Oak finishing question

Greetings All, Excuse me for interupting the current spate of useless spam with an actual wwing query. I plan on installing oak casings and would like to have the finish as smooth as is possible. I've seen oak with a satin sheen and absolutely flat, no ridges or bumps. I seem to recall something about a sanding sealer.... Do I remember correctly? Can anyone help with this??? Many thanks if you have the time to help out. Mark
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mark wrote:

Here's how I do it:
1) Rough sand with an ROS and 220 grit.
2) Wipe the whole piece down with a damp (not) wet cloth. This pops the grain.
3) Sand again with ROS and 330 grit.
4) Sand by hand with increasingly fine grit paper soaked in the stain/oil you intend to finish the piece with.
5) Seal with shellac/water based poly/acrylic crap of your choice.
The more iterations of 4) you do, the "shinier" it gets.
YMMV,
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Hello, Mark. It really depends on how smooth you are thinking you need it to be. You can get oak "french polish" smooth, but it looks like plastic.
I have used pore fillers with good results, but you need to understand what you are doing with them.
This is a great discussion on pore fillers, both oil and water based:
http://www.woodcentral.com/bparticles/fillers.shtml
If you want to build with your finish, you will be applying, sanding, applying, sanding, etc. to get oak perfectly smooth. To me, this is one of the best discussions on pore filling, finish compatibility, and long term success expectation. But note that it is not necessarily to get the wood perfectly smooth:
http://tinyurl.com/2h5puw
You can take every response on that topic right to the bank. Too much finish will crack over time as the coats shrink back unless you use a post cat finish of some type. Not enough finish, and you cannot sand back to the desired texture.
Not all finishes are made to be sanded back. Not all finishes are compatible. Example - I have heard (but not personally experienced) that some brand of water based filler was not compatible with the solvent based top coat. Another would be layered finishes that don't burn into each other like varnish or poly. It is easy to get witness lines to let folks know where you sanded through the coats.
Staining a pore filled project is not for the weak, either. I tried to stain after I applied the pore filler, and the color was blotchy. I tried staining before applying the filler, and when sanded the color was uneven. Thankfully, my pore filler dried out and I threw it away.
But now they make colored pore fillers, and even clear as well. So if you want a natural color or slightly amber color, you are well in luck with your oak. Apply, sand, finish, all in one day if you go with a waterborne finish.
Without knowing what your level of expertise is, the type of finish you will be using, how it will be applied, how much time you want to put into the finishing process, etc., it would be hard to give anything more than suggestions. I would sure print out that WoodWeb discussion, though.
Robert
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Well, if you want Oak to be "smooth" like you might see on a piano, then you need to learn about grain filling. It is esentially clear silica powder or a colored powder that is held in a varnish\oil like goop that you wipe on and off using a careful technique to fill the grain and then let it dry. You do this one or more times depending on how many tries it takes to completly fill the grain. Then you apply a clear top coat of some sort and polish it out to the sheen you desire.
I am being kind of vague because those are the basics but you'll need to read up a bit on the specifics.
Sanding sealer is actually just a very thin coat of clear finish that is a thinned version of the final coating material or a formula that dires to a little softer finish than a final hard finsih coat would be so you get something laid down to stop the next coats from soaking in and it is easy to scuff sand a bit to kill any grain raised fuzz, etc. You could lay down enough lacquer, poly or shellac to eventually flatten oak. I have done it, but it isn't proper and will likely crack or otherwise be problematic over time.
Finally, on Oak you need to decide if you want to sort of hide the grain cathedrals or excentuate them (clear or dark filler). Google "Grain filling oak" or look here for starters http://www.rockler.com/blog/index.cfm?commentID=164
BW

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mark wrote:

Some/most of the Sanding Sealer you encounter (at least what I encounter where I live) isn't much more than lacquer with talcum powder in it. The lacquer dries fast, the talcum powder provides nearly invisible build and makes sanding easier....
For a lot of projects, you need not sand beyond 150 or 180 grit before you put on the sealer. Sand with 220 after sealer, until you are nearly back to wood. Seal again, sand again, and repeat until you get the "flatness without ridges and bumps" level you desire. Move to final finish coats, with minor scuff sanding between (depending on the type of finish you use) and you should get what you want.
I'd suggest trying the process on a relarively small area, particularly noting the number of coats and time involved, and experiment with a grain filler if you really want a smooth finish before you commit to a full scale project. You may find out that you really want to use cherry instead of oak, because the amount of finishing time is a quarter of that of oak, just because the cherry grain isn't nearly as open and bumpy as oak.... (smile)
Of course, there may be alternative finishes that can fill the pores quicker (lacquer is a finish where the latest coat melts into the previous one, which can take more coats to fill grain pores than other finishes that don't melt into the previous coat... Epoxy based finishes come to mind, but they require extensive sanding to provide a "tooth" for the next coat to adhere. One benefit of lacquers is that typically, you can spray/brush on one coat, hit it with steel wool once dry and recoat without sanding and get a nice, level finish in the end. Yes, it does take a lot of coats to fill large open grain like Oak, but it does work.) As I live in "the sticks" relative to availability of the latest and best finishes, I can't say I've used many of the recent, higher tech type finishes, but most of what I do works just fine with sprayed lacquer. (I know, the can says not to spray it, but that's a requirement to get by the VOC regulations, not because it won't work.) Another benefit of lacquer is that if you really screw up, you can always mop it almost all of it off with a rag soaked in lacquer thinner.
Of course, your mileage may vary, demonstration was on a closed course with a professional driver, and you should never do any of this at home.
--Rick :-)
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Do you mean with a filled grain, like a piano finished table top? Or, do you mean a perfect finish, free of dust nibs and brush marks, but allowing the open pores to be visible?

In either case, sanding sealer can help, as it's a fast drying finish that sands easily, more easily than raw wood. Sanding sealer is not meant to fill heavy grain with lots of coats, as it isn't durable in thick layers. Most sanding sealers are meant as single or maybe two coat products. Shellac based sanding sealer (Zinnser Seal Coat) can be built rather deeply, but you have to work carefully (spray?), as each application will dissolve the coat underneath.
If you want a smooth, bowling alley finish, you either need to fill the grain with "grain filler" (a commercial product, or substitute such as drywall compound) or build many layers of a high resin content varnish.
Varnishes that can build thickly include Pratt & Lambert 38, McCloskey Gym Seal, Waterlox, or many of the high quality floor finishes. To use these products, you'd finish the wood, then screen it back to bare wood in the high spots, repeating until you had a smooth finish. Varnishes are easy to apply, but dry slowly and attract dust as they dry. You have to wait long enough before sanding as to not allow the finish to "pill". This wait time will be trial and error, based on your local weather conditions. Polyurethane will require a longer wait.
I prefer filling grain with a commercial product like Behlen's grain filler or drywall compound. Drywall compound turns and stays clear when soaked with finish. I then spray a sanding sealer and a water or solvent based lacquer over the smooth surface.
All that said, I prefer an open grain on oak when used as trim. My own home has red oak, doors, trim and built-ins, and the open pores are beautiful when oiled and sprayed with a "dull" lacquer finish. Dull lacquer is close to your typical satin varnish, there is some shine.
On the oaks, I usually leave grain filling for glossy finishes and tabletops. On _red_ oak (vs. white) table tops, I'll still leave just a tick of openness unless the goal is a piano gloss. The duller sheens combined with a filled grain and heavy varnishes just look dead to me, and red oak looks wrapped in worn plastic.
I suggest a few decent sized samples with and without completely filled grain, in your choice of sheen, before you make a final decision.
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You could use Watco Danish Oil. Apply with a rag and use wet/dry sandpaper to sand the surface. The sawdust/oil slurry fills the pores perfectly. The more applications, the smoother the finish. It's easy to touch up and easy to apply. http://www.woodworking.com/wwtimes_oilfinish.cfm
R
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wrote:

I prefer Deft Danish Oil. It has more resins in it. It will have more of a sheen than Watco.
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I lucked upon a closeout at a going-out-of-business home center around here some years back, and picked up numerous gallons of Watco at 5 bucks a pop. Still working my way through the stuff. Never tried Deft, but I will. Thanks.
R
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mark wrote:

I'd use Behlen's Pore-O-Pac grain filler and block sand before finishing.
http://www.woodcraft.com/family.aspx?FamilyIDD92
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