This question is a follow-up/continuation to another SO question of mine with added detail and hopefully a better explanation of my approach and current state of the board. The state of the wood slab has evolved even since posting that question and rather than amend that SO question into oblivion I figured best to ask a separate one...

As reminder, I used spar varnish and watco danish oil.

It's my first real attempt at wood finishing and made the following mistakes:

  1. using spar varnish. I have since learned from my other SO question above that spar varnish is generally too soft for indoor use and not a good varnish to use for a high gloss/polished finish as it likely doesn't buff/polish well.
  2. not wiping off excess DO after application and leaving a rather thick film on coats 1,3 (see below application schedule)
  3. not wiping off excess varnish after application (not sure if this is important if used by itself as in layer 2 below)
  4. excess coating pooling on underside edge and live-edge (evident in pictures below)

After sanding down the table I have applied the following coats with their respective dry times and mixtures:

  1. 50/50 mix of spar varnish + Danish oil (>= 10 days dry time)
  2. spar varnish (~4 weeks dry time)
  3. 50/50 mix of spar varnish + Danish oil (~48 hrs into dry time)

Current state of the last coat is best described as "tacky/gummy" with strong smell (both reducing as time wears on...). I'm not sure it's still soft enough to leave finger prints but feels sticky. Not sure how hard to expect it to feel or how odor free to expect it to become either. From what I've read at these links a gummy feeling after about 48 hrs after not wiping away excess DO is expected. Though it's unclear if this will ever harden well enough to buff/polish (crux of this question...):

  1. https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?145286-Watco-Danish-Oil-Not-Completely-Drying/page2
  2. https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?172538-Wipe-on-poly-issue-question
  3. http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f8/help-please-sticky-danish-oil-67977/ However, not entirely sure what I should expect for spar varnish + Danish oil coats...

My end goal is a high gloss/polished/hard/durable finish.

From the SO question above and it's thoughtful answer as well as considering my mistakes, it seems I have a few courses of action:

  1. Immediately try wiping down last layer (layer 3 above) with a cloth and mineral spirits to thin/remove the spar varnish + danish oil coat. Then apply 2/3 layers wiping varnish. Let dry for 24 hrs. Wet sand 1000,1500,2000 grit. Then use power buffer/polisher in conjunction with minwax paste wax.

  2. Wipe down with mineral spirits as in 1 above but after that, sand off first 2 coats as well. I dread doing this as I'm not sure how easy it will be to remove the varnish + danish oil from the live edge. But if necessary, I'll do it...

  3. Let current coat (layer 3 above) continue to dry and hope that it becomes hard enough to either directly buff/polish or apply successive coats of wiping varnish on top of this layer that I can then buff/polish.

Is there another course of action that I've missed? If no, which of the above would be best to pursue?

Ideally, I'd like a combination with the best balance of:

  1. least potential damage to the underlying wood (especially the live edge with it's small amount of inner bark)
  2. highest quality/high gloss/polished look
  3. completion time from now

This is a learning experience and ultimately want to know how to get the best outcome out of this piece and how best to avoid these mistakes (considering my desired outcome finish) for future pieces.


Pictures here of the current state of the slab top/bottom. Note the live edge. Note also that the thickness of coats 2 and 3 combined is apparent when looking at the underside photo (4th below) (not sure if that helps anyone when answering this question). I applied only coat 1 to the underside, however I applied both coats 2 and 3 to the topside AND to the live edges (even though they face down). I'm happy to upload more/different photos if that would help in answering this question!

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

  • 2
    First off I have to say well done on your thorough Questions. It's rare we get so much detail and it really helps sometimes in knowing how best to answer.
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 11:26
  • 1
    My position on this sort of thing is well documented in previous Answers, your best course of action is to strip back and refinish. You could scrape the top surface if you're comfortable with scrapers (and the finish is nowhere close to fully cured so still relatively soft and more easily scraped) but you really want to remove the finish from the edges too so there are no butts between old finish and new finish and that would be very hard to do via scraping. So stripper is ideal here, and again with the finish being fairly fresh strippers work better than normal.
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 11:29
  • @Graphus Thanks so much! Just so I'm clear, do you mean to remove only the last coat (varnish + DO mix), or do you mean take all previous coats off and return to bare wood? Also do you have a recommendation for stripper agent to use? I want to be absolutely sure I get this process correct so that I don't destroy the live-edge. Thanks!
    – John Cast
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 18:25
  • 2
    "Strip back" means strip back to bare wood. Some strippers will lift everything off in one go anyway so no choice :-)
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 12:50
  • I won't recommend one (just about all work, what to use is up to the individual). You should read up on stripper types, many good finishing books have a section on stripping but you can find all you need online using a Google search. Once you know the 3 or 4 main types you can pick based on the safety level you're comfortable with as well as cost and availability — I would love to be able to use a certain type for some jobs (v. effective and fast) but they are no longer sold to the public here. So I have no choice but to use something not as good and much much slower :-( Safer though :-)
    – Graphus
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 12:54

1 Answer 1


Here's what I did (pictures below):

  1. Went to home depot and purchased: several 1",2" and a couple 3" plastic paint scrapers (important to use plastic if working on soft wood); 1 quart of their softest stripper; 1 stiff bristle brush (most of the required supplies are shown in the pictures below); various coarseness Scotch Bright Scouring Pads™ (I found something like this one to be best for removal/re-usability: heavy duty scouring pads); paint thinner to clean brushes/scrapers/scouring pads/etc
  2. Applied full coverage of stripper to the table
  3. Let stripper set for roughly half hour
  4. Use plastic paint scrapers/scouring pads to remove initial "easy" varnish
  5. Use stiff plastic bristle brush to remove anything left after step 4. This is very useful for the live edge (removes the stripper/varnish but preserves the live edge quite well)
  6. Apply stripper once more in select spots where first application didn't fully remove the varnish
  7. Repeat steps 3,4 in order
  8. Let slab thoroughly dry (will be a bit moist after the stripper applications)
  9. Re-sand slab starting at 120 up to 400 (1200 in some places such as live edge)
  10. Apply Watco Danish Oil as directed on can to make the grain/colors "pop"
  11. Let slab sit for minimum 72 hours to dry (I had to use a fan blowing over the table due to my climate at the time that swung between 62F-70F which is technically below the working temperature of the Danish Oil)
  12. Apply roughly roughly 18 coats of clear gloss wipe on poly from Minwax (2-3 coats spread over a day at most given the above stated climate)

couple minutes after application of stripper couple minutes after application of stripper >= 15 minutes after application of stripper >= 15 minutes after application of stripper after removal of stripper applications after removal of stripper applications enter image description here after sanding slab past any spots where either varnish coat was not removed completely after sanding slab past any spots where either varnish coat was not removed completely after application of Watch Danish Oil after application of Watch Danish Oil after final application of wipe on poly after final application of wipe on poly after final application of wipe on poly after final application of wipe on poly

  • 1
    You've got my votes for a well asked question, a thoroughly detailed self-answer, and a fine looking final product! Well done.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 13:34
  • 1
    (After the first link to the paint stripper you used, though, I edited out the rest of the links. The highlighted word stripper was, erm, jarring at best and almost vaguely looked spammy, though I thoroughly believe that wasn't the intent.)
    – FreeMan
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 13:35
  • 2
    Indeed it should, @ColleenV. #MentalSpellCheckFail
    – FreeMan
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 16:59

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