation. Apply the blend onto the wood with a brush or roller with a nice wet layer. Allow the product to soak into the wood for 30-40 minutes and then wipe off any excess with a clean dry towel. One hour after the first application, repeat with a second application. This coat does not need to be as wet as the first. Again, wipe off any excess from the surface after 30-40 minutes. Allow this coat to dry overnight and continue with the next application.
Things to consider:
- Because you are diluting the TRUETONE Color-Infused Tung Oil, this will affect the richness of your color. Apply additional coats as needed to achieve your color; however, you may not see much change after 3-4 applications. Test first to ensure you are OK with the result.
- By adding solvent to the product, you are altering the VOC content of the material. Check your local rules and regulations to see if this would make the products not compliant.
- *Do not use VOC compliant solvents as these may be mixed with water or other surfactants that may be incompatible with Waterlox products. If you are unsure, test with a small amount first.
- Properly dispose of any rags, towels or pads that may have oil on them.
Option 2: Use the Original Semi-Gloss Finish first.
Our ORIGINAL Semi-Gloss Finish has been the traditional sealer coat for nearly 100 years. It is very low in solids and high in VOC, so check for availability in your area. Because the product is low in solids, it will quickly and easily soak into the wood without any needed effort. Apply a liberal coat (500 sq. ft. per gallon or 125 sq. ft. per quart) with a brush or pad and allow it to dry for 24 hours. Ventilate well and get good air movement. Repeat with a second coat of ORIGINAL Sealer & Semi-Gloss Finish applied the same way. Again, allow 24 hours of dry time with proper ventilation. You can then continue on with your remaining two coats of finish.