Lack of Control

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Review by T. D. Reid posted 03-16-2012 12:52 AM 10059 views 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Lack of Control No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I just finished a twin size bed out of quarter-saw white oak in the Arts and Crafts style. During the planing stage I had noticed that I was low on my usual finish supplies and needed to order more before I started. Before doing so I stopped by my favorite big box store and checked out what was on the shelves in the finishing section. Low and behold Minwax add a new color to their line of Polyshades called Mission oak in Satin or Gloss, so I gave it a shot. Here is the review;
Pro’s – it was priced well, at under $10 for a quart. It covered well even on raw wood only requiring two coats. The first coat had a green tint to it and Minwax recommends that is sets for six hours before applying the second coat. The second coat was dark as displayed in the store and it dried very fast (temperature was 76 degrees with low humidity). I followed the manufactures recommendation and stopped using it when I had achieved the color that I wanted. I then added only one coat of wipe on poly (also by Minwax) finishing it off with 00 steel wool and Black Bison wax.
This was my first time using polyurethane and stain combination and I should have practiced with it on a test piece to see how it would react. It’s key to take your time and follow the instructions on how to use the product because when I started using very little amounts on the brush as Minwax suggests the better it did.
In defense of Minwax I used this product on a wood that wasn’t displayed in the store sample. If I had used a flat sawn oak then maybe it would have turned more like the display sample. Something to consider before using this is that it is a combination of stain and finish and if you’re not used to this then it may feel like you don’t have control.
For me I will be going back to my tried and true finishing technique. Marc Spagnuolo aka Wood Whisper say’s in his book Finishing it ain’t over till it’s over, “find something that works for you and stick with it”. Marc I should have listened to you.

-- Head to the shop its calling you – Todd

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T. D. Reid

275 posts in 3114 days

15 comments so far

View Manitario's profile


2816 posts in 3652 days

#1 posted 03-16-2012 01:40 AM

Personally, I try to avoid woodworking with “Satan”, lol. I know what you mean about the Polyshades though, I used it once, and never again.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View KMT's profile


603 posts in 3432 days

#2 posted 03-16-2012 03:42 AM

Thanks for the info, good review.

-- - Martin

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3692 days

#3 posted 03-16-2012 08:08 AM

No more polyshades for me either. Was not impressed with it. I do like their other products.

-- Life is good.

View T. D. Reid's profile

T. D. Reid

275 posts in 3114 days

#4 posted 03-16-2012 10:43 AM

I sure am glad to know that it’s not just me that doesn’t care for the combination finish. Its sounds like a great idea and it’s cheaper than buying one quart of stain and one quart of poly. But, if doesn’t turn out the way you want it then wants the point. Cheers

-- Head to the shop its calling you – Todd

View Ken Fitzpatrick's profile

Ken Fitzpatrick

376 posts in 4793 days

#5 posted 03-16-2012 11:25 AM

Agreed. While it seems easier at first, the polyshades are very difficult to control the color even on the wood that they show samples of. If you have stored it for any amount of time over a month, you might as well toss it unless you don’t care what the finished product looks like. I have used Minwax over the years and really like some of their products. Polyshades is just not one of them.

-- • "I have noticed that nothing I have never said ever did me any harm."....... Calvin Coolidge

View Everett1's profile


223 posts in 3304 days

#6 posted 03-16-2012 02:57 PM

I have only made one project with stain, Minwax red oak. I have vowed to never use stain again, I figure if I want a certain color, i’ll get the material of that color

-- Ev

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3838 days

#7 posted 03-16-2012 03:33 PM

I’ve used Polyshades on 3-4 projects and am less than thrilled with it. I typically use foam brushes and find it difficult to get an even color. I plan to try spraying it on some scrap to see if that works better.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Bertha's profile


13588 posts in 3463 days

#8 posted 03-16-2012 03:37 PM

Polyshades is the devil. The only project it even came close to not ruining was an old bedframe with an almost ebonized finish. I used a dark walnut or something similar to just brighten it up a bit. I stay away from that stuff like the plague. 1 star or less.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View MakerofSawdust's profile


35 posts in 3386 days

#9 posted 03-16-2012 05:24 PM

Hey guys – it should be no surprise that it was hard to get an even color. It’s in the name. We thought the ‘poly’ in polyshades was referring to polyurethane. I think in was reallyreferring to poly -meaning multiple. You get multiple shades. I am also in the group of “looked promising, tried once, never again.”

-- - Kevin from Cincinnati. All my work is guaranteed: Three minutes or three feet; whichever comes first.

View Mosquito's profile


10287 posts in 3062 days

#10 posted 03-16-2012 06:36 PM

Hmm… Interesting reading here.

I used polyshades only once myself as well. I wouldn’t say I’d “never” use it again, but I will admit that my initial thought was “that doesn’t look like something I’d like to use” and that it’s true, I didn’t really like using it. I was happy with the results though, and have no complaints there.

I used the Black polyshades on a set of 3 little knick knack shelves for my girlfriend. She wanted them to be black to match the [cheap] book case and tv stand she got at [box store]. I still wanted it to show some of the grain patterns (red oak) so I used Polyshades black gloss instead of painting them. It worked fine with 3 coats, but still not something I would do to an otherwise good piece of wood…

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View PRGDesigns's profile


250 posts in 3083 days

#11 posted 03-17-2012 05:19 AM

One and done, kinda like Duke and Mizzou…....

-- They call me Mr. Silly

View T. D. Reid's profile

T. D. Reid

275 posts in 3114 days

#12 posted 03-17-2012 12:01 PM

I’m glad that everyone enjoyed the review; I was scared at first to give a marginal review. I feel much better about it now that I get everyone’s feedback.
I would however really like to hear back from Sawkerf after you attempt to spray it on even though I don’t think he will get better results. I say that because I know pigments in oil are only suspended not dissolved unlike the pigments added to water based stain that dissolve and thus get deeper into the wood when they are applied. That’s why when I applied the polyshades the color pigments were dragged across the surface giving an uneven color. Spraying may resolve the uneven color.
Thanks again everyone, it civil conversations like this one that makes LJs a really great community to belong too. I have quiet other communities because of the immature attacks on people that post comments and butt kissing that goes on in them but you don’t find that here. My hat is off to the folks who run LJs and my fellow members. Cheers

-- Head to the shop its calling you – Todd

View Dusty56's profile


11858 posts in 4457 days

#13 posted 03-17-2012 03:11 PM

I would have stopped after the first swipe of the brush on a TEST piece before going forward on an entire project. I tried the polyshades once and returned the can after making a test piece. Never again!!
What made you decide to put even more Poly (plastic) on it afterwards ?
Your project picture looks like you spent a lot of time getting all of the details right , but the cheap plastic look doesn’t go with your craftsmanship : )
It’s kind of sad to know that there is QSWO under that : (
JMHO : )
Rated 4 stars ????

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View D1st's profile


291 posts in 3809 days

#14 posted 03-18-2012 04:09 AM

It would be nice to get some advice from a minwax rep on this forum. Maybe We are just using it wrong. Im like you though. Done.


View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3066 days

#15 posted 03-25-2012 08:35 PM

Hmm, the comment that follows yours seems to negate what you had just finished saying you appreciated about this site. I think it’s unfair to deride someone for applying a finish that didn’t work out as hoped. It’s hard to judge the actual piece by a photograph taken in a garage. In the scheme of things it just seems small.

Back to the piece – usually buffing with steel wool and waxing gives a nice low luster to a piece. Maybe you just need to pick up some extremely fine sandpaper (wet/dry), or courser steel wool before using the four 0 stuff. Take that acrylic look down a bit farther.

Staining is an art form, especially with soft woods. I wonder how a pre stain treatment meant to limit blotchiness would react with that Polyshades. But in my mind a colorant suspended in a clear acrylic vehicle could never really absorb into the wood. And each subsequent layer would just compound the situation. If it was a tinted shellac that might work, as the applied shellac softens the layer underneath.

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