Varnish drying time

It's been years since I've done this. I'm using polyurethane gloss varnish on some woodwork. Some is Flecto and some is McCloskey (not mixed together). The instructions on both cans are confusing; Flecto is self contradictory. In one section it says it dries so fast that you can apply 3 coats in the same day. In another section it says do not recoat until it's completely dry, then use 220 sandpaper or steel wool. My first coat is still tacky in places after more than 48 hours. Questions: Is this length of time normal? What is the ideal time to wait between coats? Won't sanding dull the gloss? TIA, Paul
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I have never used the brands you list, but in general...
If you want to sand between coats, you will probably have to wait a couple days for it to get hard enough to sand. However I only sand when there are problems I need to smooth out. If you are going to put a second coat on without sanding, you must do it before the first coat has gotten hard or it will not adhear well. Perhaps that explains the contridictory instructions. Yes, sanding will dull the gloss, but the second coat will pick it right back up. I have never put on more than 2 coats, except with wipe-on, which is really thin. IMHO they are just trying to sell more varnish.
Most of the time my varnish is dry within 8 hours. Occasionally something will take days; I have no idea why that is. Maybe humidity?
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There's no contradiction there. Three coats applied twelve hours apart is still within 24 hours.

No, that's not normal. Sounds like you applied too heavy a coat. It should be dry within six to eight hours, under most conditions.
You said it's been "years" since you last did this -- are you using the same can of varnish you used the last time, years ago? If so, that's your trouble; throw it out and get new varnish.

Until it's dry. But not cured hard.

Sanding *between* coats won't dull the gloss of the subsequent coat. Just don't sand after your *final* coat.
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Doug Miller wrote:

This very well could be -- out of practice.

It was all new varnish. I have discovered that the Flecto Varathane is quite a bit thinner than McCloskey. Flecto dries faster but doesn't look as good to my eyes.

Thank you, Doug, and others. Paul
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Paul M wrote:

I've used Flecto brand since 1966. Sometimes it has dried very quickly and at other times very slowly. Don't know why but may be related to the weather (humidity). I've coated cove molding that were dry to the touch in 1 hour. I coted a chest of drawers that took at least a week before I could sand, otherwise it just balled up.
Finally, I got smart and started adding Giellespie's Japan Dryer to polyurethane and oil. A small can will last forever since it takes only a capful in a quart of finish. 1st coat is always ready to sand in a day, second coat may take a couple of days before sanding.
The purpose of sanding between coats is to get a flat, even finish; first coat partially fills large pores of fills small pore, second coat can completely fill larger pores, subsequent coats just build the depth of the finish. Don't ever use 220 sandpaper on a finish and never dry sand. Use 400 wet or dry sandpaper and water as the sanding medium, and sand lightly using a block on flat surfaces. The first sanding takes the finish off down to the wood leaving the finish in the pores. It will wet the wood, so let it dry before putting on another coat. Don't actually put water on a surface; put the sand paper in a bucket to wet and then take out and start sanding. When the sand paper begins to drag, swish the sand paper in the bucket and continue. When finished sanding, wipe with a damp rag, rinsing often, twice, and wipe dry with a cloth.
Now that your finish is on, you will just have to wait until it dries enough to sand, hopefully it won't be a week. Japan dryer and 400 grit wet sanding are the keys
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George E. Cawthon wrote:

Thanks, George. The weather may indeed be a cause. Here in San Francisco for the last month the humidity has been >80% and the temperature <65 tops. I will look for the Japan dryer and definitely will try your other tips.
Paul
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Paul M wrote:

Generally, poly dries sufficiently for recoating within four hours. Yours being tacky after 48 hours indicates to me that either the varnish is bad or you put it on with a spoon. As soon as it is dry enough to not be sticky is "recoat time". If it dries MORE than four hours, sanding is needed to give a tooth for the next coat. All that is needed is a light sanding...try to do more and it won't sand well as it is not yet hard.
It won't be thoroughly dry for several weeks...if you can still smell it it isn't dry. Someone mentioned wet sanding...that is the way to go if you want a mirror-like finish. However, you MUST wait until the stuff is completely dry, either naturally or by adding a drier. Dry is so necessary because the finish in the grain is thicker than that elsewhere; if you sand before it is dry you will get everything nice and smooth but the thicker areas will continue drying and become lower.
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