How to finish wood for a bar top

Written by ryan lawrence
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Enhance the appearance of wood for your bar top and protect it from moisture and scratches by finishing it with the proper coatings. Before you dive into the application process, condition the wood to accept the new finish. Use care during this important step, or you could end up with large-scale splintering. Know the proper preparation techniques, or you may end up severely damaging the very wood you are attempting to beautify and protect.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Power sander
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Professional painter's tape
  • Dust sheets
  • 3- to 4-inch oil paintbrush
  • Oil-based stain
  • White spirit
  • Varnish

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  1. 1

    Smooth the bar top, using a power sander stocked with 120-grit sandpaper. Sand with the wood grain. Stop sanding when the bar top appears dull.

  2. 2

    Sand the bar top again, using the power sander and 220-grit sandpaper. Follow the direction of the wood grain as you sand. Stop sanding when the bar top feels smooth.

  3. 3

    Protect areas adjacent to the bar top by applying strips of professional painter's tape on them. Cover the area beneath the bar top with dust sheets.

  4. 4

    Coat the bar top with oil-based stain, using 3- to 4-inch paintbrush specifically made for use with oil paints. Wait six hours for the stained bar top to dry, or the time specified on the product label.

  5. 5

    Clean the paintbrush with white spirit.

  6. 6

    Coat the stained bar top with varnish, using the clean paintbrush. Wait six hours before placing anything on the bar top, or the amount of time specific on the varnish label.

Tips and warnings

  • You also can refinish the bar top with varnish only.
  • Be sure to coat the bar top with a varnish finish after you stain to protect it from moisture and scratches.
  • Always sand with the wood grain, or you will end up with splintering.

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