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Question
Hello :
I built a plywood work table.
Not certain how to finish the work surface.

If I put a strain onto the wood, can I also varnish it ?
I would prefer a matte or satin varnish.

Can varnish go onto a stained surface ?

Answer
Hi James, absolutely you can varnish the surface....any good varnish will work, and I recommend at least 2-3 coats. One of my favorite products is Generals Gel Wipe On Satin Polyurethane, for ease of application, predictable dry times, and durability, as well as  being able to easily clean, lightly sand, and recoat to renew the surface down the road. It is listed as a Satin gloss level, but it does tend to be a bit more semi gloss after 2-3 coats....but a fool proof, excellent product that can be applied with a simple pad made from some t-shirt or flannel material, and the Gel stains are in a urethane carrier as well, and are excellent. Another good choice would be an oil finish if you desire less of a "film" finish that doesn't sit on top of the wood, like the Watco or Waterlox. These are penetrating oil finishes that sink into the wood and harden from within. The penetration on stained (sealed) plywood will be minimal, but still would afford some protection, won't ever chip, flake, or peel, and can also be reapplied to renew the surface anytime.They also don't fill the grain as the Gel varnish will, leaving a more matte surface, (until you apply more than 4 coats or so, then it starts to "build" like a surface finish). Just read and follow the manufacturers directions, precautions, etc. (as ALWAYS), They take about 24 hours per coat to dry, and quite a bit longer to fully cure, whereas the General product dries substantially faster, (4-12 hours), and please feel free to post back anytime.
Regards- Greg

http://www.woodcraft.com/Product/2005555/16557/General-Finishes-Clear-Satin-Topc

http://www.woodcraft.com/Product/2004209/8538/Waterlox-Original-Sealer-Finish-Qu

http://www.lowes.com/pd_81303-90-000000000000065751_0__?productId=3153399

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Greg Scholl

Expertise

Questions on Woodworking, wood finishing and refinishing of all kinds, repairing furniture and wooden objects,Architectural details, Woodturning, carving, tool usage, product usage, some chemistry as it applies to woodworking and related interests,cabinet making and furniture construction/design, etc. I have experience with all manners of colorants, finishes, paints, stains, dyes, glazes, and coatings,wood species recognition,usage,etc.

Experience

Fine furniture restorer and cabinet maker for over 30 years,serving high end Antique dealers, Interior designers, Collectors in the CT area. Sold, built, serviced, setup Home,Industrial and Commercial stationary woodworking tools for a major tool retailer in CT. for three years, sold hand and power tools, and offered instruction on use and care as well.I even have some Trade show Demo experience.

Organizations
none at this time.

Publications
Published in Fine Woodworking Magazine (12/97), included on Fine Woodworkings first "Best of Fine Woodworking" CD-ROM (2002)-("27 year compilation of expert know-how"),Multiple times in Family Handyman Magazine, local newspapers as well.

Education/Credentials
Art School at Silvermine Guild in Norwalk, CT., 9 year apprenticeship in a European run Cabinet and Restoration shop in CT., various classes on subjects having to do with the field. Seminars by Major tool manufacturers, Delta, Powermatic, Performax, Porter Cable, Skil/Bosch to name a few.

Past/Present Clients
Many varied clients including work on Martha Stewarts' Westport, CT. show house, many fine Antique dealers and private collectors in and around Fairfield County and in Woodbury, CT.(the Antiques capital of CT.)
Consulting for area Painting/Decorating and Building contractors on non painting issues..(staining, wood prep.,clear finishing, floor restoration and architectural detail restoration and repair, etc.), local Museums and Historical Societies.For the last two years I have been employed with Schwenke Auctioneers Inc.- Woodbury Auction LLC., as a staff photographer,IT tech,and doing restoration and repair work as well.

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