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Sticky poly

600 Views 12 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  bp2878
My first woodworking project was a dinning room table. I use gf Java gel stain on it with a water based poly over it. I hated the look of the satin wb poly but more importantly, everything stuck to the table. Playing cards, paper, etc. and when things stuck, you would pull them off leaving remnants on the table. We are currently refinishing the table and I'm wondering what a better option for top would be? The table is maple and we want to stain it for a light brown finish. I'm wondering if oil based poly will be a better look? I would like to do shellac, bought some for this but just read that it won't hold up to cleaners so that's not an option. I know this topic has probably been beat to death here and the options are endless but I figured I'd ask anyway. The last thing I want is to end up with another sticky tabletop! TIA!
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Try using the shellac as primer for the WB poly. That should work.
After applying poly leave it in the sun to help cure the finish.
How long did you wait between staining and topcoating?
After applying poly leave it in the sun to help cure the finish.

- Madmark2
April Fools Day was last month.
I suspect you did not give the stain long enough to dry completely before applying the poly. I don't know what they use in a "gel" stain but it takes time to dry out depending on conditions. Also Maple is not very absorbent of stain so the gel stain tends to remain on the surface. You can get your color by tinting the poly and skip the stain.

A partial cure for that is to apply a coat or even two of clear de-waxed shellac to seal the stain. Sand lightly with 320 grit and then apply which ever poly you choose. Easiest way to apply shellac is with a lint free cloth and wipe it on. It cleans up with household ammonia and water if you use a brush. After thinking about this you could tint you shellac too. It comes in a natural amber but the clear can be tinted with dyes to many colors. If you are going to apply a top coat over shellac it MUST be de-waxed.

Personally on a table I prefer to use a floor grade of water based poly. Three coats of that is almost bullet proof….sand lightly between coats. After is cures/drys for at least 10 days apply a carnauba paste wax with a white 3M pad or 0000 steel wool and buff as instructed on the container.

Tips on water based poly. It goes on best at temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees. Colder and it takes longer to dry and dust particles can settle into the finish. Warmer and it drys too fast and doesn't have time to level the brush strokes out. In a low humidity setting you may need to thin the poly with a little water so increase the leveling ability and drying time. That works at warmer tempratures too. You may need an additional coat if you thin the poly.
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Rich: WTF? Sunshine contains lots of UV and bakes the finish. Car paintshops do it for the same reason.
My understanding is that you should be able to apply WB poly over a fully cured oil based stain. However, I wonder if that is best practice. I think you may not have had a fully cured stain before applying the poly. I like madmark2's idea of putting it in the sun for a while to see if it all cures.
If you end up re-doing the table top using the same materials, I suggest that you apply a thin coat of shellac (SealCoat) over the gel stain before adding the WB poly. Your thought of applying an oil based poly is also a good one. It will have a somewhat warmer tone, but is a proven product and should work well over the oil based gel stain without the need for the shellac barrier coat.
My guess is your cleaning the table with something that has ammonia in it. Something you are using in the cleaner is the problem.
I think your going to have to use a finish with much higher solids that cannot be softened buy chemical cleaners.
One of my pet peeves is eating out at a restaurant with cheap sticky tables. Definitely a poly top coat.
Good Luck
+1 must give oil based stains a very long dry time when top coating with WB Finish.

+1 Nothing worse than sticky table finishes.
This is why commercial table mfg use a 2 part conversion varnish or 2 part polyurethane. They are harder, and more chemical resistant that a single part finish.

IMHO - you picked the most challenging project when it comes to finishing. Table tops that get used need a top of line commercial finish, not some random pick from a retail store.
I understand the natural desire to stop by wood working store, or big box store and buy finishing materials. For generic projects this perfect, but not table top surfaces. You really need to use 2 part finish on heavily used tables!
As you already shared: this topic has been beat to death. Search LJ for conversion varnish, Renner, or Milesi; if you want to read about some better options I recommend.

I think you should read back of the can. its says (Topcoat can be used as a sealer over paints and stains or as a clean finish. If you want to use a top coat the recommended topcoat is Oil Based Arm-R-Seal Urethane Topcoat (sold separately). Your problem is your putting water base product of oil base you can't do that. GF java gel stain is oil base so it has nothing to do that it maple.
I built an oak dining room table in 1999 and used oil based stain and oil based polyurethane and nothing has ever stuck to it or left marks on it other than some scratches. I might ad that we are not careful with this table either.
Thanks for all the great input. I have quite a few options to explore. I probably didn't wait long enough to apply the poly originally. I don't remember, but knowing me and my inpatients I likely applied it the following day rather than waiting on a full cure.
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