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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
- 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>
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
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
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.
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.
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
Or should I be wet sanding and then Endusting?
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.