Polishing techniques

Hello,
This is the third and last (for now) of my series of posts concerning the refurbishing of the new maplewood table i just bought, and for which i want to redo the varnish.
I know the polishing step, after applying a varnish on wood, is often disregarded by some newbie hobbyists, which generally just apply two-three of varnish (while sanding slightly between coatings to increase adherence of the varnish), and then consider the job done.
However, i know that the proper way to achieve professional results is to somehow polish the surface after it has been varnished. I've got a couple of questions about the polishing step. Should i polish only after the last coat of varnish has been applied, or should i polish the suface between each coat of varnish? Should i do some sort of polishing after the stained the wood (before applying the varnish), to even out the irregularities in the staining job? I remember the only time i applied stain on wood, i did it with a pieces of kitchen cloth, and the result was pretty uneven...... Is it because i did a bad job or because i didn't somehow polish the stained wood?
Also, what kind of fabric or material should i use for this polishing step? I mean, what kindda of material should i get to attach to my sander/polisher to do the polishing job?
thanks fred
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It's called rubbing out the finish.
Each coat should be made as perfect as possible before proceeding to the next. Sanding with 220 Grit sand paper is sufficient. If it is not perfect you'll find yourself trying to remove flaws that are buried two or three layers deep in varnish,
Problems with staining can usually be traced to either uneven sanding or trying to stain an untreated wood that is naturally splotchy when stained, pine and cherry for example.
Normally rubbing out a finish is done with a felt pad. A separate one for each grit. Old fashion felt lack board erasers work well. If you get into the automotive products a lint free cotton cloth will work. Old tee shirts for example.
Note, don't get frustrated with the process. Due to the fact that varnish is more scratch resistant then shellac or lacquer and rubbing out a finish is a process of making finer and finer scratches on a finish, varnish probably isn't the best finish to cut your teeth on but it can be done with perseverance and elbow grease.
Good luck.
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Mike G.
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you are saying i have to sand the stain, am i understanding correctly? wouldn't sanding the stain remove the stain from the wood? how many coats of stain do i need to apply?
thanks fred
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No you do not have to sand the stain. What I mean is that if the surface of the wood is not sanded evenly and carefully with the same level of grit paper it will give you staining problems. Many stains contain pigments meant to lodge in cracks, crevices, and sanding scratches to give the color to your piece. If you do not do a good job of having the whole surface sanded evenly more pigments will collect in rougher areas then in smoother areas and ruin the look. This goes double for cross grain sanding marks or scratches. They will really stand out.
As an example, if you took three pieces of a wood like hard maple, a fairly dense wood with very tight pores, and sanded one piece to 150 grit, another to 220 grit and the last to 600 grit then applied stain evenly on all three, you would find the 150 grit was darker then the 220 grit and you would be lucky if you ended up with any color on the 600 grit because, when you wiped off the excess, there would be almost nothing for the pigment to get trapped by so they would, for the most part, be completely wiped off also..
You apply stain as often and as much, following the directions on the packaging, as is needed to give you the look you want. Just remember this stuff isn't suppose to be paint.
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Mike G.
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