Good Questions: Finishing chairs and a table

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Greg sent us an email: "I am in charge of making a class project for the kid's preschool auction, a toddler-sized playtable and chairs set. Since I figure we'll end up bidding and buying it back anyway, I bought some Chip molded ply chairs from Modernseed, and a Bunny Junior table, beech with nice chromed legs, at DWR.

I scuff sanded the hard, glassy polyurethane finish on the table a bit, then had the kids—nine 2-3 year-olds--make acrylic handprints. Looks great, but now, I'm stumped as to what to finish it with. Spray or brush-on poly? Epoxy? Dip it somehow?

And what about the chairs, which are finished in white lacquer? I'm cool leaving them as is, but a single handprint or something might be nice to tie the whole set together. But then, what to seal them with? I realize mid-way through a project is probably not the optimal time to be asking these sorts of things..."

Thanks in advance,
Greg

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This one had us stumped, too, so we turned to the experts and called our local hardware store. The very helpful hardware guy listened to the question, then immediately told us to stay away from oil-based finishes (the most common kind) because, as he put it, "they're not so safe, especially if your child puts their mouth on the finished surface." And apparently even if your toddler doesn't put his/her mouth on the table, the smell alone is pretty potent.

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Instead, our expert advised us to find a water-based poly finish, like Minwax or other similar products. He suggested brushing it on, rather than spraying, for a better and more even coating.

So there is one idea, from our helpful hardware guy. Do readers have any other suggestions or thoughts for Greg?