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I am making a bunk bed out of 8/4 red oak. It has very open grain/pores in some places and I'm concerned about my finish process.

I'm basing my design on plans from the Wood Whisperer. He finished off his bed with Rubio Monocoat but he used Alder. Will Rubio alone give me a good seal and finish? Or should I pre-treat the wood with anything to close up the pores in the wood?

Rubio's site states that it bonds strictly to wood fibers and not to itself. Seems to reason that it might cause an issue with not sealing up large pores if it can't seal with itself.

But if it only seals to wood fibers then can I even use a pre-finish?

I'll likely end up sealing a piece of scrap with it to get started but the stuff is expensive and I don't want to waste any if possible.enter image description here

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  • As to the question in the title, within reason any finish can be used on anything. The things that control whether you should/can or would want to use a given finish are not about compatibility but about aesthetics and the level of protection required. Re. how to use Monocoat you I think you must heed Rubio's instructions. – Graphus Sep 10 at 18:51
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    Finish some scrap in the manner suggested and see if you like it. – jdv Sep 10 at 20:45
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Will Rubio alone give me a good seal and finish?

These are really two separate things. The finish is about aesthetics — how do you think it makes the wood look? So nobody can answer that for you. You've indicated you're planning on testing the finish out on a scrap or two and you'll see then1.

Now as to the sealing aspect, Rubio would have consumers believe that it does in fact seal the wood really well in one shot, but user tests have confirmed that it is far from bulletproof (which is no real surprise given the thickness of the finish on the wood).

However, that said Monocoat is more than good enough for a typical bed2. You're not finishing a tabletop after all, this is much more akin to table legs which are typically more lightly finished than the top because they don't need to withstand the same rigours.

Or should I pre-treat the wood with anything to close up the pores in the wood?

I'm sure you can yes, Monocoat must bond reasonably well not just to wood but to any wood filler used to plug nail holes or other defects, epoxy fills in cracks and so forth, natural resin pockets in the wood, or its use would be pretty limited.

Whether you should is again a judgement call, but ask yourself what you hope to gain by doing so and whether it's worth it for a bed, even merely on something of this size and shape? It is a ton of extra work on something sizeable and very difficult on anything with inside corners, or anywhere wood joins wood at 90°.

I'll likely end up sealing a piece of scrap with it to get started

This is the right call. It's always a good idea to test out a finishing regimen before committing to the workpiece. Always, even when you've used the finish before. But 100% of the time when you're using a finish new to you.

but the stuff is expensive and I don't want to waste any if possible.

Remember you can always test finish options on the back sides or undersides of pieces of a project, rather than on offcuts.

It may give those hidden surfaces a harlequin appearance if you go through a number of options, but normally nobody will see them so it doesn't matter.


1 Remember that finish tests should exactly mimic the process used on the project, so the test pieces must be planed, scraped or sanded to the same level as the project wood for the text to give a proper indication. Just sanding to a lower grit (e.g. 150 instead of 220) is enough to give a radically different look in finishing.

2 I want to be clear this is not a plug for Monocoat, the same is true of just about any oil or oil+wax finishes.

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