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Like many woodworkers, finishing has never been my favorite part of any project. I know that it is my own ignorance about the subject that gives me pause. Unfortunately, despite lots of research, I have failed to de-mystify the process. My last big project was my second Hal-Taylor rocking chair. Although I was pleased with the outcome of the chair build itself, I was disappointed with the results of the finish. The chair was built from an extraordinary slab of Claro Walnut. It has some really lovely grain figure, including a fair amount of tiger striping. I expected the finish to really make it "pop". It looks okay, but it isn't the quality I expected. Frankly, it looks a little cloudy and dull. I followed the directions closely on all the products I used, which included Minwax walnut stain, followed by Cystalac grain fill, then about 5 coats of Wipe-on polyurethane. I am disappointed enough in the results that I have resolved to "refinish" the chair. I am prepared to sand it back to bare wood, and start over, but do I need to do that? Is there something I can do to salvage the finish that is already on there? If I do go back to bare wood, what would be the recommended finishing process to get that eye popping look and visual depth of the grain that Sam Maloof's chairs were always known for. I've got some spare wood left from this project that I could try some different methods on.
 

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Might just need additional coats of the product to get what you want instead of starting over. Let dry little longer and wipe hard with clean cloth. Did you use oil or waterborne wipe on poly?

Lot of commercial wipe on oil poly products require more coats because of amount of Solvent in the product. Basically wipe on Poly-Varnish should contain no more than 60% solvent. Really have to read can or MSDS ingredient list to figure it out. Oil based product easier than waterborne products finding solvents.

Homemade oil wiping poly-varnish (resins) easy to mix yourself need equal parts resin to equal amount of solvent or 50-50 mix. Two coats should equal one coat of film finish. Waterborne product cannot use a 50-50 mix, but can thin product water a little. I always pour waterborne finish into a mixing cup and have never used more than half or one ounce of water to thin waterborne product.
 

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I got this from another site about Maloof's finish:

"It is a mixture of one-third linseed oil, one-third raw tung oil, and one-third semigloss urethane varnish. I apply it generously and then rub it off completely so there isn't a wet spot left anywhere. I let it sit overnight and then add another coat. The process is repeated about 4 times. Then I make a batch of finish that is half linseed oil and half tung oil with some shredded beeswax mixed in. I put two coats of that finish on, and the chair's finished, ready to be used."

I believe that your mistake is the stain which has the tendency to muddy the grain.

Good luck.
 

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I think that finishing takes a lot of patience and some trial and error. One should always practice with either a new wood or new finish or stain.

I know that many people are so anxious to complete a project that they tend to rush through the finishing step. One should just plan for the extra time it takes. For me, I use a lot of mineral base poly and know that it will take a day or so for the stain to dry, and then a day or so for the first coat to dry and then a day between each coat. I know that some can do it faster but it depends on your drying conditions.
 

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I haven't seen it, but when I read your finishing steps and saw, "all the products I used, which included Minwax walnut stain", I really did not need to look further.
For me, walnut stain is something I would use to make something else look similar to walnut.
Or, possibly applied selectively in areas to make sap wood blend in with heart wood.

I'm not too sure that you can get the true beauty back that was there before staining.
Depends on how deep the stain penetrated.
 
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