I know a lot of you folks swear by the wipe ons like Waterlox and
ArmRSeal but I'm just swearing AT them. I cannot seem to get a smooth
even finish with either. That should make it obvious that the problem
is in my technique or the applicator. I've tried old, soft, cotton tee
shirts and old sweatshirts. Washed and dried them to be certain there
were no dust , lint or other particles imbedded. My first method was
to use a foam brush to apply to entire surface, then use soft cloth to
follow up and even out the finish. Results were streaky. I then tried
applying the finish with the cloth and again, after drying, streaks
were apparent. I've attempted several coats, sometimes steel wooling
in between, sometimes not but results haven't varied much. Any hints,
tips or guidelines you could share so I can finally put the kitchen
table in the kitchen where it belongs? Thanks
| I know a lot of you folks swear by the wipe ons like Waterlox and
| ArmRSeal but I'm just swearing AT them. I cannot seem to get a
| smooth even finish with either. That should make it obvious that
| the problem is in my technique or the applicator. I've tried old,
| soft, cotton tee shirts and old sweatshirts. Washed and dried them
| to be certain there were no dust , lint or other particles
| imbedded. My first method was to use a foam brush to apply to
| entire surface, then use soft cloth to follow up and even out the
| finish. Results were streaky. I then tried applying the finish with
| the cloth and again, after drying, streaks were apparent. I've
| attempted several coats, sometimes steel wooling in between,
| sometimes not but results haven't varied much. Any hints, tips or
| guidelines you could share so I can finally put the kitchen table
| in the kitchen where it belongs? Thanks
I've experimented a little with Minwax poly. I got best results when I
applied just enough to dampen the surface completely - and used
multiple thin coats. I applied with a heavy-duty paper towel and
sanded with #400 between coats.
I would guess that streaks might be an indication that you're applying
too much at a time.
DeSoto, Iowa USA
I have used General Finishes Arm-R-Seal form several years now.
The trick that works well for me is to make sure that I always work it
"wet" when I apply with a rag or brush. If you feel any "drag" at all you
are probably going to leave streaks.
When using this particular product I apply the first coat with a clean
cotton rag/t-shirt. I "do not" rewipe after applying unless I do it
immediately. The product tends to flow on its own however if you apply too
heavily you may want to give it a second "immediate quick" wipe. The trick
is to not put it on too thinly.
Then I let it set and cure and follow up with a fine Scotch Brite pad to
scuff the surface. From there I use a "QUALITY" foam brush to apply the
last coat. I know that quality and foam brush seem to be a contradiction
however Lowe's sells Wooster brand foam brushes and these are truly a cut
above the typical "stick in the foam rubber brush". These brushes can be
cleaned and reused many times. I typically can pour thinner on them 2 times
to clean and they are good for 5 or 6 more uses when using oil based
I too have not been completely satisfied with wiping this product for all
coats. As I said, I do like to wipe the first coat to seal the wood and
follow up with a single final foam brushed coat, it goes on heavy but
If you want a fool proof wipe on varnish I highly recommend Lawrence
McFadden "Gel" Varnish. You would have to try to screw up to mess up the
finish. With this product and most gel varnishes there are no drips, runs,
or problems with dust. The pieces can generally be lightly handled
immediately after application. The Lawrence McFadden brand is the best that
I have run across.
I've had a hard time with large flat surfaces with Arm-R-Seal. I
don't have any trouble with small items, but with something even like
a drawer front it seems like if I put on enough to keep from streaking
I get bubbles. I haven't been able to find that magic middle ground
I have no problem with the large flat horizontal or vertical surfaces
provided I use the good quality foam brush. The Wooster will hold a lot of
varnish. Typically, 2 or 3 dips in the varnish will cover 2 to 4 sq feet.
The trick is to wipe on that thin sealer coat, first.
What everyone else said, plus... I find I have problems with streaking when
I rush things and put a second coat on too soon.
Don't know why, but sometimes two hours is okay, other times it has to sit
And, someone recommended gel varnish; I tried Rockler gel varnish and it is
terrible. Haven't tried the one recommended.
Let me say this: When you're trying to finish a large project, ANYTHING
that slows you down, or starts to threaten that perfect image that's
been in your head for weeks is a serious threat. BTDT. T-shirts in the
In my case, I learned to 'pad' shellac by trial and error, on a large
project that had a serious time deadline. That taught me a number of
things, but mostly how to keep going quickly and keep a wet edge. And a
bunch of thin coats helped. But I bought a small Critter sprayer for
the next project like that.
Waterlox Original, though, is no problem at all for me. My big
challenge is letting it cure between coats, because I'm impatient. But
it works, and looks great, if I wait. At least on the woods I use.
My current favorite is McLoskey's Gloss Varnish, cut 30% with naptha,
and wiped on with a soft rag. On a large project, I can start at one
end, and when I'm finished, restart again. Two or three coats before I
have to quit and let it cure. But the surface gloss is soft, and I
don't have any brushes to clean, or overspray to worry about, and there
is no dust on the surface. It's all hand rubbed. If I want gloss, then
the last coat has to be kind of laid on, flowed on, from a very wet
rubbing pad, and left to self level. Not what I usually do.
Good luck with your dining table. I understand the stress. It's like
one more thing that can kill your project, right when everyone wants to
sit down to dinner...
I think each product and method has it's own nuance and trial and
error will really give you the best answer for your situation.
In my case, I only used an out of the can wipe-on for my very first
try. Even that (Minwax) I thinned more with mineral spirits. Since
then, I mix my oen, very this formula.
Yes, over wiping an already wiped area needs to done pretty soon. As
soon as it starts to tack up it is untouchable. But is sounds like it
is too heavy a coat from my experience.
I flow it on with a brush, usually foam but cheapo straw in a pinch.
Then I wipe it down with a teeshirt type cloth, folded to a nice,
unwrinkled pad about 3 x4 ". I try to leave the thinnest possible
amount behind but woory more about consistency than thickness of film.
With a very thinned potion, I have had Red Oak pieces suck it up so
much that my thin wipe downs seemingly vanished in a few hours and it
took 4 coats before I saw or felt any perceptible build. Evne so, I
have a piece I've kept (no body will buy it) and the minimal build I
ultimately got has held up for years and it gets frequent heavy wipe
downs where is sits as a work table in the kitchen.
One final thought if you have read all of this. Is the material well
mixed? Poly and spirts separate quickly and need a lot of initial
stiring to get mixed well and frequent re-stiring during application.
Maybe you have a mineral and poly situation like oil and watre and the
streaks are the reult of dried unmixed material, or even bad material
I used to use waterlox then I switched to mixing my own. 1/3 varnish,
1/3 tung or boiled linseed oil, and 1/3 turpentine. The trick is to
use many very thin coats. I usually poor a puddle on the surface and
rub it in with my bare hand. I usually recoat after about half hour
to an hour. Once I have a sufficient build up I let the project dry
for a couple of days, sand and then apply the final two coats. You
really only need to do a good job of applying the finish on the final
two coats. I usually use a foam brush for these final coats. Getting
too anal about the base coats is just extra work and a waste of time
since you are going to sand anyway.
For a large project spraying the finish is the way to go.
1/3 varnish, 1/3 oil and 1/3 turpentine gives a finish that is better
than waterlox. I usually just mix small batches in a small jar and
just eyeball the amounts. I usually mix the first batch thin to
penetrate the wood better. When I add to my application jar by
eyeballing the amounts I usually go heavier on the varnish to provide
a quicker build up after the initial coats. One the final two coats I
usually go heavy on the oil so the finish self levels better.
Waterlox or self mixed finishes are great for darker woods. For me
Water lox or any oil based finish is way to yellow for a blond wood.
For maple, alder, birch etc I usually use a water based poly or
sprayed on lacquer depending on the durability I need. The cans of
deft lacquer are great for small pieces and touch ups but much too
expensive for large projects.
I found that I need to be careful which varnish I used that way. I had a
batch I used on two projects take MONTHS to cure one California winter.
Brought it inside, and it still took another 6 weeks. I'm assuming it was
the varnish, but I've not tried it again.
Then again, who knows what they sell for certain varnishes in California,
with all the regulations. But that didn't cure for me for quite a while.
Looks pretty good 5 years later, though.
less willing to fuss with finishes than before...
This has been a while back, so I may be wrong, that happens from time to
time. I THINK it was a McCloskey Heirloom Semigloss.
But I've had NO trouble using McCloskey Gloss Spar varnish, thinned for
wiping. I'm not sure any more, really.
I use Helmans spar varnish. I live in central Oregon which is a very
dry climate (compared to western Oregon at least). After two days it
is dry enough to sand the base coats before putting the finish coats
on. I do apply very thin coats and a lot of them. Spar varnish is a
long molecular chain varnish which has several advantages including
ruggedness, UV protection and flexibility. It also takes longer to
dry than interior grade varnishes. (Spar varnish is made for exterior
use and boats).
I have always used turpentine as a thinner for this mixture instead of
mineral spirits. I don't find the smell of turpentine as
objectionable as mineral spirits. Maybe turpentine dries faster, I
I made my staircase out of Hard maple and Ipe'. I used hard maple for
the bulk of the railing and Ipe' for the hand rails. I also used Ipe'
to frame around the slate tile treads and risers. I finished all the
Ipe' portions with the varnish oil mixture. I finished the Maple
portions with deft lacquer from rattle cans as an oil finish on blonde
maple is objectionably yellow in my opinion. The varnish mixture was
dry and the stairs were navigable within 24 hours. The front edge of
the stair where the riser meets the tread (the highest wear spot) has
held up great for over two years now. (Two kids, a wife and a german
sheppard). I think the Ipe' is actually harder than the slate
treads. I see absolutely no signs of the finish wearing. If the
finish does wear I know I can just over coat it with a few very thin
coats of the same mixture to bring it back to life.
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