Which Topcoat Should I Choose?

General Finishes offers a complete coatings system with a finish for every objective.

General Finishes Professional, Industrial, and OEM Water-Based Topcoats

  • Enduro Professional Tintable 2K Clear Poly
  • Enduro Professional Tintable 2K White Poly
  • Enduro Professional 2K Conversion Varnish
  • Enduro Professional 1K White Poly
  • Enduro Professional 1K Clear Poly
  • Enduro Professional Pre-Cat Lacquer

General Finishes Retail Water-Based Topcoats:

  • High Performance Topcoat
  • Flat Out Flat
  • Enduro-Var Topcoat
  • Exterior 450

General Finishes Exterior Water-Based Topcoats:

  • Enduro Professional Tintable 2K Clear Poly
  • Enduro Professional Tintable 2K White Poly
  • Enduro Professional 2K Conversion Varnish
  • Exterior 450

General Finishes Oil-Based Topcoats

  • Arm-R-Seal 
  • Gel Satin Topcoat
  • Wood Bowl Finish
  • Butcher Block Oil
  • Outdoor Oil


  1. Oil-based topcoats and ENDURO-VAR will amber over time.
  2. All other water-based and High Performance top coats dry clear.
  3. Never use any water-based topcoat with long oils such as Danish, Tung or Linseed.
  4. Water-based top coats clean up with soap and water. Oil-based topcoats require mineral spirits for cleanup.
  5. If you use water-based topcoats over oil-based finishes, make sure that you wait 72 hours between the two products. It is essential to let the oil finish dry longer.
  6. For more complex projects with many details and corners or large surface areas such as cabinets, we recommend either ARM-R-SEAL liquid oil-based topcoats or water-based topcoats. Large surfaces such as cabinets or tables and complex projects with lots of detail are easier to cover with a liquid topcoat rather than a GEL SATIN topcoat.
  7. Enduro Professional Topcoats are thinner and intended to be sprayed
  8. HIGH PERFORMANCE can be brushed or sprayed. It can be thinned by adding 5-10% distilled water if needed. 

Compare all topcoats

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*Why Does My Oil Finish Have a Haze When Applying Arm-R-Seal Over a Linseed Oil Based Stain?*

Linseed oil stains take a LONG time to dry. When applied too soon, Arm-R-Seal will likely prevent the linseed oil-based stain from gassing out and drying completely due to solvent entrapment, causing a haze.

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*Can I Spray Arm-R-Seal?

Arm-R-Seal can be sprayed successfully, but we prefer hand application methods because it is very easy to spray too much in one area. If you choose to spray, use very thin coats and watch for runs (large drips that run down the side of your project).

If you notice a run, immediately wipe or brush it out. If you correct a run promptly, you will not see a mark. However, dried runs can be difficult to remove.

Wear a mask and work in a well-ventilated spray booth.

Size: Small Needle Nozzle (1mm)


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*Can I Change the Sheen of the Topcoat? The One I Applied Is Too Shiny.

If you want to change the sheen, you can re-coat with a different sheen over top. The second layer of top coat will replace the appearance of the first.

Sand lightly with a used 220 sanding PAD to knock down the original finish before re-coating. It may take two or 3 coats to get complete coverage.

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*What Finish Would You Recommend for a Butcher Block Counter Top?

It depends on the type of use you plan for your butcher-block top and the look you want.

If it is a statement piece and not intended for high use, almost any finish would work. General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Topcoat is a good choice. If you intend to prep or chop food General Finishes Butcher Block Oil should be applied.

However, neither product will withstand continuous water use or standing water, or hold up to knife cuts. We always use a cutting board just as we would on a standard kitchen counter. Basically, all horizontal wood surfaces in a kitchen must be maintained, and will easily wear with high water use.


  • Butcher Block Oil is a maintenance product that should be reapplied over time. It has a lovely matte finish that soaks into the wood and is an excellent protectant for wood surfaces that come in contact with food. Simply wipe on, allow 5 minutes to penetrate and wipe off the excess. It can also be used on cutting boards, utensils, or bowls. It is one of our most popular finishes for butcher-block counters.
  • Arm-R-Seal is a fine furniture finish, offers several levels of sheen and is a durable finish. It has been successfully used on home bar projects with this caveat: no fine furniture finish is impervious to water. Spills must be wiped up in a timely manner.

For a more water-resistant finish, we recommend visiting a finish dealer that carries lines specifically designed for high water use such as an Epoxy or a professional two-step catalyzed finish such as General Finishes Conversion Varnish.

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*Is it safe to buff Arm-R-Seal with an auto polish?

We know of many customers that have achieved great results from buffing Arm-R-Seal with auto polishes, providing that the finish has cured for 7 to 10 days.

As with all products that are not manufactured by General Finishes, always test for compatibility on a hidden area of your project before getting started.  

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*Can An Oil Based Topcoat Such as Arm-R-Seal Be Thinned?

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal

Although Arm-R-Seal rarely needs thinning because of its low viscosity, it can be thinned with up to 10% mineral spirits - more than that may thin the solids content too much.

Thinned Arm-R-Seal will be diluted but can be stored without risk of separation.

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*Which General Finishes Products Would Work Best on a Restaurant Table?

GF has two products that would work well.

For non-professional finishers, we recommend using General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Topcoat.

Arm-R-Seal is oil based and will amber. Be sure to apply liberally with a foam brush or roller, letting the product self-level a bit. A liberal application will help you avoid streaks caused by back-brushing and pressure. Stir product thoroughly before and during application because flatting agents settle quickly in a solvent base finish.

For experienced professional finishers who spray, we recommend our two-step General Finishes Conversion Varnish, which would cure in half the time and dries clear.

Even though General Finishes products are water resistant, they are not impervious to standing water condensation (like an epoxy finish). As with any fine furniture finish, spills should be wiped up in a timely manner. We recommend using coasters to protect your wood from water condensation and pot holders to protect from heat.

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*What Topcoat Should I Use on Padauk Wood?

Padauk Exotic Wood

We recommend an oil-based finish such as General Finishes Arm-R-Seal.

Oily woods can be tricky with any topcoat. The high oil content affects the drying process of the finish coats and Padauk has a very high oil content. Sometimes oily woods dry fine and sometimes they take weeks.

Try wiping the wood with alcohol or acetone to dry the oils before coating. This technique may help but does not work all of the time - each piece of wood is different.

To be safe, always plan on a long dry time.


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*Why did my remaining Arm-R-seal thicken in the can?

General Finishes Oil Based Arm-R-Seal Topcoat

Oil-based topcoats are "oxidizing" products which means that the moment it is introduced to oxygen, a chemical reaction will cause the finish to begin to harden. As topcoat is used, the empty space in the can is filled with air, furthering the curing process. 

Tips to ensure your Arm-R-Seal remains in great working condition:

  1. Decant the amount of Arm-R-Seal you will need into a foil covered bowl or paper cup and reseal the can right away. Every minute the can is open, the stain is curing.
  2. Be sure to thoroughly clean the chime and the lid of the can to assure a tight seal.
  3. Add Bloxygen to remove excess oxygen from your can of finish before sealing. 
  4. Store your sealed cans upside down. The liquid creates a seal around the lid when stored upside down, preventing air from getting in. 
  5. Transfer any unused finish to a smaller container once finished with your project. StopLoss Bags® are a popular choice. 


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*Why is Arm-R-Seal Blotching Over an Oil Based Stain on a Table I am Refinishing?

Arm-R-Seal Blotching

The problem areas on your table are probably caused by surface contamination from oils, waxes or cleaning products used over the years.

Contaminants from dusting sprays that contain silicone will also impact the appearance and adherence of a finish - silicone is almost impossible to remove. Oil soaps and wax can also cause adhesion failures. This may be why the finish is performing differently on the leaves vs the table top. Adhesion failure is often more obvious in the deepest patterns of grain because the contamination is driven deep into the grain. 

Unfortunately, even though you sanded the table down to raw wood, sanding alone will not remove this type of contamination. In fact, sometimes the friction heat of sanding will drive contaminants deeper into the grain. 

You have two options, and we recommend the first:

  1. Strip, sand and refinish the table. Use a strong solvent such as a paint stripper and, brushing the surface with a soft brass brush to clean out the grain. Follow this by cleaning with 0000 Medium steel wool and mineral spirits.
  2. Buff the existing finish with 0000 steel wool and mineral spirits, particularly in the affected areas, and then re-apply several more coats of Arm-R-Seal

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