finishing... can of worms.... I know

I am a newbie woodworker on my second project. The first project I just used a natural look with a couple of coats of Poly.... no problem. My newest project is a 24"x24" chest of drawers for my closet. Quite a bit bigger, and I'm using it as a test bed for finishing and joinery and what not. I used a dark stain on the Birch plywood, turned out nice... even color. The first coat of brush on Satin Poly that i put on was good. When I went to do a light sanding (240 grit) on it (as instructed by the can) some of the stain came off. After the next coat, when sanding, I got some scratches. After that, I switched to 320 grit and still got scratches. The rest of the coat looks fine, nice and smooth. I just don't know what I'm doing wrong. I'm not pressing very hard and at this point have tried different strokes with the sandpaper (back and forth, circular, one direction, even tried using a block). Any suggestions, recommendations, anything???? Cause I'm at my whit's end trying to figure it out on my own.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Stop... take a breath.
Most finishing problems are procedural, and can be fixed with the right approach.
If you used an oil based stain, a couple of things probably happened. (Disregard of you used a water borne color). The stain wasn't 100% dry, even though it felt like that to you. When you put the poly on, it dissolved the tiny amount of oil in the stain that had not dried out. It brought the stain into the poly. When you sanded the poly, you sanded off your color. It happens.
Solution: If you want to get the show on the road and are pressed for time, stain your piece, the seal with dewaxed sanding sealer. Sand lightly, apply poly according to instructions.
If you are not in a huge hurry, you should apply the (oil) stain to the piece and let it sit for about a week. Then apply your poly as directed.
Regardless of which avenue you choose, make sure your stain is put on in light, even coats. If you need to apply more than one coat, wait 24 hours between coats so you can see what the wood will actually look like with the stain. 2 - 3 light coats of stain are better than one thick heavy one. This allow you to follow the amount of color penetration in the different areas of your project and apply more colorant as needed.
As a sidebar, I don't sand between coats of poly if I am actually doing the finishing as a process. I recoat in 8 - 10 hours, and do only a cursory sand for dust nibs. The poly will bite fine into the first coat.
But if I have to wait a day or two between coats, I hand sand with 220 to knock off the sheen. If it is a week before I can coat again, I usually wait for about 10 day or more so I can sand more aggressively before applying another coat.
Do not swirl or rub your sandpaper; follow the grain in long, even strokes with the lightest pressure possible. Your finish is probably showing marks due to incorrect technique. Use clean, new paper. When it feels dull, you should have thrown it away a few minutes ago. If the face of the paper clogs with finish, you are sanding too hard, or using dull (or cheaply made) paper.
Sanding between coats is insurance for the finish to bite. A green finish will be dry to the touch and probably won't mark, but it is still quite soft. That's another reason for the marking. Make sure you use a block with the paper wrapped around it. I am a big fan of the foam sanding pads, and use them as sanding blocks for paper when their own grit is gone.
Good luck!
Let us know how it goes.
Robert
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

I'm sure others feel the same way, but let me thank you with a *tip-of- the-hat* for your helpful input. It is a funny thing. But somebody asks a question and a dozen or more are helped by the answer. You go into detail and the help is appreciated. Just wanted you to know that. Thassal.
r (that's the lower case 'r')
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Hey.... thanks, Rob. I appreciate the compliment and the feedback. Sometimes you never know if anyone reads a response, but we all know how good it feels when you can get someone out of the weeds on their project. If it helps someone besides the OP, that's even better.
' Preciate it.
Robert
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Well I for one have certain issues with your posts.....I suppose its basically okay that whatever you write is a "must read" but it is also a "must save"......you force me into filling harddrives, organizing information and even worse making me think about the information you provide because it is always so worthwhile.....Anyway in the future life would be much simpler if you would learn "mindless drivel" and cut out all of the good stuff.........Thanks Rod
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Hello,
You don't mention the type of stain you were using or how long you let it dry but I will assume it was completely dry before you put on your first finish coat. It sounds like you simply sanded a bit too far and started sanding off the stain. As far as the scratches go, it sounds like you saw what you should have. Even brush applied polyurethane will have a very high gloss finish/smooth surface. It may have dust nibs in it or have drips and sags but it will be smoother than you expect. Sanding it will start putting down a scratch pattern that can only be removed with progressively higher grits. Same idea as polishing compound on a car finish.
Good Luck.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
In article <cd725009-4c52-499d-9320-8e98e9fe7444

I'm going to stay away from talking about stain, since I never use it.
As for sanding poly, I'm pretty much with what Robert said, with some frills: I usually lightly sand over the first coat of poly because there's something poking up or feeling gritty on the surface; I use something between 400 and 600 grit on fairly fresh poly (e.g. less than 2 days old) and I use wet and dry paper and use water as a lubricant. Wipe with 2 separate cloths before the next coat. That works pretty well. Other than that, I don't sand between coats unless there's a compelling reason, I just make sure I recoat around the 12 hour mark .... works for me. Once it's dried for 2+ days, you will usually have to sand or the new coat will not bond properly. Depending on many factors like chemistry, humidity, ambient temperature ... Even on older/hardened poly I wouldn't dream of starting below a 320 grit, using wet & dry paper.
With 4,5 or more coats of poly you can work out a lot of scratches and accidental uneven-ness, like you may later find the brush left a hair on the finish that you didn't spot in odd lighting, but once you've gone into your stain or through the veneer that job's probably a re-do from start. Been there, done that, gone through the veneer on veneered mdf. Painful. One reason why I prefer to work with solid wood ;-)
You mentioned using a block: a nice smooth & level sanding cork is the way to go, i.m.o., and a very light touch.
-P.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
NEVER START WHAT YOU CAN'T FINI
sorry.... :-)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.