Help with my finishing technique

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I have some furniture I'm doing for myself and wonder if my technique for finishing needs improving somewhere.
The steps I usually follow:
1. Sand using around 150 2. Apply stain conditioner 3. Apply stain 4. Check color if I want to go a little darker apply some more stain 5. Let dry. At least 24 hours 6. Apply first coat of Poly, this is usually the poly that is offered by minwax in the brown/yellow container 7. 24 hours sand with 00 steel wool 8. repeat 6 and 7 3 times, I usually try for 3-4 coats of poly with sanding inbetween. 9. apply Minwax wax
Now what I am wondering is should I do a final sanding inbetween the last coat and the wax?
I'm switching to water based stain for these things just to see if there is any difference and finish them with the poly from Minwax in the blue/silver can. Satin finish. I usually do semi-gloss.
Any recommendations/suggestions?
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You don't say what kinds of wood you are typically finishing; but, a pre-stain conditioner isn't usually needed for most hardwoods. And, a light sanding between the stain and the first coat of poly might get you off to a little smoother start on some woods. You probably don't have to wait for 24 hours drying time before scuffing a poly finish coat - the stuff usually dries in about 12 hours with reasonable drying conditions - but 24 hours won't hurt anything either. Otherwise, your technique sounds pretty good. If you are using a satin or semi-gloss finish - not looking for a high gloss finish - there should be nothing wrong with a light sanding before your final wax coat. Are you unhappy with your results? If not, why change?
If you do switch to a water based finish system, you do not want to use steel wool for smoothing between finish coats. Any leftover pieces of steel wool can rust between coats and cause spotting in your finish. Jim Seelye

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After years of trying to get a good blotch free finish with stain trying everything from wiping stain to spraying dye I have decised I hate stain. Maple, Cherry, Walnut and IPE are all beautiful woods when finished naturally. (At least this is what I tell myself). Cherry, walnut and IPE are gorgous with oil based finishes and I like maple best with a water based poly of laquer. If god wanted maple to be a medium brown he would have made maple trees out of all sapwood. ;-)
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If you want a nice smooth to the touch feel, then sand with 800 grit wet dry sandpaper. Use water as a lubricant, and rinse the sandpaper frequently. You need to use enough water so that it is a bit sloshy.
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Oughtsix wrote:

And if you must change the color, as in matching an existing piece, dyes do a much more blotch-free job than stains
-- It's turtles, all the way down
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Larry Blanchard wrote:

Maybe. Darker colored dyes can and will will blotch, because the component in a typical "stain" that blotches _is_ dye. Lighter colored dyes appear not to blotch, mainly because there is less contrast in the blotching. It's there, if you look closely!
The cause of blotching needs to be understood before we go forward. It is simply uneven penetration of colored liquid, due to differing densities of the wood.
The best way to move a light colored, blotch-prone wood, to medium to dark tones without blotching is to control color penetration. This can be done in several ways:
- Partially seal the surface with either a spit coat (very thin shellac or clear finish compatible with the stain), or by applying a "natural" stain first. This allows the extra porous wood to absorb less color, by letting it absorb the clear product. This is how most common "Wood Conditioners" work.
- Totally seal the wood, and apply the color as tinted clear coats and/or pigments sitting on top of the wood. A light dye under all of this will increase the apparent depth of the finish. Most factory furniture is done this way. Minwax and most other home center and hardware store brands of stains don't work all that well with this method.
- Use a gel stain, which controls penetration by using a thick binder that simply won't soak in as much. Gel stains can still blotch, if the stain is toward the darker end of the spectrum.
Practice on fully prepared scrap! <G>
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B A R R Y wrote:

Hmmmm. AFAIK, stain is pigment particles (solids) in suspension. That's why they settle to the bottom of the can. Dyes are dissolved pigments (liquids). Stain particles lodge in the pores of the wood. The denser the pores, the denser the paticles. Dyes soak into the wood, with or without pores, although they will penetrate deeper in softer sections.
And yes, dyes will blotch on some woods, like curly maple, just not as much as stains. And the suggestion of a sealer coat is a good one.
I'm not impressed with gel stains when it come to blotch behavior, seems to me that they blotch as much, or very close to as much, as liquid stains. But they are great for vertical surfaces and for non-porous and semi-porous materials.
There are some products out there that are part dye and part stain - I have no experience with those.
-- It's turtles, all the way down
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Larry Blanchard wrote:

Note the interchange of the terms "dye" and "stain" used by Behlen:
<http://www.woodfinishsupply.com/SolarLux.html
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Ah, a good ol' fashioned wood finishing smack-down between two guys with rhyming names. I'll sit back with some popcorn and watch as the thread unfolds....
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Jeff wrote:

You'll be dissapointed, 'cause I'm pretty much finished...
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Larry Blanchard wrote:

Stains are anything that uses pigment to color wood.
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B A R R Y wrote:

OK, pigment stains lodge paticles in pores, dye stain molecules penetrate the wood.
Picky, picky, picky :-).
And now I'm through too :-).
--
It's turtles, all the way down

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in replacement of steel wool there is a product called Bear-Tex, look i up othe web. i use it all the time and know it is also a favorite in fine furniture shops. the stuff is great for a glass smooth finish. ross
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On Fri, 16 Mar 2007 14:38:09 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (Ross Hebeisen) wrote:

Thanks Ross, I'll check it out.
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-@-.com wrote:

I'm wondering why you wax if you don't?
With any clear finish, people often rub down the last coat with whatever and then wax but the purpose of that is mostly to cut down the sheen of the clear coat (and to smooth); the wax is to add a glow to the now non-shiny clear coat. If you like the inherent sheen of your clear coat there is no reason to do either.
--

dadiOH
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wrote:

I was under the impression that wax serves as a final protecter,and helps fill in the smallest "holes" to give an even smoother finish.
If I wet sanded wouldn't the wax also help bring back some of the sheen?
Or should I be wet sanding and then Endusting?
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On Sat, 17 Mar 2007 08:52:19 -0500, -@-.com wrote:

Depends on how you wet sand. It's actually possible to sand the sheen _up_, if you continue sanding to high enough grits.
The protection provided by wax is the slippery surface it leaves helps protect against scratches and abrasion. The real protection against moisture, heat and cold, chemicals (food, booze, etc...) comes from the finish itself, with only a tiny help from the wax.
You're correct that wax can fill tiny scratches and help even a sheen, which is why it's often used with steel or synthetic wools. Some rubbing compounds also include wax as a rubbing lube.
Polyurethane cures s-l-o-w-l-y and stays soft for quite awhile. You might get a better result if you plan to rub it out if you wait a bit, maybe 4-6 weeks, before the final rubbing and/or wet sanding. Even though it's "dry", the chemical process in varnishes continues for some time, before the finish becomes truly cured. The pre-rub cure time is one of the big reasons pro shops use lacquers or pre-catalyzed finishes over poly
Somebody else already pointed out that steel wool will rust with water base. Also remember that the fibers in the wool should go across your rub direction, not parallel to it.
Practice panels, complete with sanding and full prep are great ways to experiment and practice. Write your steps on the back, so you'll remember how you reached each success or failure. Cordoning off sections to compare different steps, like wet sanding one side and not the other, can also be useful.
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wrote:

Barry,
The practice panels is a great idea. There are tons of finishes that I have always wanted to try out, but always opted for something I have used in the past. I would like to experiment more with finishing techniques. The biggest reason I always chose the poly over everything else, was I read somewhere that poly protects against water the best. I'm the kind of person that has a tendency to set a drink almost everywhere so I've always stuck with the poly, plus I really haven't done that many projects that I feel confident in switching to something else. I'm still learning about the poly process and its little quirks, like going perpendicular with the wool instead of parallel, I never knew that.
Any suggestions with brands for starting out with lacquers or the pre-catalyzed finishers?
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On Sat, 17 Mar 2007 15:11:35 -0500, -@-.com wrote:

First of all, don't kiss off polyurethane just 'cause it's poly! Properly applied, it can look fantastic, and you're correct about it's durability. It's really tough stuff, and extremely forgiving to apply via wiping, brushing, and to a lesser extent, spraying.
If you want to go down the slippery slope of spray finishing, my favorites are M.L. Campbell, Mohawk, and H. Behlen. Sherwin Williams has professional products that others have recommended, but my local SW dealers aren't as good as others have reported.
M.L. Campbell is distributed by Pratt & Lambert, so most local paint stores that carry P&L can get it. Data sheets are at mlcampbell.com.
H. Behlen is the "consumer" version of Mohawk finishes. Woodcraft sells Behlen, a local Mohawk dealer may be no further than your Yellow Pages.
All sell nitrocellulose lacquer, which is a traditional furniture finish, and is super forgiving to work with. The downside? It's highly explosive (no kidding! this is NOT an exaggeration! You really CAN blow the house off the foundation! <G>) and hazardous to your health (think "huffers"). You'll need a real spray area, a good respirator, and explosion proof fans and lights to use it. You can spray it outside on a nice day, if you have the distance from the neighbors.
NC Lacquer is a JOY to work with, it rubs beautifully, and each coat simply melts into the last. It dries in minutes, so very little junk lands in the finish. This product is very weather sensitive, so keep good notes and never start directly on a visible section of the project.
Lately, I've been doing a lot with water based "lacquer", with my favorite being M.L. Campbell Ultrastar (usually "dull" for furniture, which is more of a satin finish), although you'll need to add a compatible amber dye, like Transtint Honey Amber or Amber Additive to give it the warmth of solvent lacquer. Using Zinnser Sealcoat premixed dewaxed shellac, as a sanding sealer (skipping the Ultrastar sealer), also helps the "ambering". You don't want to build too thick of a coat with Ultrastar, as it'll get fake looking on you. Ultrastar dries as fast as solvent lacquer and is as durable as poly. While it's not explosive, you'll still need a decent respirator, as the fumes aren't healthy to breathe. Fuhr and Target are also good brands of WB lacquer that I've personally used.
Personally, I use a Fuji Mini-Mite 4 (A cheaper Q4, minus the noise reduction) HVLP turbine to spray. Another excellent turbine is Turbineair. If you have a big compressor (I don't) you can pick up a decent HVLP conversion gun for under $200. Check out www.homesteadfinishing.com for conversion guns. With NC and WB lacquer, I use a Fuji #3 setup and either a pressure pot or suction cup, with the occasional switch to the #4 for heavier material. With the Fuji gravity gun, I usually stay with the #4, as it dosen't seem to feed as strongly as the pressurized cups. The ML Campbell WB products spray right out of the can for me, with an occasional 20% reduction for NC in hot weather.
As for pre-cat products, I prefer M.L. Cambell, simply because I have a fantastic (not to mention very reasonably priced!) local source. Sherwin Williams, Mohawk, and many others make them, practice using the data sheets and ask the local reps for the specific setup tips for your specific equipment. Pro finishes often have live, local support, but be prepared to use a gallon or so in the learning process.
My favorite references to recommend are these (in order):
<(Amazon.com product link shortened)74174889&sr=8-1> <(Amazon.com product link shortened)74174889&sr=8-1>
For spray-specific stuff: <(Amazon.com product link shortened)74174963&sr=1-2>
Also, there are others on this forum, notably "Nailshooter41", "Robatoy" and Mike Marlow, who are very experienced finishers and post lots of excellent advice. Sorry if I left anybody else out!
Nothing beats practice! It gives you something to do with all those scraps. Once you start playing, don't forget to mess with some moldings and doors. Save those milling mistakes. <G>
Please don't skimp on safety gear.
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wrote:

Snip
Barry,
Wow thanks for all the notes. Lots to look into. Oh, I won't write off poly it's just the only thing I've ever used and would like to try something else.
I never thought about SW, I thought they were just paint, I think there is one right around the corner from me as well.
Good stuff, thanks again.
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