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MadisonRenovations's picture

Hi All,

I am finishing an attic with a lot of vertical grain fir in an Arts and Crafts (sort of Greene and Greene) style. Some walls have board and batten wainscoting with teak panels and fir frames; fir baseboards and window/door casings, fir box beams, fir mantel, etc. I'd like to keep the fir natural: a couple coats of boiled linseed oil, then some top coat that would be easy to maintain with a soft appearance.

Any suggestions for top coat? I was thinking Watco, but it seems not to be highly regarded on this forum... I've been doing a lot with my homemade wiping varnish (Minwax poly cut with a little mineral spirits) lately. I'm just hesitant around the windows; I've seen condensation and rain get under poly finishes, and it's not pretty, and it seems like a lot of work to fix.

The windows are new, as is a French door set, but in pine. I've done a decent job matching the dark windows downstairs, but with BLO and fir, I know the fir will darken somewhat over time and I think it reddens a bit in a way that pine won't. How do I get a reasonable match, and of course, what non-peeling topcoat?

And finally, I have used ipe as a door frame and casing to the shower, with solid fir panels on the outside doorway walls of the shower. The fir will again get the BLO treatment; the ipe (similar in appearance to teak but a heck of a lot cheaper when bought as outdoor deck stock) will be mostly natural, unless there's a good suggestion for a certain stain/finish. Because of the warm water and steam, I'm particularly concerned about solid finishes. Also, I don't want the ipe threshold to become slippery.

Am I too concerned about the water? Is a spar varnish good enough for everywhere?


peter28's picture

(post #125973, reply #1 of 1)


Sounds like an interesting project.

If you are putting linseed oil to get a little color in the wood and want to seal it , Watco is not the way to go. It essentially is a water thin varnish. That is, it has a very small amount of resin in the oil. If you want to use Watco simply use it in place of the linseed oil. The color will be slightly different though.

I'm always careful to let any oil dry well enough before re coating especially if you are flooding it and then drying behind it.

Another consideration is to replace the linseed oil with Waterlox Original. It will give you that oiled look and after a few coats give you a light surface film. It's easy to work with and will give you a nice look. You can use it over the linseed oil if you want after it's dried too.

Another option with the linseed oil is to finish it with shellac. This was standard treatment with many fir interiors. For architectural work you can get away with as little as two coats. Seal Coat (blonde shellac) for a clear look or amber for a warmer tone.  

Around windows I would suggest a good varnish such as McCloskey Gym Seal, Pratt and Lambert to name a few. They will give you a good durable finish that can be easily sanded and re coated in the future as needed. These are brushing varnishes and need to be sanded between coats. Three coats should do it. You can thin them a bit with mineral spirits for a good brushing consistency.

You'll need to play around with some pine scraps and stains before you start the doors. A light red brown stain such as puritan pine or maple (Minwax) might be a place to start. I must admit I don't use these but they are readily available. 

Personally, I like to glaze pine to get my color. I would seal the surface with shellac first, sand it when dry and then apply the glaze. 

Check out the article in this months FWW by Tom Wisshack on finishing pine. You'll find it helpful. 

I've seen a lot of Ipe outside with no finish on it. The threshold will be slippery when wet no matter what.(unless you put a no skid strip on it.)

The Gym Seal mentioned above will be fine in the bathroom also. It's tough and durable yet has a degree of flexibility to it.

Good luck.