Final coat of Spar Urethane on my bar top - now what?

I've finished putting the final coat of Helmsman on my bar top and it looks absolutely stunning! (this is my first 'serious' project, so excuse me if I seem to be more than just a little proud!). After reading various posts and websites, I thinned the first coat 1:1 with mineral spirits, then put the remaining three coats on full strength, sanding lightly with a 220 grit before each coat. The finish is now like glass! However, there are occasional bits of something that easily come off with a fingernail. I'm speculating that they're bubbles - not too ugly, and they'll probably wear off in time. My concern is that people will not resist the temptation to remove them for me and, in so doing, potentially damage the finish. I've read that my next step should be to wet sand with a 400 grit, then hit it with an automotive polishing compound. Will this eliminate the 'problem', such as it is? Frankly, I'm reluctant to take this last step because I just know I'll screw it up. The Helmsman seems a bit softer that most finishes (it supposedly can accommodate temperature expansion/contraction of the wood), so I don't know how it will take to this final step. How about a paste wax? Will these bits be eased off while buffing? Is a wax product good for a spar urethane finish or will I be creating other problems?
Any other suggestions/recommendations?
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SNIP
Congrats on the new top!
Beware of any advice you get on the processes you are asking about from anyone.
No one knows how thick you put the finish on. Less finish means less material to sand off and polish. If your final desired thickness is somewhere around 3 - 4 mil, you may only be a little thicker than that now. Hitting it with sandpaper, then buffing it out through the grades of polish to get out the scratches left by 400 grit could easily take the coating down to a thickness top that is too thin to be useful as a bar top. Bar tops take a pretty good beating.
Just my 0.02 here, but an exterior rated varnish wouldn't have been my first choice for the project.
"Spar varnish" was developed to be water resistant as its first task, and UV resistant as its second. Unfortunately most UV inhibitors make finishes softer when cured. This is good for the boat guys and for your outdoor furniture that is exposed to the elements as this flexibility will help keep it from cracking off, exposing the wood below. You can polish it out to make it really shiny, but it will never have the durability of interior rated finishes. Typically these have no UV inhibitors or only tiny amounts so you can put your piece by sunny window without disaster.
If you piece is outside by the BBQ pit, good choice. Inside, there are probably better choices, finshes that are selected based on their abrasion resistance.
Before you get in the middle of buffing out the top, you will probably need to let the top hard cure for about 30-45 days after your last application of finish. Green time cure time on these finishes is about 15 days or so, but on this particular finish you should contact the manufacturer.
Be careful in what you do, and if you are 95% happy with your finish I would leave it alone. You know where all the faults are, so you see them when you look at them. Others won't, and you will move onto other projects.
If it turned out the way you wanted that's the best thing. Even without the abrasion resistance of a harder finish this one should last a long time with some care.
Robert
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wrote:

Agreed - that's why I didn't simply jump into the wet sand/polish step.

I went to various manufacturers websites to research the available products (granted, advice from the manufacturers can also be suspect). Minwax specifically recommends Helmsman for bar tops. My primary concern was water and chemical (alcohol) resistance. This product seems to address that issue. And the gaudiness of the high gloss is absolutely perfect for a bar top, IMO! That's exactly the look I was shooting for. I used their 'Fast Drying' polyurethane for the sides and knocked the gloss down with steel wool. That also came out just right, although I'd probably simply buy the satin finish if I had to do it again. The difference in the 'feel' is obvious, though. The top definitely feels 'softer' than the sides, though not disturbingly so. I'm confident that I can address any issues that come up an a few years, though.

Good point. My satisfaction is actually a bit higher than 95%, so it looks like it's going to stay just the way it is.

Thanks for your comments, -Mike
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Actually, the inherent characteristic in spar varnish is flexibility. That is because it was/is meant to go on - surprise - spars. And spars bend. The flexibility is achieved at the expense of hardness by a greater percentage of oil, lesser of resin.
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dadiOH
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wrote:

Correct and as nailshooter pointed out, it's primary purpose is to protect and being flexible simply prolongs its life expectancy.
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Yep, Yep!
I don't know much about finishes, so I'll just pat you on the back and tell you that I envy you at your stage with your first real project.
I'm sure you did a great job, and we'd love to see pics.
Tanus
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replying to nailshooter41, Mike wrote: Id like to apply a very thick coat 1" in areas what would be the best method??
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1" is impractical with any finish. If you really must have 1" thick, you're probably better off looking at glass or acrylic (lexan) or some other clear material.
Btw, this is an old thread. You're welcome to start a new one and lay out the specifics of what you're trying to do. Homeowner's Hub is actually rehosting content, most of us are actually using Usenet readers.
Puckdropper
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caedfaa9ed1216d60ef78a6f660f5f85 snipped-for-privacy@example.com says...

If you want a 1 inch thick coat, spar urethane is not what you want, you want a purpose made epoxy bar finish.
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Nailshooter has some good advice.
I would go a step farther and put that same finish on a scrap piece of wood, let a little alcohol spill on it and see if the finish works and looks like you want.

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Cool. Congrats.
<snip>

Not really. Your next step is to wait. Any finish will buff out better when fully cured. The can website says 24 hour dry time, but it will continue to cure for up to a month.
Patience is your friend. Maybe you will choose to buff it out, maybe leave it alone. Either is fine.
I suggest some "beer resistance" testing in the interrim :-).
-Steve
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On Apr 24, 7:50 am, "Stephen M"

Maybe I should simply see how the finish affects the taste of the beer. If a month goes by and all is well, then I'll just leave it be.
How long before the urge to stare at it goes away?

I suspect that my "beer resistance" will not be adversely affected by this new toy. (or were you referring to the finish's resistance to beer? ;-)
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On Thu, 26 Apr 2007 17:04:16 -0500, Mike Hartigan
Good idea.
Regards.
Tom

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Skinover, maybe? That green spar varnish is like pudding. Since it cures by oxidation, the surface cures way faster than the base. This is worse with long oil (spar) varnishes. Try Behlen's Rockhard (or a similar short oil phenolic) next if you like varnish.

Let it cure for at least a month before wet sanding, or you'll completely strip off the hardened skin. The gummy base layer won't shine up with the finest sandpaper made.

Satin finish instead of gloss. Rub out with 0000 steel wool and wax after full cure. Until then, use coasters under the beer, sheets of butcher paper under the pretzel bowl if you absolutely can't wait to use the bar.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com says...

I noticed that it feels much different (less 'soft') after only a week. I'm assumming that this is what I'm witnessing.

Well, the 'damage' is done, so to speak. But I'm happy with the result, so life is good :). When you say "if you like varnish", do you mean as opposed to a poly? My limited lifetime experience has led me to think of the word 'varnish' as a generic term to refer to any protective coating on wood.

I've gotten that bit of advice from a number of people this week. That was my reason for asking the question before blindly jumping to that step. (Thank God for usenet!)

Would that have given me the gaudy gloss that I wanted? My wife made the observation that "It looks like an old VFW bar". I took that as a high compliment, though I'm not sure that that's how she intended it. I even considered adding some multi-layer finish scratches and a few cigarette burns to dress it up a bit, but then I thought that that might be just a bit over the top. Plus, without the heavy stale beer and smoke aromas, it would seem like only a half-a$$ed effort, so I chose to leave it looking like something new. Actually, the simulated damage was originally an idea that I cooked up to mask the expected rustic appearance of my first project. As it turned out, there's nothing rustic to be found, so I left these touches out.
Would the spar benefit from the steel wool/wax step - after the requisite cure time? Or should I just leave well enough alone? What about periodic maintenance to the finish?

Indeed, I absolutely can't wait to use it! However, I've got other things to finish up before it's working, so it'll have some time to cure before I put it into actual use. I hope to finish the plumbing/electrical work this weekend, kegs/taps/lines have been ordered, I'm picking up a chest freezer and a 50 lb CO2 tank next week. Then I start researching yeasts, malts, and hops. (I'm really going to miss my family!)
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Mike Hartigan wrote:

Varnish consists of a resin, oil and a vehicle.
There are many different resins, some dating from antiquity...damar, alkyd, urethane et al. Oil is usually linseed. Vehicle is normally paint thinner or mineral spirits nowadays.
Lacquer is also a clear, protective coating but contains no oil and the vehicle is lacquer thinner into which is dissolved nitrocelluose. Could be other plastics. The big advantage is rapid drying.
A third is shellac which is a secretion from an insect dissolved in alcohol after it has been refined. It too dries rapidly. ____________________

No. You *could* achieve a high gloss by rubbing out with still finer materials such as rottenstone after fine pumice but the resultant finish is like a piano rather than the gaudy gloss with which you are enamoured :) _____________________

Only if you want a finish that has more of a soft glow instead of a brilliant shine.
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dadiOH
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