First things first: I think a change in terminology is needed. When I call this a showdown, it makes it feel like a winner takes all scenario. In fact, I even found myself leaning that way on the first round. That was NOT my original intent. My intent was, and is, to test the capabilities of different finishes on the market and determine where they can/should be used in woodworking.
So, why a second round? My three recommendations are all still great finishes, but I received a LOT of questions from other woodworkers about whether or not I had tested their favorite finishes. Coincidentally, all of these were either Low VOC, zero VOC, or bio-based finishes.
I should mention, both Rubio and Odie’s from the previous test both claim one or more of those environmental attributes.
The allure of these finishes are multitude, and every single one claims some kind of advantage over the other so I won’t labor too much on the differences.
To avoid repetition, the parameters were exactly the same as the last test: same board of cherry, same procedure for applying the finish (by that I mean, specifically to each manufacturer), and the same liquids being tested on the finish. The one exception is I decided not to retest with acetone; only the lacquer failed last time, so it seemed unneeded.
This round included Vermont Natural Coatings Ploy-Whey (a water-based poly that uses milk proteins for the finish agent), with their hydro-lacquer underneath. I purchased the samples myself from VNC. The claim was that the Hydro-lacquer would interact with the tannins and make the Poly-whey appear to have more of an oil-based finish. I did NOT find that to be true on this sample. The finish looked very much like a water-based poly; somewhat lifeless to be honest.
Next were Osmo Polyx Oil, and Tried and True Original. The Osmo sample was provided to me by the manufacturer, but the T&T was some I had purchased a while ago. Both left a nice finish on the wood, with a good sheen. The Osmo had slightly nicer coloring on the wood, but it maybe was a bit more plastic looking.
Finally, a product called Bumblechutes. This one actually wasn’t on my radar at all, but someone recommended I try it and Bumblechutes was happy to send a sample along. It’s actually a cutting board oil; I let the owner know this was a furniture test and it was meant to be brutal, and he still wanted to test it.
Let’s get down to brass tacks:
Vermont Natural Coatings Poly-Whey (Top left): This finish performed really well. I found no noticeable damage to the sheen from the wine, water, or ketchup. No staining at all. I recommend this finish for all woodworking projects. Here’s the caveat: I would probably only use it on painted finishes that required a top coat, or perhaps with a shellac sanding sealer coat underneath. The VNC just really needs something to deepen the color if it’s going over raw wood. Since it’s a water based poly, it’s crystal clear and would look great on a painted surface.
Osmo Polyx Oil (Top Right): This finish also performed really well. I found no noticeable damage to the sheen from the wine, water, or ketchup. No staining at all. I recommend this finish for all woodworking projects. I need to get a better feel for how to apply this finish. It seemed to be quite thick, and was brushed on, but I believe there are quite a few more ways to apply it depending on the project.
Bumblechutes All-in-one wood conditioner (Bottom Left): I thought this finish applied very nicely. It smelled wonderful, and the finish looked nice. That being said, it showed damage from all three of the liquids applied. The wine staining was significant, as was the water spotting. The ketchup damage wasn’t terrible, but it was noticeable. I do not put a recommendation on Bumblechutes for furniture projects as a durable finish. I think you could use it in a few situations, such over milk paint. In that situation, the milk paint is the actual finish, and the wax is just an added layer of protection for the paint. Of course, it could also be used in its original target market: cutting and charcuterie boards.
Tried and True Original Finish (Bottom Right): I was REALLY hoping this finish would pass each test. I used it on a small chair I built, and I think it leaves a nice finish on the wood. Unfortunately, both the wine and water caused some issues in the finish. The ketchup was far less noticeable, but still there. I am going to give T&T the same recommendation I gave to Odie’s oil: I think you could use it on chairs, small boxes, bowls, interior compartments of dressers, etc. But, I would not recommend it for high traffic or horizontal surfaces, especially those where they may be exposed to sitting moisture.
One thing I did NOT cover (but would consider covering in the future) is the reparability. T&T specifically says their finish can be very easily reapplied to repair damage. I definitely think the water spot could be repaired fairly easily, but it would take a fair amount of sanding to remove the wine stain; I’d venture it would take about as much effort to take the wine stain out of a polyurethane, so I am not sure there’s a huge time savings on a major repair.
Stay tuned, there are still a few more finishes left in this round, but they’re still curing so I am waiting another week or two to test them!