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Hi All,
New to the woodworking game. I built a nice red oak tv stand. Some ply, some solid. Sanded nicely with 120 grit RO sander. Went to Hallman Lindsey for stain. They mixed the color that the GF wanted. Told me to wipe it on. The shoot it with a thin coat of aersol poly. Then gel stain it. Then poly it as the instructions on the can say… OK…seems odd to me to poly before a gel stain, but these guys are pros at this….

Anyway, everything look awesome until I started with the brush on poly. I cleaned the wood very well with a tack cloth (not rag w/ spirits). Put first coat on, looked fine. Used natural bristle Wooster brush. Thought I was being careful about air bubbles. (I did this in my finished family room in basement so dust shouldn't have been an issue). After the first coat, I noticed a lot of little specks of either grit or bubbles in the finish. After I got over being pissed off, I sanded with 220 grit like the can said to. I quickly realized you cannot sand a whole lot without going right through the finish. Did my best and did a second coat. Looks even worse now. I'm rather upset because everything look great until I did this poly. I googled how to apply poly and there are 101 different ppl with 101 different methods.

A friend told me to rub it down with steel wool between coats. Another said wet sand with 600 grit. Anotehr said don't sand. Another said to wet sand at the end only and then use automotive rubbing compound. what is the best way for a guy without a air compressor fed sprayer to poly his creations and get a good looking blemish free surface? - BTW, its polyuerethane, satin.
 

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I typically thin the poly 50% with mineral spirits and wipe it on. Its much easier to control than brushing. The wood whisperer has a good video on it.

Not sure about the poly before the gel stain. I'm far from a finishing expert, but I dont think it would be a problem since the gel stain pigments just sit on top anyway and should bind to the poly as long as you sanded with 220 first . That said, not sure what any benefit of doing that would be either…
 

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Thin it maybe 25% with mineral spirits or naphtha and wipe it on with a rag. Once I tried wipe on poly, I have not gone back to brush on. If you want a really thick finish this way you will need extra coats (since its diluted) but after about 3 coats the surface is sealed pretty darn good. Some people think they need 10 coats but I can't imagine that.

I'm sure this is in the 101 methods you have seen already. Also, I was always told you HAVE to sand between coats of poly. Since it sets up as a film and once set is non-soluble, you need the sanding scratches to make sure the two layers stick together.

-Brian
 

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I've had some issues with finishing in the past using Minwax products. I shot them an email and within 24 hours they replied and got me back on track. Maybe try contacting them…
 

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You definitely got a lot of advise, and as you found out one person's formula may not work for you. I would do my best to sand it out and start over. Follow the original instructions, but thin out the poly so it self levels and flows easier. The gel stain after a layer of poly would be considered a glazing technique and it will help give you a nice even look. A light 220 sanding after each layer makes each layer bond. After the gel stain dries for 24 hours, then use a wipe on poly or a wiping varnish (which includes urethane) building it up with at least 3 coats will you give you a great looking finish. Good Luck !
 

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1 - Maybe I missed it, but, is the poly waterborne or solvent based?
2 - Is it two different stains or the same stain applied twice?
3 - One of the biggest problems people have with finishing is that they mix too many different chemicals together. Stain, then poly, then different stain, then poly?!? Asking for a problem in my opinion.
 

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The easiest and most foolproof method is to use the wiping technique explained earlier (thin varnish 1-1 with MS, and wipe on). But where are you at now? Has the stain been damaged or you just need a smooth top coat?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The poly is solvent based. I did not dilute it. I stained the wood with two stains mixed (identical, but different shades). Sprayed with aersol poly. Gel stained. 1st coat of brush on poly. Tried to sand with 220, but I could hardly sand it without biting right through the poly and gel stain. I've done some auto body work before, and this was sooooooo touchy. I even checked my sandpaper to make sure I didn't get 120 by accident. So, after I tiptoed around sanding everything, I wiped it down with a dry wipedown cloth, then put the second coat on. This one looked worse in regards to dust/bubbles. They are very small specks, so I can't tell if its dirt or bubbles.

I ended up assembling the tv stand because we kind of needed it. It's not super noticeable and the gf loves it, but I'd like to figure out what in the world to do next time so its a cleaner finish. I would have liked to sand it more, but I just could not. After I bit through the finish in a hidden spot I had to just BARELY sand it.

I see some ppl use a 3m pad to get the grit out - I might go grab a scrap piece and run it through the same process and 3m pad it and see how it looks. Really gunshy to try it on the stand because it's an apothecary type stand with 24 7×7 fake drawer fronts on it and I'd cry if I screwed one of them up and had to start over.
 

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Some photos. if you look close you can see the crap in the finish. Something just doesn't seem right with the "lightly sand with 220 grit". I wetsand aluminum to a mirror finish all the time on my motorcycle. This was like drag the paper across it one, maybe two, 3 your getting brave now times with only enough pressure on the paper to keep it sliding. If you look at the main cabinet pic, dead center face frame on top - you'll see where my partner sanded a little too much and went right now through the 2 coats of poly and stain to the wood. I was able to touch it up thank god. BTW - I know some things look a little primitive, but it's my first go around.

Cabinetry Drawer Dresser Wood Rectangle


Brown Wood Rectangle Fixture Wood stain


Brown Wood Flooring Amber Floor
 

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One question. When you were sanding between coats, did you hand sand or power sand? As I understand it, you are trying to lightly abrade the surface so that the next coat has something to grab onto.

I've had good success with the 50/50 diluted wiping formula, but have decided to switch to Rustoleum Ultimate Polyurethane. Much easier to work with and it's a water based solution.
 

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I've had issues with Minwax stain before, but not their polyurethane. Was it semi-gloss, flat or something else? The farther away you get from gloss, the more crap they put in the mixture to make it less shiny. I've seen it in the bottom of a can before, but though against using it. The last picture you posted sure looks like bigger chunks of something that I certainly wouldn't expect to find in a can of poly. I did once have issues with Old Masters and the paint from the lip of the can started flaking and ended up in the can, fortunately, only one small speck made it onto the project I was working on and it was in a non visible area so I left it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
It was satin. I did not notice anything in the can. Frustrating part is the thing was built and sanded in the garage. we then moved everything indoors in my family room to prevent dust and debris.

I kind of have my doubts they are bubbles…it looks like I dropped my brush in my lawn and then picked it up and kept using it.
 

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Poly is tricky and I'm by no means an expert but some things I learned in the couple projects I used it on. Thin coats and a lot of em! I dont think I'd brush it on for fear of mopping too much on the wood. Your goal is to just make it wet and its a slow road to being done. Make a ball of cotton from a shirt to apply. Thinning with ms would probably help like others have said but I use it right from the can. Mix it like crazy before you use it and while you use it. The satin especially. You have to get the crap off the bottom for the satin effect. The gloss flows a lot better and is easy to work with in my opinion. I like using it 10 times better than the satin. You could always build the finish with gloss and do one final top coat of satin for the same effect. I also only sand to get rid of surface impurities with 320. Sanding for bonding seems like overkill but this is just one guy talking. I have put 10 coats on a box without doing that and it worked just fine. I'd be interested to see what people are saying the constant sanding prevents because I have yet to experience it. Make sure the coats dry completely in between. Depends on your humidity level and thickness it could take a day or 2. I know it says you can slap on successive coats quickly but not in my experience and humidity level. It neber hurts to wait extra. Patience is key. If you put in a coat and it gets gummy your previous coat isn't dry yet. All that said my last larger piece I went with deft spray for my finish. Goes on evenly on larger surfaces and your not fighting the drying time, get inside corners easily etc. Sorry I dont have any advice salvaging what you have but for the future maybe this will help. Maybe someone else here will give you the golden nugget to fix your situation. My dad always told me test your complete finish on scrap first. It burns a lot of time waiting for each coat to dry but can save you a lot of headache. :/
 

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Is that wood or veneer?
Get some w/d 600 grit if your just putting tooth on the finish.that way you have to try to sand though the finish. the bubbles look more like the wood bubbling than the finish,like that spot shown didn't get sanded down.and the paper can leave grit behind embedded in the wood,which is another advantage to sanding finer and finer each grit can pull out larger grit.
 

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Is that wood or veneer?
Get some w/d 600 grit if your just putting tooth on the finish.that way you have to try to sand though the finish. the bubbles look more like the wood bubbling than the finish,like that spot shown didn't get sanded down.and the paper can leave grit behind embedded in the wood,which is another advantage to sanding finer and finer each grit can pull out larger grit.
 

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I got to agree with just about everyone else here. I've used Miniwax fast dry poly gloss with great results. I've been using a piece of Polyester fabric folded a couple of times anywhere from 3" to 6" inside a piece of women's pantyhose. Yeah, I know sounds kinda weird but it doesn't leave any lint and can be used like a squeege to lay out a flat coat with very little air bubbling. The other thing about that poly is that it is self leveling and that can be a real PITA (Pain in the A$$). Best of luck!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
The parts that I had the biggest issue with was all the 7×7 drawer fronts, which is solid red oak. The plywood doors weren't as bad, but it was there. The vertical walls of the cabinet though were ok…weird

Does anyone think its odd that I could not hardly sand at all and I'd go right through the finish and even start to take some stain off?
 
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