How to preserve and showcase wood finishes

Preserving Wood Finishes

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How to Preserve Wood Finished Cabinets

We are slowly redoing the kitchen. My DH is making new cabinet doors and facing. I have put stain finishes on bookshelves and things like that, but have no experience with cabinets. I do know it will require a tougher finish. The wood is red oak, and I don't want to hide its beauty. Any advice on wood finishes?
Donna E.

Save Extra for Touch-Ups on Wood Finishes

I suggest staining them lightly with the color you prefer and then putting on a couple of coats of polyurethane. Practice on scrap wood first to see how long you need to leave on the stain to get the color you prefer. Mix the stain thoroughly and then spread on the wood, wiping off after the time you have determined. It is a very good idea to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.

Save a small amount of stain for touch-ups. I find this very useful for small disasters such as my fingernail scratching the stained wood. It will hide the flaw.

If you don't want to use polyurethane, then you might consider waxing the doors after they are stained with a good wood wax. It will help protect them. I also use a commercial wood cleaner on my cabinets once or twice a year. They are 25 years old and look almost new.
Barbara in CT

Preserving Wood Starts with a Quality Varnish

With the doors and hardware all off and everything stained and ready for the final finish, I hand painted all the wood surfaces (trim, doors and under cabinets) with a high quality boat varnish. My cabinets are still in great shape after nine years of use. Just a wipe with a clean cloth and the dust is gone. You can wash the surfaces easily with water to clean off any splatter or dirty hand marks.

Try Durable Wood Finishes Made for Kitchen Use

At your local DIY store, they will have finishes formulated for specific purposes, including "kitchen and bath," that are more durable. Or, consider using marine varnish. If it can stand up to sea water, it should manage in a kitchen!

Water-Based Polyurethane Preserves Wood

I'd say to put on a coat of "natural" (non-tinted) stain to bring out the grain and then give it at least three coats of a water-based, oil-modified polyurethane. You want the finish to be durable. I'd avoid working with oil-based polyurethane just because the fumes are so nasty, and at this time of year, you don't want to be leaving windows open. The water-based stuff is a little more expensive, but much less toxic dries a lot faster. Also, you can clean up with regular soap and water. Make sure to sand lightly between coats.

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