Category Archives: Helmsman Spar Urethane

Refinishing a Future Heirloom

By: Guest Blogger

Sarah of Thrifty Decor Chick shares a great project that involves a piece that is very important to her, which she also worked on with her father.

I’m super excited about this project — one, because it turned out beautifully. Two, because it’s a piece that means a lot to me and I’m thrilled to have given it new life.

I work with Minwax occasionally and share ideas using their products because I LOVE them. This time, they asked that I share a do-it-yourself project involving a family heirloom or something significant that holds meaning for our family. Unfortunately, I don’t have any furniture passed down through our family. All of mine are vintage pieces from other families I found on Craigslist or Goodwill. 😉

So I thought hard about something that means a lot to me in our home and came up with the perfect item…and it desperately needed an update. Five years ago I shared the DIY pottery bench my dad and I made.

Refinish a Future Heirloom Finished Table

I’m really good at looking at most of the items in our house as just “things” — with a young child and a cat who is a little cuckoo and goes around knocking items off of shelves willy nilly, you learn to let go. There are certain things that I would be upset at losing though, and this bench is one of them.

My Dad and I had some tumultuous years, to say the least. We were estranged for awhile and around the end of my time at college we started rebuilding our relationship. It is one of the great joys of my life that we have become so close again. I am so incredibly thankful. Dad has seven kids but makes a point to spend one-on-one time with each of us as often as he can, including the five grandkids. The day we made this we spend the whole day together — writing out our plan, shopping for materials and then building the bench. I have wonderful memories of that day and we still laugh that it went together so easily — that’s rare for both of us!

When we built this I spent the extra on cedar and am so glad I did. I had planned on just giving it a natural stain or protective coat and leaving it at that, but time got away from me. I knew the cedar could hold up to the elements so I kept putting it off and putting it off…and this is how it looked years later.

Unfinished Future Heirloom Table

OK it wasn’t usually a total mess like that. I took that picture to share what a disaster our patio and deck were years ago. But the wear got worse — this was taken two years ago.

So this week I finally tackled this project. I knew I could get it looking great again, it would just take some work. This is how it looked before I started.

Unfinished Table Close Up

I feel so awful I let it get to this point. Really, I’m mad at myself that I didn’t do this sooner. But being outside it was easy to forget about it.

It even had stuff growing on it. 😉 It truly became a part of the nature. Yikes! The funny thing is those hooks have held up amazingly well! Ha!

Unfinished Table Side

I started sanding it down with my orbital sander. Be SURE to wear protective gear while doing this — I wore a mask over my mouth and nose and safety glasses. There will be a lot of dust, even with a nice sander. This is the one I use and I’ve been really happy with it. Sanders I’ve used in the past have left “skipping” marks on my wood and this one does not do that. Love it.


I used 80-grit sanding pads on it to start taking all of that grime off. I was so excited to see the wood coming back again! I used a LOT of sanding pads for this — at least ten. I didn’t get every little crevice sanded perfectly because it would have taken a whole day and my hand was buzzing for an hour afterwards as it was.

Also, I didn’t mind a little patina. I really wanted to get the majority off and get it smooth again — those were my main concerns. The sanded wood was so smooth to the touch, which was nice after it being coarse for so long.

Here’s a look at it after I finished the sanding on top.

Table Top Sanded

And the side that I showed you above with the green, now looking much better.

Side Sanded

I kept at it, getting as much off as I could. Then it was time for the Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. I didn’t use this for years and kick myself for that. I LOVE staining so I’m always in too much of a hurry to get to that part, but this is a must my friends. It preps the wood for the stain and evens things out wonderfully. This opens up the wood so it will accept stain better.

Minwax Pre-Stain Conditioner

You can see that you get a little peek at how the stain will bring out the wood tones when you use it. You can apply your stain pretty much immediately and it dries pretty fast.

Pre-Stain on Table

Then it was time for the stain and I picked this Minwax® Wood Finish™ in Weathered Oak color — it gives the piece a nice rich look with a slight gray undertone.

Minwax Wood Finish Weathered Oak

I used a foam brush to apply my stain — I just think these work best and they’re super cheap.

Wood Finish With Foam Brush

Something to consider — make sure you stir your stain up well! I thought I did but as I got further into the can the color got more gray. I ended up doing another coat on top (I usually just do one) to make sure the whole thing was the same color.

This stain goes on very gray (when mixed well) but when it’s brushed in and then wiped down it doesn’t look nearly as gray. It’s a lovely warm color with a hint of the gray tone.

As you stain there are a few things to remember:

  • Keep a “wet edge” — don’t let it dry in the middle of the project or do it halfway. Make sure you have time to tackle each section so you can get it all done at once.
  • You don’t want it to be soaking wet — be sure to wipe most of it into the wood.
  • Let the stain sit for awhile before wiping — the longer you wait the deeper it will stain. (I usually only wait a few minutes and it’s sufficient every time.) Don’t wait too long though, or you’ll have a sticky mess.
  • Use a clean, lint-free cloth to wipe away any excess. If you’d like to add more coats to deepen the stain, use steel wool or a very light sanding between coats.

Since this piece stays outside I knew it would need a protective layer after the stain.  Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane is great for outdoor projects like this.

Helmsman Spar Urethane

Follow the instructions for when to apply it — you want to make sure your stain is dry. This time, I used a brush to apply the urethane, just because the wood had so much texture to it. I wanted to make sure to get in all the crevices well. Be sure to add more than one coat for the best protection.

I cannot even tell you how much I love the finished project! I’ve always enjoyed this bench but it’s truly beautiful now. The finish is perfect:

I said it before — staining is one of my very favorite projects. It’s instant gratification. :) I just love seeing the beauty of the wood come through before my eyes.

I’m thrilled to have this piece looking pretty and that it’s finally protected from the elements. I love that I didn’t sand every bit of the patina off too — I think it adds some character to the piece.

Finished Table Closeup

Here’s a view of the side I showed you earlier.

Side Finished

I use this bench all the time for planting, even in the winter. I’ll run out here even in the cold to transplant or pot houseplants. That ash bucket holds soil and keeps it nice and dry all year:

Having this spot is great for a gardening lover like me, but we also use it all the time when entertaining out here. It’s fantastic for serving food and drinks as well!

I am so glad I finally took the time to get this done. I’ve felt so bad leaving it exposed for so long. Now it’s a beautiful addition to our backyard.

I didn’t even plan it, but the stain goes so nicely with our newly stained deck. Here’s a reminder of how it started.

Before Table

And here’s what it looks like today. Look how much our trees have grown in too! Love it.

The  beauty of this space is not lost on us. We feel so incredibly fortunate to have this beautiful backyard. It is truly an oasis.

Finished Table in Backyard

Minwax has a whole campaign around revamping pieces that are important to us called Made With Love. I love this! Over the next few months they will be sharing how people have created and renewed future heirlooms. This sweet video is perfect for Father’s Day weekend.

Sarah’s blog, Thrifty Decor Chick, features more great DIY projects that will help you have a lovely home without spending a ton of money. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, Instagram or Pinterest for more. 

Bring the Outdoors in with Hanging Herb Shelves

As every cook knows, fresh herbs can make any meal a memorable one, so I took an idea for a hanging shelf made from a pallet board and suspended with twine from a pair of brass cup hooks and adapted it for an herb shelf designed to hang in a kitchen window.

I worried, however, that the clay pots might slip off the board, so I decided to use a piece of new half-inch thick wood wide enough for me to cut holes to suspend tapered 4-inch clay pots.

Our kitchen tiles are blue, so I selected “Island Water” from the Minwax® Water Based Wood Stain line to stain the board. After it dried, I protected the shelf with Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane, since it will be exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Before moving it into our kitchen, I gave the shelf a test run in my workshop. The clay pots slip in and out easily, and the holes will keep them from sliding off as Leigh Ann and I are taking cuttings when we are cooking. I know I’ll be making more of these in the future as house-warming gifts!

Until next time,

Thanks for stopping by!


Protecting a Handy Bench

April is Minwax National Woodworking Month®! To celebrate, wood finishing expert Bruce Johnson has written a few blog posts to inspire you to tackle a DIY project this month. Don’t forget to download the Minwax National Woodworking Month® mail-in rebate form, you could save up to $17 on select Minwax® products. 

Several years ago I made this simple, but sturdy bench for our mudroom, appropriately named, for this is where we kick off our muddy shoes and boots, and where Jasper and Daisy come in to nap after a dip in the creek.

As you can see, the interior finish I had originally applied eventually began to show some water marks, letting me know it needed some help.

Thinking this would be a good weekend DIY project, I started by lightly sanding the old finish, both to remove the water stain and to abrade the surface so that my new clear finish would cling to it.

After wiping off the sanding dust, I brushed on a coat of clear Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane, designed for either interior or exterior use on furniture subjected to excessive sunlight or moisture.

Now that the Helmsman has dried, I can use our bench either inside our mudroom or outside, knowing that the new finish will protect it against wet gloves, dog leashes, and muddy boots.

Until next time,

Thanks for stopping by!


Download the Minwax National Woodworking Month® mail-in rebate here.

Bruce Johnson’s National Woodworking Month Tips

April is Minwax National Woodworking Month®! To celebrate, Minwax® expert Bruce Johnson has put together some of his favorite tips & tricks for using Minwax® products. Don’t forget to download the Minwax National Woodworking Month® mail-in rebate form, you could save up to $17 on select Minwax® products. 

Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner

While Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner is often recommended on softwoods, such as pine, fir, and spruce, it helps reduce blotchiness when staining any wood, including classic hardwoods such as cherry, poplar, maple, and oak. The more important the project, the more important the Pre-Stain Conditioner.

The more porous woods, such as pine and alder, are the most unpredictable when it comes to staining. Give these woods a second coat of Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner to further reduce blotchiness.

When it comes to staining, knots are a sign of trouble, for they absorb stain unevenly. To help reduce blotchiness and streaking around knots and blemishes in the wood: apply a second coat of Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner.

The ends of any board always absorb more stain than the surface, so to prevent the end grain from turning darker than the rest of your project, apply a second or even a third coat of Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner before staining.

If you get called away and cannot apply your stain within the recommended two hours after brushing on Minwax® Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner, don’t panic. Simply sand the wood lightly with #180-grit sandpaper to reopen the pores, wipe or vacuum off the dust, and apply your stain.

Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner

If you start with water, stick with water. If you apply Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner, be sure to select one of the Minwax® Water Based Stains to follow it.

Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner will cause the grain of the wood to swell slightly, but a fast, light sanding with #220-grit sandpaper will smooth it out once and for all.

Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner is designed to dry IN the wood, not ON the wood. After a few minutes, be sure to wipe off any unabsorbed Wood Conditioner before letting it dry. 

Minwax® Water Based Wood Stain

Stain color charts and photographs cannot take into consideration the effect any wood’s natural color has on the stain you apply. To avoid surprises, follow a simple rule:  test, test, test, either on a scrap of wood or an inconspicuous place on your project.

Water Based Wood Stains are already formulated to dry very quickly, so don’t try to hasten the process by working in bright, warm sunlight. The heat from the sun can cause the stain to dry too quickly, leaving unsightly brush marks before you can wipe them off.

Steel wool and water create rust spots, so never use steel wool in place of sandpaper when working with any of the Minwax® Water Based Stains, Wood Conditioner, or finishes.

While clear protective finishes dry ON the wood, stains dry IN the wood. After just three minutes, wipe off any of the Minwax® Water Based Wood Stain that the wood has not absorbed.

Minwax® PolyShades®

It’s a familiar adage: the better the brush, the better the finish. This is especially true for Minwax® PolyShades®, for the soft tips of the bristles are critical for laying down a smooth, even coat of stain and finish in just one easy step.

Minwax® PolyShades® also comes in a convenient aerosol can. To avoid spraying too much stain and finish in one spot, start spraying a few inches off to the side of your project, then move the can in a steady motion across the project and off the opposite side before releasing the nozzle.

To provide more protection without darkening the color of your first coat of Minwax® PolyShades®, simply apply a clear coat of Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane after it dries.

Stirring isn’t something you do just at the beginning of your project. To keep the stain pigments evenly distributed throughout your can of Minwax® PolyShades®, stir it a few times every ten minutes to maintain a consistent color.

Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane

Dust is the enemy of any smooth finish. First, let any dust in the air settle, then use a bristle attachment on a vacuum to remove the dust from the pores of the wood. Brushing off the dust only sends it back into the air, and a rag pushes it deeper into the pores, where your finish brush will dislodge it, leaving your dried finish rough to the touch.

Bright, warm sunshine will draw the wood’s natural moisture up to the surface, trapping bubbles in your fresh, clear finish. To prevent that from happening, apply Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane in the shade of your garage or porch.

Before applying Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane over an existing finish, make sure the older finish is clean, dry, and lightly scuffed with #220-grit sandpaper for best adhesion.

Two or three thin coats of Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane will dry faster and will build a stronger coat of clear protection than one thick coat.

A stream of fresh, dry air over a wet coat of clear Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane will speed the drying, but make sure your fan blades won’t blow a cloud of accumulated dust over your finish by first testing it away from your wet project.

Minwax® Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane

To achieve maximum clear protection, apply three coats of Minwax® Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane, sanding the first and second coats lightly with #220-grit sandpaper to remove any dust — and to ensure the strongest adhesion between coats.

When cleaning your Minwax® Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane brushes under a warm water faucet, always keep the bristles pointed down to avoid having the water push the finish deep into the bristles nearest the handle, where they will harden and ruin your brush.

Dry does not equal cured. While Minwax® Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane will dry in approximately two hours, you should allow three days for it to cure to its maximum hardness before moving any furniture and rugs onto a floor that you have finished.

Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish

While Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish has long been touted for its rapid drying, either low temperatures or high humidity can lengthen the time needed for any clear finish to dry. As long as any finish is still tacky, delay applying your next coat, for it will prevent the earlier coat from drying thoroughly.

Because it is water-based,  Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish is best applied with a quality synthetic bristle brush that won’t swell out of shape like a natural bristle brush will when exposed to water. Avoid using a foam brush, for it will leave parallel ridges of finish in its wake that soft bristles will not.

Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish dries quickly, so you need to work just as quickly. Apply your finish in smooth, long strokes at a steady pace, then leave it alone. Over-brushing is likely to leave behind brush marks as it starts to dry.

Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane

Don’t be alarmed at the dark, almost purple color of Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane in the can. That’s the ultraviolet light blockers you see, but they dry clear when applied. For best protection against the sun, plan on three coats applied with a natural bristle brush.

Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane isn’t just for your wooden deck furniture. It offers more protection than standard interior finishes for indoor windowsills that are subjected to sunlight and water.

When protecting outdoor wooden furniture with Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane, don’t forget the bottom of the legs of chairs and tables. Left unsealed, they absorb water and rot from the inside out. To prevent this from happening, turn each chair or table upside down, and then use a brush to apply two or three coats of Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane to the bottom of each leg.

Minwax® Water Based Helmsman® Spar Urethane

Gravity never stops, so before you walk away, check the sides, edges and end grain for any runs or drips you can brush away before they dry and harden.

Unlike the oil-based version of Helmsman®, Minwax® Water Based Helmsman® Spar Urethane dries crystal clear, with no amber effect, making it ideal for light-colored exterior deck furniture.

Minwax® One Coat Polyurethane

Don’t be alarmed by the milky appearance when you open your can of Minwax® One Coat Polyurethane. That’s just an effect caused by light entering the can. When applied to the wood, Minwax® One Coat Polyurethane will dry crystal clear.

Minwax® One Coat Polyurethane combines the durability of polyurethane with the ease, convenience, and short drying time of water-based finishes. After cleaning your brush with warm water, wrap the bristles in a paper towel secured with a rubber band, then hang it on a pegboard hook or nail to keep the bristles in shape as they drip dry.

Minwax® One Coat Polyurethane can be applied over Minwax® Water Based Wood Stains or oil-based Minwax® Wood Finish, with one exception. The sensitive red pigments in Red Mahogany are not compatible with water-based finishes, so Red Mahogany should be top-coated with Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane.

For more great tips and project ideas, visit our Pinterest page. Download the Minwax National Woodworking Month® mail-in rebate form here.