Red Oak and Poly

Finishing my stair treads and risers with clear polyurethane. I sanded up to 220 and the surface was very smooth to the touch. After 3 coats of poly (4 coats on treads), the touch isn't really smooth. I can actually fell parts of the grain and was wondering if that's normal or not. Perhaps I'm expecting a smooth glass like touch to finishes such as shellac or lacquer but uncertain with poly. Is this normal? If so, what are opinions about lacquer over a poly finish?
Thanks
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Meanie wrote:

My suggestion (and who the hell am i?) would be to lightly sand one stair riser with 320-400, apply 2 or more coats of poly (separately), and see if there is a significant difference. If you like the result, you can repeat on the rest of the stuff, or not. Good luck!
Bill
I can actually fell parts of the grain and was wondering

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On 10/16/2018 7:13 PM, Bill wrote:

I have small pieces from what I cut and experimented with the finish before I began the actual fitted pieces. I can always play around with that.
Thanks
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You might not want the tread to smooth, the grain provides texture and friction. Would say with red oak it is normal.
Lacquer I would forego, the poly will wear better than lacquer.
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On 10/16/2018 8:41 PM, Markem wrote:

I was thinking about the texture issue. I agree with you. Perhaps I'll leave it since it's really not that bad. I just thought it was supposed to be smooth as I stated.
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On 10/16/2018 7:04 PM, Meanie wrote: I can actually fell parts of the grain and was wondering if that's normal or not.

Obviously that should be "feel"
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On 10/16/18 6:04 PM, Meanie wrote:

Oak has very wide grain and deep pores. The poly will follow these hills and valleys like snow falling on bumpy ground. The only way to get a smooth, perfectly flat surface finish is to level sand and build coats.
This is done all the time with lacquer, but I don't know if it works with poly. The problem with poly is that each successive coat sits on top of the one underneath. So if you sand through a coat, you get rings/lines like a topographical map showing where the top coat is worn through.
With lacquer, each sort of "melts in" to the one underneath, creating, in essence, one thick coat instead of several individual coats built up, so it's easier to level sand to fill pores and grain.
I'm not a finish expert and I'm not very good with poly, so there may be a proper technique for filling pores and grain and level sanding with poly as well.
I also may not have all of the exact details correct, but I'm pretty sure I got the gist of it right.
--

-MIKE-

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On 10/16/2018 9:39 PM, -MIKE- wrote:

The gist is a good explanation. Thank you
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On Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at 8:39:42 PM UTC-5, -MIKE- wrote:

Actually... you got all of it right! Build coats with lacquer? Check. Witn ess lines from sanding through coats of poly? Check. More effort than it is worth to build enough product to smooth out porous nut woods? Check.
Today's poly has a place in everyone's arsenal. My favorite finish to spra y is a cross-linked polyurethane conversion lacquer, and you can build that . But polys from the store... in most cases, no. There are commericial pr oduct available like ML Campbell that you can build, but they are not for t he inexperienced. Even with the folks that know what they are doing (ahem. ..) you just can't reasonably get enough product down to fill pores and lea ve a smooth surface.
In the old days, you made an applicator and applied different fillers befor e using a finish. Now, we use Behlen's Pore o Pac (sp?) and follow the ins tructions. It is actually a superfine crystalline structure (most likely a super fine pumice or something similar)that is a used before applying fini sh. Applied as per instruction, it works great under just about any finish .
BTW, building poly is a fool's errand. Read the instructions on the produc t about application thickness, times to recoat, etc. Almost everyone I kno w including my "pro" coworkers apply poly incorrectly. If you miss your wi ndow to recoat, as you noted, you will get witness lines that show the coat s. Poly will resolvate (in its window) just enough to grip the underlying coat. Second coat is normally in 8 hours. So if you put a coat on in the afternoon, then put a second coat on the next day you have already compromi sed your finish. And since you cannot "build" coats of poly, it is recomme nded to stop at two coats, with a 4-5 thousands thick coat each time. More coats or thicker coats will not allow the poly to outgas so that it can pr oper cure.
Sand, put on the pore o pac, then finish as normal.
Anyway... good post! Nailed it!
Robert
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On 10/16/2018 7:04 PM, Meanie wrote:

First, your shoes, socks, feet will never notice, other than a miniscule amount of non-slip surface.
Next, finish is not designed to smooth surfaces. If you want to have glass smooth wood, then you need to get it there before you apply finish. They sell wood putty and grain fillers specifically for this purpose.
Oak and walnut have large pores and open grain, and wood filler is always needed for glass finish. Maple and cherry have tight grain, and filler not really needed for glass finish. You don't need glass finish on stairs, but if you want it, that's how you get it. Personally, I prefer open grain wood like oak to maintain that open grain look, so rarely to never use wood filler even on furniture let alone stairs.
Next, I would not put lacquer over anything, it dissolves most everything and would likely result in a real mess.
Last think: see first above.
Bonus thing: if you plan on ever walking down the steps in your socks, don't let your wife wax/oil the steps. DAMHIK!
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Jack
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On 10/17/2018 9:19 AM, Jack wrote:

I'll leave it as is, sans wax.
Thanks for the input.
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I've done a lot of red oak + poly furniture and floors, and it's always going to come out "bumpy" like that because red oak is a very open grain wood. Don't bother trying to "build" poly on it, it's not worth the effort. If you really want a mirror finish on RO (you don't on stairs) you need to use a grain filler first (i.e., shellac, filler, shellac, poly) but that's a lot of work, and poly is the wrong topcoat for a mirror finish anyway (can't polish it the way you can other top coats).
I've only ever done a mirror finish on red oak once, and it took weeks, and it wasn't quite a "mirror" anyway: http://www.delorie.com/wood/desk/photos/img_1986.html
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On 10/17/2018 12:48 PM, DJ Delorie wrote:

Nice work.
Thanks for input.
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On 10/16/2018 6:04 PM, Meanie wrote:

Yes, until the thickness of the finish equals the width of the grain holes you are going to feel the holes.
If the finish is simply rough, wrap a piece of paper around a block of wood and tub over the surface, it should smooth the surface significantly.

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On 10/19/2018 4:01 PM, Leon wrote:

Interesting. I'll try that. Thank you
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