OK, I need some advice. I made a kitchen cabinet (birch ply and edge
grain fir frames) - yes, that was me asking about door widths over 6
months ago; I had a blast and thought I learnt plenty, but obviously not
enough about finishing ...
First off, every scuff and plane mark showed through, it looks like a
distressed antique although it wasn't supposed to be that way. I know
fir is hard to stain, so I used wood conditioner then gel (Varathane).
But I couldn't feel or see any of the imperfections until the stain
popped them out.
Second, a month later, the inside still has a smell like dead fish.
It's finished with water-based poly (Varathane again), which I've used
before but never with that effect.
So, help! What can I do different next time and what evil chemistry did
You need to spend more time sanding.
You need to spend more time sanding.
I say that three times becuase that's how it will feel when you're
doing it. You sand, then you sand some more, then when you think you've
done enough, you sand some more. The most important thing is to move to
a progressively finer grit of sandpaper - and don't skip any! It's
really easy to convince yourself that it's OK to go from 100 to 220 and
be done with it, but you will never get all of the scratches out that
One thing you can try is to wipe the piece down with mineral spirits
when you think you are done sanding. This should show you all of the
sanding marks that still need to be sanded out.
Also, if you use a Random Orbit sander - move it slowly across the
wood. I've heard a good rule of thumb is to move the sander less than
an inch per second. Moving it too fast will result in swirl marks that
will usually show up in the final finish.
As to the dead fish smell, I have no idea what would cause that. Maybe
try putting a box of baking powder inside to clear up the smell.
Yes, stains and finishes really make surface imperfections pop out. The
solution is to like it, keep sanding, or use a smoother plain to removes
dents and dings.
Go to Lowe's and buy Natural Magic Odor Asorbing Gel. This is normally
found on the "Cleaning products" isle. The container is about 3" tall and
round and typically had a red or green lid. The stuff works like magic and
lasts for about 3 months. It comes in many aromas. It should make you
cabinets smell better in a few days. If you keep the cabinet doors open the
smell will go away faster.
Don't know about the chemistry, but next time try sanding to around 600 grit
before finishing--it's surprising how imperfections that were invisible at
320 or so pop out at 600--you'll probably have to go back to a lower grit at
least once before you get a "clean" surface at 600.
I usually stop sanding @ 150 or 220 when staining. If I'm using a power
tool to sand, I'll do the last grit again by hand, with a felt block
WITH the grain to remove any cross-grain scratches left by the power
tool. Going beyond 220 that may "burnish" the wood, creating problems
with stain absorption and pigment lodging. When staining, it also helps
to go one grit higher on end grain, using the burnish to slow stain
absorption and even the color
However, the key is to COMPLETELY sand the scratch marks from the
previous grit off before moving on. A "raking" light (shining across
the work) will show off many defects. The last step before any stain
should be a a light wiping with mineral spirits or denatured alcohol.
Use the mineral spirits if you're using oil or lacquer based stains, or
the alcohol for water based products.
After the first clear coat, dust nibs and finger prints can be touched
up with 320 or 400 grit under a cork or hardwood block. Drips and runs
are best removed with a sharp card scraper.
If you have some stain and finish left, I suggest practicing your
technique on some wood. Keep going until you get it down.
Lighting is really important, both during sanding and when applying
the finish. Also it helps to look at each surface from multiple
angles. It's amazing how good something can look from the direction
you were facing, but then go around to the other side and you see what
a mess it is.
It has already been stated sand, sand, sand. Howeve, mist the wood with
water between sandings and let dry, this will raise the grain, and help get
rid of the marks faster than just sanding.
I have never used water based clear, but I have used a lot of the water
based paints. I put a little vanilla extract into the pain which changes
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