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?
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!
I can actually fell parts of the grain and was wondering
Oak has very wide grain and deep pores.
The poly will follow these hills and valleys like snow falling on bumpy
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
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.
"Playing is not something I do at night, it's my function in life"
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
Sand, put on the pore o pac, then finish as normal.
Anyway... good post! Nailed it!
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
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!
Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.
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:
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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