7

I am just starting to get into finishing. I have a pallet wine rack that will be holding wine bottles (obviously). On top of this I have several other wine related wood projects I am making.

I have been reserved in using finishes due to all the toxic labels and my my lack of experience but I know some of my projects will look infinitely better if they were finished.

What finish can I use that will be indoors and likely will be in contact with alcoholic liquids?

  • I'm all for down votes but I wonder how the reason is too broad? – Matt Jun 21 '15 at 10:43
  • That downvote makes no sense to me FWIW. – Graphus Jun 22 '15 at 8:01
  • The advice for the too broad close reason says in part: There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. That's exactly the case here: there are many finishes that could work (epoxy, polyurethane, varnish, oil, lacquer, wax) and not enough information to make one answer better than another. How much wear resistance is required? How much work is the OP willing to do? I started to answer this question but found it impossible to narrow the choices to an acceptable few, and so voted to close. This question should closed until it's improved. – Caleb Jun 23 '15 at 1:44
  • 1
    @Caleb Never done finishing and know little about it. I figured that many have mentioned contact with alcohol in their answers that I could have one specifically for it. Wear resistance? It's a wine rack. the odd bottle might brush up against it. How much work? Not sure how that matters for potential answers. Are those the only questions you need answered to keep this from being broad in you opinion? – Matt Jun 23 '15 at 3:21
  • @Matt I was trying to give examples of things that could narrow the field of possible answers. What do you want the finished rack to look like? Glossy? Matte? As natural as possible? Do you want to impart some color to the project? Do you want a penetrating finish or one that forms a film on the surface? I don't mean for you to necessarily answer all of these (if you do, please edit the question rather than commenting) but rather to show how underspecified the question is. – Caleb Jun 23 '15 at 4:17
4

OK simple answer here, varnish.

While waterbased varnishes have been tested and some shown to provide very good protection from liquids containing alcohol, including red wine, a simpler broad-strokes recommendation would be oil-based varnish. As a class this product, regardless of formulation, will be alcohol-proof once fully cured.

Polyurethane is the most common recommendation these days although there are other varnishes on the market. To be honest even the cheaper products will give good performance — in terms of application, and the finish and protection provided — but as with so many things it is worth paying a little extra for one higher up the food chain.

A good follow-on Question to this would be about varnish application, assuming there isn't one already.

I have been reserved in using finishes due to all the toxic labels

The warnings on many products can be very scary but used with appropriate levels of caution they can be quite safe to use (q.v. household bleach).

With oil-based varnishes, there is really only one main concern and that is from the solvent vapours and for most people the only precaution that needs to be taken is to provide good ventilation. We should be careful about giving out what might be construed as medical advice in Answers but the data is quite clear that mineral spirits (UK: white spirit) does not pose any significant health risk to the average person who is otherwise in good health and isn't working in an enclosed space.

  • Good answer, but can I add one extra concern? Varnish soaked rags have the potential to self-combust. I like to lay mine out flat and let them dry completely. – Aloysius Defenestrate Jun 21 '15 at 15:35
  • @AloysiusDefenestrate, it can't hurt to take the precaution to lay any varnish-soaked rags flat to dry, or put into a container with water, but auto-ignition is generally only a risk with drying oils. – Graphus Jun 22 '15 at 8:03
6

I do not want to write a book on this.

  1. fully cured drying oil finishes, except ones with zinc (and other metallic) driers, are usually suitable to come into contact with food. The FDA regulates this in the US, these so-called food grade finishes are usually made from tung oil (china wood oil is another name). You will see FDA approved on the label of the product. Mineral oil is what you often see. It is not a drying oil. IMO it is a very poor wood finish. Most water based finishes have molecules that are emulsified and are not water-soluble. When the water evaporates the polymers form - acrylics or products like Hydrocote work okay with this application. These water-based finishes are kinda like drying oils in disguise. "Varnish" is kinda non-specific. It can be oil, water-based, and even catalyzed. See the KCMA thing down below.

  2. Shellac is an evaporative finish. It gets "hard" because the solvents evaporate. When the solvent (alcohol ) contacts a cured finish, it damages the finish. Only evaporative finishes which depend on other solvents will provide a reasonable alcohol resistance. Nitrocellulose lqcquer is one. These things smell to high heaven. You must use them when ambient temps are just right, circa 70-85 degrees F, to get decent clear films. They are also not available in a lot of locales because of restrictions.

  3. Catalytic finishes (two part lacquer or pre-catalyzed) are top of the line, but not something you can apply without a little experience and a lot of equipment. They are standard for items like kitchen cabinet door and frames - that come into accidental contact with all kinds of household chemicals. Or maybe not accidental. Example product: pre-catalyzed waterborne clear from Mohawk.

Bottom line - research the KCMA standards for finishes. Read the four-part finish test to see what KCMA finish certification means: http://www.kcma.org/Homeowners/Performance_Testing_and_Certification_Program#2

Hmm. I still got too gabby.

http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/fcn/fcnDetailNavigation.cfm?rpt=ialisting&id=3235

That link is FDA list of food contact substances (FCS list) which is what food safe deals with in the context here. Zirconium palmitate is used as a drier in drying oil finishes. I just chose that entry because it is a drier.

Follow the link back to other compounds if you want to know for yourself.

So in summary: drying oils from edible plants and seeds are edible either in dried form or as oil. Pure China wood (tung) oil, linseed oil, walnut oil, and rosemary oil all do air dry but take quite a while. So for purists, these would be a choice. The 'boiled' version of linseed oil has driers in it. Actual linseed oil, like Michelangelo had, can be had http://www.sinopia.com/VS50017-Cold-Pressed-Linseed-Oil-from-Sweden-best-grade_p_11.html

Milkpaints that you make with harmless iron oxide pigments (like red ocher) are also edible, if a little high in iron and calcium content. Milkpaint has:

casein (milk protein, quark is another name) lime - Calcium oxide (in water solution becomes hydroxide) pigment like red ocher Some people add linseed oil

  • Waterlox Original is a perfect example: Tung oil base with curing solvents, food safe once cured. I used it on a cutting board for my family and it does an excellent job. – coreyward Jun 22 '15 at 23:57
  • Concerning your first point, even finishes that do contain metallic driers are classed as suitable for direct-contact surfaces, once fully cured. Re. your "I still got too gabby." long Answers are good thing on StackExchange, the more detail the better :-) – Graphus Jun 23 '15 at 7:20
  • That was what the FDA approval was supposed to alleviate - the fear of coming in contact with 'chemicals'. See edited post above. – jim mcnamara Jun 23 '15 at 18:05
3

TL/DR: Don't worry about the alcohol thing; pick a finish that's easy to use.

What finish can I use that will be indoors and likely will be in contact with alcoholic liquids?

I hate to write an answer that doesn't answer your specific question, but I think you're focusing on the wrong thing here. The finish that's best known for being susceptible to damage from alcohol is shellac, and that's because alcohol is a solvent for shellac. But even shellac won't be instantly and irreversible damaged by the amount of alcohol in wine, and repairing a shellac finish is relatively simple.

In reality, almost any finish could work for a wine rack. Given that, you should look for a finish that matches your experience level. Look for finishes with the following characteristics:

  • easy
  • fast
  • attractive

Start by learning a little about the various types of finishes. Here's a video from finewoodworking.com that covers the very basics. As you'll see in the video, there are a number of finishes out there where you just wipe the finish onto your project with a rag and then wipe off the excess. These types of finishes usually dry quickly and tend to be very forgiving: if you missed a spot or want to even the finish out, you can apply more; if you want to change the look, you can rub it down with steel wool or a soft rag.

Toxicity isn't usually a big concern except when you're applying finishes (you need to watch out especially for fumes from solvents). Dried/cured finishes are generally safe for most uses, and no finish materials are going to get through a wine bottle. But since you mentioned it, you might want to take a look at the finishes from Tried & True. These are all in the easy/fast/cheap/attractive category. I used the Varnish Oil on a side table I built a dozen years ago, and it continues to look great.

Finally, go with your gut. Every woodworker has his or her own favorite finish. In fact, many will talk about a finishing schedule, i.e. a whole list of finishing steps required to achieve their favorite look. The even-numbered steps generally involve application of some potion or other, and the odd-numbered steps call for application of elbow grease and some form of abrasive material. Don't be intimidated by all that -- you can get a very nice finish by just sanding, applying a single potion as described above, and optionally buffing with a cloth and maybe a touch of wax.

0

Shellac will dissolved when it is in contact with alcohol. Oils and stains will not protect the piece from liquids (will stain or get rings). Polyurethane may be your best bet.

  • Rings are the result usually of microcracks in a hard ( read: high pencil test) finish like nitrocellulose lacquer. As the wood expands and contracts with changes in relative humidity, the finish has to stretch a little. Sometimes it forms tiny cracks instead. Which then let water get under the finish, altering the refractive index - a ring. – jim mcnamara Jun 22 '15 at 23:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.