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Recommendations for Maple Railing

Looking for some recommendations on what finish to use for an interior maple stair rail and newel post. The wood is a very light-blonde very tight grain and we would like to keep that color... so we are not staining it at all and are looking for a crystal clear finish that will give a durable hard coating.

I have tried some test pieces with spar varnish...that imparted an amber color we do not want.

Also tried Miniwax water base polycrylic...liked the color, not too amber, but 3 coats did not seem to develop a thick enough surface (kinda looking for the "hard acrylic---plasticy" look) I will be trying more coats of this in the coming days on my test pieces but since the railing is up and being used , applying days worth of coats seems like an accident waiting to happen. Also, at this point the polycrylic does not seem to have a rock hard abrasion resistant surface.

Looking for something I can apply in place (brush or wipe), will be able to span the seems and corners well( not so hard it will crack) and that will be good for kids (we have a bunch), easy to clean, durable and again... clear. I recently saw some Maple benches in out local YMCA locker room that were done in a clear, thick very durable coating so i know something exists.

I am located in western NY so have access to Lowes, Homedepot, sherwin williams, and of coarse the web so any ideas are welcome.


Re: Recommendations for Maple Railing


All the oil based products impart a little amber tone. The water base urethanes go on clear and remain so with age. However, all woods will darken somewhat with age until they reach their natural oxidized color. This will happen regardless of the protective coating. Use of a white "pickling stain" will somewhat control this darkening. The white stain wipes off and does not look significantly whiter than the virgin wood, but will help stabilize it.

The water based urethanes do put on a slightly thinner film than the oil urethanes. The directions for WB urethanes usually want you to put on 4 coats when the oil base is asking for 3.

The other advantage to WB finsihes is the drying time. The oil base versions would be several hours between coats. The WB versions recoat in the 1 to 2 hour range. The WB stuff also stinks alot less.

Urethanes are kind of particular as to recoating. It is definitely a good idea to read and follow the directions.

Re: Recommendations for Maple Railing


Thanks for the reply...The local Lowes guy recommended I try a two part epoxy finish like is commonly used on bar tops...since that is supposed to "flow" I dont know how well it will brush on verticle surfaces...The finish is about what I am looking for though...any finishes you know of that would give that look?

The big hurtle to me is how the material paints and flows...the railing assembly is a top and bottom rail with glass panels recessed into the rails...I have to finish it with the glass panels in place, so I will need to be able to paint and dab into crevices.


Re: Recommendations for Maple Railing


Both oil and waterbased urethanes are available in spray cans. You would have to do a fare amount of masking off, but spraying will give you a much smoother, more professional appearance.

A spray can spray does not travel laterally very far. I would be as much concerned with covering the floor, especially if you are using the oil version.

Be sure to give the top of the newell post extra coats. That is what always wears through first. Everybody grabs it when going up and down the stairs.

Re: Recommendations for Maple Railing

The helmsman spray is our favorite

Re: Recommendations for Maple Railing


The thick coating you see at the YMCA is more of a controlled commercial grade product. You're going to have a hard time getting those results at home.

I have used the Minwax polyurethane for years with great success. The key is that you have to apply multiple coats. The more coats you apply the better the protection and the more plasticy look you're going to get.

I apply very thin coats brushed tight over and over. This makes for a smooth look and feel. Thick coats get junk in the finish and then it looks back.

I would stick with the oil based. It holds up better and has a rich look.

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