Finishing with wiping urethane varnish


Just put my last coat of general finishes semi gloss wiping urethane on a quartersawn oak table top. The can says it dries in 6-8hrs under ideal condition. How long should I wait to give it a rub with 0000 steel wool and wax? Better yet should I even do it? I've always used oil finishes in the past and don't have too much experience with urethanes.
Lastly I saw a woodworker today put two coats of brush-on urethane before switching to wipe-on. Any thoughts on this process? I did mine with numerous coats of wipe-on only. Seems to me that starting with a couple coats of brush-on would have saved me a few coats of wiping urethane. Am I off here or what... Thanks in advance. Rich
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Rich wrote:

sure you can rub it with steel wool. wait a few days, at least, under normal conditions (temp and humidity in range of what the instructions call for)
Dave
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David,
Not so sure about that "few days". Poly dries to the touch rather quickly but takes 30 days or so to cure depending on temperature and humidity. Check the manf spec sheets.
The wax is not going to offer any more protection and you will be imparting a bit of a shine to a semi-gloss finish. Now if that's what you want, more shine, then yes go ahead but wait for it to cure and the steel wool and wax will shine it up. If you are using the steel wool (or 3M/ScotchBrite pads) and wax to "knock down the nibs", then you didn't sand correctly between coats - there shouldn't be any nibs to get rid of at this point.
Yes, you can lay on the wiping poly with a brush (foam works nicely for this) and then the last few coats are wiped on. The object is to get nice even coats. To late now perhaps but when a low gloss sheen is desired, make your first coats high-gloss. They don't have the deglossing agents and as you build the finish coats, the grain will not be blurred. Use the semi-gloss or low-gloss finish as your last couple of coats so you can still see the crispness of the grain. You can also just de-gloss a high-gloss finish with very fine grit paper (600+) or 3M/ScotchBrite pads and wax to bring the gloss level down to what you want.
Bob S.

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Thanks for the advice. I kind of thought the urethane needed more than a day or two to finish curing. What you said about the wax is what I suspected for the most part. The finish is flawless at this point so I really didn't see a need for the wool either but I've been told it could help to "pop" the grain. I figured if it's not "popped" by now it never will. I'm going to try the high gloss followed by semi next time to see what happens. Thanks for the help.

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BobS wrote:

Be very careful about applying the wax too soon. I used a really nice wax that had Toulene (I think -- I'm recovering from surgery right now and the drugs are not making my mind so fast) as the solvent (is that right? Can't remember now). Anyway, what I do remember is (oh the wax is briwax, I like it but the solvent is strong) when I applied the wax (I waited a single day after it had dried, so 2 days at that point from the last coat of poly), it made the finish crinkle. Gack!! I was not too happy to say the least. So definitely wait longer.
As for the gloss to semi/satin technique of rubbbing out the finish, that was a heck of a lot harder than I thought it would be. MInd you I was in a rush for the customer (who ended up liking it but would have liked the finish a lot more satin than it ended up -- as was mentioned earlier the buffing with wax kind of made it shiny). The hardest part was getting an even shene (sp?) across the entire surface. Practice first, seriously :)
Good luck, Mike
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BobS wrote:

I've not had any trouble whatsoever applying the "finishing touches" to a 3 day old poly finish. Applied correctly, under ideal conditions, that is. :)
Dave
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You live in the land of perfect weather... <G>
Barry
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Ba r r y wrote:

YES! which is why I haven't moved into a much nicer house in another state that has God-awful weather! :) I love the weather here.
Dave
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imparting
wax
pads)
I'm a big fan of wax/wool. I do it for a couple of reasons:
1. It knocks off the dust nibs that end up in the *last* coat. Seriously de-dusting my shop is a significant obsticle. 2. It reduces the sheen of a gloss finish just a bit in a very even way. IMO the wax lubricates the wool, allowing it to take a bit more subtle bite into the finish.
I like it, because it leaves a very touchable even semi-gloss surface. It has nothing to do with protection. If you prefer a deep gloss, it's not for you.
-Steve
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I always use a good quality brush or even a foam brush to apply urethane for all coats. I thin the first coat so it soaks in to the porous wood and insure that subsequent coats are at a viscosity that allows me time to brush it on, make any fixes to bubbles or where the coat is not of even thickness, and still let the brush stroke marks settle out. I also sand between coats starting with 220 or 320, and going up a minimum of 100 grit per coat, usually ending with 1200-1500 wet or dry depending on the wood porosity and hardness. I more or less flow the finish on using a minimum of strokes and working quickly. Since Urethane is a surface finish vs a penetrating finish, I cannot see that there would be any difference between the two techniques, once the pores of the wood were sealed as long as the finish had time to ultimately settle out to make the brush stroke marks invisible. I normally have to thin new finish to meet this requirement. (Only slightly, however) Hope this is the type of input you were looking for, but I do use urethane a lot so I've gained some insights in the process. I will also use a heat gun on occasion, albeit VERY carefully since it is a flammable solvent based material, assuming you use that and not water based. good luck, Joe.
Joe Brophy CountryTech Computer email: snipped-for-privacy@spiretech.com
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