Nik found this neat little chair with a compartment beneath the seat on craigslist. It was solid wood and although structurally sound, was in need of some new stain and sealer. We paid $30 for this chair, and 2 years later, have not sold it! It happily sits in front of the piano.When we got this chair, we sanded it down and stained it a dark walnut color. Since this chair had a lot of nooks and crannies, we decided sealing it with brushed on polyurethane would be a time consuming task. Instead we splurged and bought spray on polyurethane. This typically is a lot more expensive for the amount of product you get, and naturally the coats are not as thick or durable as a coat of brush-on polyurethane. But it took about 10 minutes per coat, and we threw 3 coats on in a day or two.
As an educational side note for this project for those who are interested, we’ve mentioned using water based polyurethane in previous posts (originally we used the Polycrylic brand by MinWax) but for this chair, we chose oil-based polyurethane also by MinWax. Oil-based poly is your classic polyurethane and probably one of the easiest and cheapest ways to seal furniture. The downside of oil-based poly is that it can yellow, so typically you would only use it on darker stained woods, and not on paint or light stains. Also, it is oil based, so using it with water-based products like latex paints is something we try to avoid. Stains are generally oil-based, so the oil-based poly works well with them. On the other hand, the water-based polyurethane dries crystal clear if the coat is thin (if you get drips or a lot in a crevice, it may have a slight tint). We usually use this over water-based latex paints, although we’ve used it successfully over oil-based stains as well. There’s mixed thoughts out there about what is alright and what isn’t with regard to layering oil based products with water based products, but with how advanced and clingy polyurethanes and paints are today, I honestly think using both on a single piece of furniture is fine in most situations. I’ve seen people successfully use a layer of oil based primer paint followed by latex (water-based) paint, and as I said, we’ve used water based polyurethane over oil-based stain with no problems. Generally speaking, we try to stick to all water based or all oil based products for a piece of furniture if we have a choice. Also, doing a quick sanding with fine (220 grit) sandpaper between every coat of whatever sealer you’re using will keep all layers well-adhered and beautifully smooth.