Waterlox is a commercial product, essentially a thinned spar varnish.
It applies like oil but affords greater protection and cures much
faster. It's not a period finish, though it results in something not
unlike an oil-based varnish, which is documented in Theophilus (12c)
If you really want to use a medieval finish on a kitchen table, you
could make up your own oil varnish by dissolving resins in heated
linseed oil. I haven't tried this myself but others have. It's not a
simple procedure and cure times are long.
The most authentic period finish for utilitarian objects like a kitchen
table would be none at all. Of course the table will quickly become
stained, but it will eventually acquire a patina that is functionally
equivalent to a finish. I very much doubt that medieval kitchen
tables, being intended for rough use by common folk, received much if
any surface treatment. Even dining tables in the hall probably did not
get a "finish" applied to them, as the top was invariably covered by a
cloth when in use, until the 16th century or perhaps the late 15th in
some regions. Of course it is hard to say for sure, because AFAIK
there are no surviving kitchen tables from the MA and only a few hall
tables from the very end of the period.
So, perhaps a wax polish would be a reasonable compromise for you after
all, if you don't mind the table getting stained and gradually
developing a surface patina. (Or you could accept something like
Waterlox as a way to artificially accelerate the development of that
patina, while providing some protection for the wood.) One other
thing to keep in mind is that thicker lumber is less susceptible to
warping from spills etc., so if you opt for a period finish, you should
use period thicknesses for the top.
Kiley Glass wrote:
What is waterlox, and where/when was it used in period?