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I'm putting together a KD Frames poplar bed frame. I've already stained it with Minwax Wood Stain (I really wanted a black wooden look) but I'm unsure how to finish it.

When I bought the stain at Ace hardware, they suggested matte Minwax Polycrylic, but I'm not convinced that's the best option. I'm perfectly happy with the look of the wood as it is currently, but I understand that I need to protect the wood somehow. Is there a way to maintain this kind of raw wood look and still seal the wood from damage? And why is that necessary?

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    So just to confirm, currently the wood is black and with a matt, dry looking surface? Can you give the exact Minwax product you used please as they make a wide range of colouring products, some true stains and some not. After reading the Question I was assuming you used their waterbased Wood Stain, but that doesn't appear to be available in black according to their website. So I'm wondering if you used Wood Finish Penetrating Stain, which is something completely different.
    – Graphus
    Jun 14, 2019 at 6:46
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    – FreeMan
    Jul 29, 2020 at 14:44
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    – Ashlar
    Mar 26, 2021 at 14:41

3 Answers 3

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Is there a way to maintain this kind of raw wood look and still seal the wood from damage?

Yes, think of cutting boards, those are raw wood, and they can be maintained, while being exposed to moisture and a other materials. Cutting boards need to be oiled to help keep the water from washing out the woods natural oils, and to mitigate over-drying and contracting wood which will split.

In this case, it's not a cutting board - so I recommend a wax based finish. They are nice, safer to handle, and the usually smell wonderfully of citrus. A wax finish will look more like raw wood than almost any other option.

Like a cutting board, you would be wise to re-apply, but you could do this every year to every 3 years, depending on your climate.

And why is that necessary?

Wood has a relationship to water. Think about where wood comes from, trees. Trees are in the business of moving liquids up and down, out of the ground, and back down. A tree's hardwood forms out of old softwood, so much of the structure of the wood is the result of a tree's need to move moisture.

That is to say that wood will interact with its environment, the air it's in, and the moisture content (or lack of moisture) in the air. It will expand and contract, which puts strain on joints, and fasteners, and will cause them to loosen over time.

Sealing the wood with a finish does not stop this interaction, but it limits it, and is a good way to help the furniture we love to endure for many years.

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It really depends on personal style choice. A big reason to seal and finish the frame was addressed by another poster: expanding and contracting. As wood absorbs moisture and releases moisture, that most gets out through the ends of the wood, which is why a lot of people use "end seal" to make sure their wood doesn't crack. You can use a polycrylic or something wax based to stop that from ahppening. I made the mistake of not sealing a natural wood coffee table I made last year, and now there is a 1/2" gap in between the last board and the border of the table. The wood contracted and pulled together, so there is a big gap on one side. Here is a picture of what the table looked like before the gap.

Natural Wood Coffee Table

Personally, I prefer the water-based polyurethane seal because I like shiny-looking furniture. If you don't like a glossy look, you can always use Teak Oil to preserve it with a natural finish. That is what I used on the legs on the above coffee table to keep them looking natural. Let me know what you decide to go with! I'm building bunk beds this summer.

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    Just to mention, almost no reasonable level of finishing would have prevented what occurred here (and you're lucky it shrank, if it had expanded instead it would have broken the frame). This is why tables aren't traditionally designed this way, and why the advice is, resist the urge to picture-frame a tabletop.
    – Graphus
    Mar 25, 2021 at 15:37
  • As @Graphus points out, no amount of end-seal will stop end movement and splitting. End-seal is used to merely slow checking and splitting. Those rough-sawn ends are usually removed when resawing to dimension.
    – jdv
    Mar 27, 2021 at 13:44
  • Thanks @Graphus! That was a lesson I learned the hard way, for sure! I had a bunch of hardwood pallet wood and made. the mistake of copying a design from Pinterest, LOL. Apr 5, 2021 at 15:44
  • @jdv I remove the rough-sawn ends as well. Is it worth putting end-seal on them if you're storing them a long time? For example, I used end-seal on all the lumber I was stacking up in my garage over the winter. I'm planning on using it for the spring, and I will cut the ends off before sizing. Thanks for the help! Apr 5, 2021 at 15:46
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    End-seal is basically for green wood. You must seal the end grain of green wood prior to setting it aside to dry (and actually really really soon after sawing, within a few minutes if possible) to limit or prevent cracks. But once wood is already dried the end grain is almost never sealed. It's possible it might be beneficial with seasoned but waterlogged wood, but almost nobody deals with stuff like this so there's limited info out there on how best to deal with it.
    – Graphus
    Apr 5, 2021 at 17:18
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I usually add a finish to seal the wood but it would probably be fine with out any other finish sense it will not likely be subject to hard use or abuse. But I would use something like a wipe on poly as they provide a very thin and fairly durable finish, if the satin finish is to glossy it can be rubbed with an fine abrasive pad.

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