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What can I apply to a table made of very soft wood to protect it?

We bought a very nice dining room table, made of a beautiful wood with decor on the top corners. Much to our dismay the wood is so soft you can literally groove it by tapping your nails on it. We are now in a situation where it is to be used as our only table and with 3 children, and many young relatives, we are looking to put something on it to maybe harden it, without losing the look and design of the wood. We have considered glass, but are wondering if there are any other alternatives.

Details:

  1. 1/4 thick glass covering is the only way or plastic ,.. if u want to keep its look u need sumthing transparent so glass or plastic
  2. actually glass would be beautiful on it or maybe a glass with an etched pattern. use polyurethane or primer?? no the first idk.. if u go to lowes and ask, they would know
  3. stain the wood then put on a coat of pollyerthain
  4. i agree with matt , this will be the best thing to do
  5. Polyurethane will work but you'll need to put on a few coats. I would recommend a two part epoxy polyurethane. The instructions will be on the can, but, briefly you scuff up the table surface with high number (finer grit) sandpaper. For the couple of types of coatings I've used you then apply wood glue as a bond coat. Once that's dried you mix up the two parts of the polyurethane and apply it to the table. You can put it on the surface up to 1/2 inch thick. When it dries it is like a clear rock. Very hard and durable but shows all of the beauty of the table top underneath it.
  6. I would go with the polyurethane, it's great stuff and your problem is exactly what it's made for. Ask the store what brand they recommend and be sure to apply it in a dust free environment.
  7. either get glass or you can try an epoxy tabletop finish. the epoxy will add alot of depth to it which will probably look pretty good.