Finishing Question

This may be an ungodly question for some;
1) Can you put a wax finish over wipe on poly.?
2) Can you buff out or polish wipe on poly to get an even smoother surface, like you can get with a paste wax.
The reason I am asking is this: I'm building a small 2 door cabinet out of red oak.
Playing with a sample of red oak. I ended up with a nice looking finish, but I would like it to be a lot smoother. For this sample. I did a quick light sanding with 220, tack ragged it. Put on two coats of wood conditioner, which made quite a difference from previous tests. I then mixed a combination of oil and gel stain and applied it liberally.
I was going wipe it off in 4 segments at set times of 5, 10, 15 and 20 minutes. But found that after ten, there was no difference. The color turned out a beautiful dark oak - walnut colour. I was quite pleased.
Then once dry, I applied four thin coats of wipe on poly, with a light sand 220 and tack ragged in between.
In my books, it's acceptable, but I'd like it to have a smoother feel.
Is this simply a sanding issue, more sanding with the 220 before I condition and stain, or is it possible to buff / polish the wipe on poly.?
Any thoughts....
Pat
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For the wax, sure; you can put wax on nearly anything. Just high maintenance iff the item will be handled or used often.
For sanding the poly, sorta yes. The wipe on poly here is very thin, so you can't do much to it. You indicated a smoother feel, not a high-gloss finish. Taking it to over 600 grit will feel very smooth, but won't shine. In that case you'd want a buffing pad or flexible enough backing so it hits both high and low points and doesn't cut through. You could do that with 2 grades of pumice, and may want to follow it with 2 more wipes of poly. However, before you start, make sure you identify the problem. IOW, how smooth did your original 220 sanding feel, and how does it compare to what you have now? GerryG

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Sure you can buff poly. If you've got a good surface, you might try buffing with a piece of Kraft paper - standard grocery bag. You can get elaborate and add some wax by using a Tripoli buff for luster, rouge for drop-dead shine. The wax is either in the preparation to stick to the buff or added as lube when you use dry and your strong arm. Wait three or four days after final coat if possible to buff.
Now,the money is made in rectifying your finishing process. IMHO, 220 is too coarse for scuffing between coats. I prefer 320 or 400 with a wet of mineral spirits if it's minimum time between coats. Then tack off well.
Have you tried using a paper towel as the "lint-free rag?" If not, give it a try. Cheapest sort seems to work best.

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Use some 600 grit (wet/dry paper) and mineral oil as a lubricant to smooth out the poly being careful not to rub through the edges. If you do, apply some more poly and then level it out again using the same procedure. Wax may give you a particular luster you want to obtain but it offers little protection.
Bob S.
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With only a few (light) coats of wipe on poly on an unfilled oak surface, I don't think you're going to level out the surface and leave any poly. Especially if you had any backing on that paper. When the surface isn't level, you want something that follows it, which is why I suggested pumice. I suspect you mean to smooth the surface, and not to level it.
Another fellow suggested kraft paper. That would work as an even finer abrasive, but IMHO the real question centers on exactly what he has now, and where he wants to go. He wants it smooth, but smooth like what? Sand a piece of oak by steps from 220 to 600 and feel it, and see what you like. GerryG

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Pat wrote:

I see that you have a bunch of different answers for grit and sanding fluid. To get a nice smooth finish you need to first fill the pores in oak. You can do that simply by adding layers until you get the filled pores level with the wood ridges. But to keep the ridges from building, you need to sand the coat off the ridges. You might do that by using 400 grit to allow the pores to fill but not build up on the wood ridges, but when the pores are full(2 or three coats), you need to switch to a 600 grit or you will just continue removing the most recent coat. And you need to sand with very light pressure.
As for a sanding fluid, mineral spirits is a poly thinner so it seems to me that mineral spirits would soften the coat, something you don't want. You could use mineral oil, but that is messy and if not fully cleaned off might interfere with the next coat. It seems to me that water is the obvious choice, easy clean up and no damage to the poly surface; with the first coats, some of the wood may be wetted so you do need to let the surface dry before applying the next coat of poly. Water works for me. Sanding dry, will result in a much rougher surface so, you definitely do not want to sand dry; besides it is much easier with a fluid.
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I suggest that "smooth" is not the same as and doesn't require "level". I have buffed oil finishes that feel smooth as a baby's bottom. As for leveling the wood surface with wipe on poly, some claim it does work, while others have given up after the 26th coat. I've never heard of 3 wipe on coats being enough. More typically, maybe 5 brushed coats, each one much thicker than a wipe on. Even then, some people have walked away frustrated.
As for sanding dry, 600 grit is 600 grit. While wet sanding produces less loading on the paper, dry sanding allows you to better monitor where you are at any point in time, especially for the final sanding. If you disagree here, check some of Jeff Jewitt's books on finishing. GerryG
On Sun, 11 Jul 2004 00:41:35 GMT, "George E. Cawthon"

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Hmm. Never suggested anything about smooth versus level. Never suggested that 2-3 coats of wipe on were adequate. I said it took 2-3 coats to "fill the grain," that's preliminary to the actual finish coat. As to wipe on, that's what was stated as the finish, I wouldn't use "wipe on" for anything but an oil finish.n't recommend wipe on.
Yep, the main point of a lubricant is less loading of the paper. And the "smooth" part comes from the lubricant reducing attraction between the gunk on the paper and the finish on the table. With a lube there is way less chance of having the two melt together and make a mess aka (rough).
Don't much care what Jeff Jewitt says. My experience is that a lube is necessary to produce a satisfactory finish. I used to dry sand finishes, not anymore. But YMMV.
GerryG wrote:

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Some of those papers have their own lube - stearated types.
I use one of those 3M extra fine sponges with periodic rinses in mineral spirits. Suspect tack-off has more to do than wet versus dry as far as what's left behind.

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George wrote:

The downside on those is that some finishes don't like stearate.

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--John
Reply to jclarke at ae tee tee global dot net
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My 2 cents... a different approach
What is the source is the non-smoothness?
If you object to the pores of oak, you will have needed to use a gain filler prior to finishing, or add a whole lot more finish to fill the pores, then level as others have suggested.
If you have a new dust nibs that make the finish less than perfect (I always have that problem, it's a woodshop, not a chip fabrication facility)
1. Let the finish fully cure (give it a week, maybe more if the environment is cool and humid)
2. Wipe on and buff paste wax with a 0000 steel wool by hand. It's quick and easy, if you like a satin luster. The wax functions as a lubricant and allows the wool to cut more finely and evenly. Don't overdo it, just enough to get an even luster.
3. Then buff off the extra wax with a soft cloth.
If you are looking for a mirror/glass-like finish this is *not* the way to go, but I find that it does make a surface *much* more touchable.

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