Can you recommend a finish for a kitchen table I am making? Is polyurethane a bad finish?
Greg Williams: Polyurethane is a resin used to make a great variety of finishes, both solvent- and waterbased. Their characteristics vary. I assume you are talking about a brush-on, oil-modified polyurethane varnish generally available at woodworking stores, hardware stores and the big box stores. This will probably be a light, honey-colored liquid. The film will darken somewhat over time. If brushed on properly, in a clean environment, it can look pretty good. If brushed on too heavily, while cold, in a dusty environment, it will look like a cheap plastic. Apply several thin coats according to the directions, allow it to dry for a week or so, then cut and rub carefully. Done properly, it can look about as good as a well done lacquer finish from a good manufacturer.
Michael Dresdner: For a kitchen table, I would go with an oil-based finish, and preferably oil-based polyurethane. If you are not comfortable with brushing, either use Wipe-on Poly or buy it in aerosol cans.