Should I just use a clear coat?

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Forum topic by Ripper70 posted 10-12-2017 07:49 PM 809 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Ripper70's profile


1377 posts in 1681 days

10-12-2017 07:49 PM

Hello All,

My dad passed away in March and I’ve just finished the build of a prototype of a cremation urn for his remains. I had a difficult time gearing up for this project and, after starting several other urns and scrapping them, I discovered a design online that I liked and thought was within the realm of my abilities.

I figured, since I’ve never attempted such a build, a prototype would be a good way to get all the mistakes out of the way since I had no plans and was working from a photograph. I had some Poplar and some Meranti scraps laying around and, since they offered some decent contrast, went ahead with the build. It came out fairly decent and now that I’ve got the method down, I can build another with some more appropriate materials that would rise to the importance of it’s contents.

However, until then, since I’ve put the effort into this box, I figured I could use it temporarily whilst making the final piece. So, I referenced LJ’s to get info on how to stain Poplar and came to the realization that the process of staining Poplar was complicated and the results could be well less than satisfactory.

Should I simply use a clear coat from a rattle spray can? Perhaps paste wax? I’m hoping to get some natural grain pop while avoiding the pitfalls of trying to change the character of the wood with stain.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


-- "You know, I'm such a great driver, it's incomprehensible that they took my license away." --Vince Ricardo

6 replies so far

View fivecodys's profile


1637 posts in 2408 days

#1 posted 10-12-2017 09:01 PM

First of all my condolences for the loss of your dad.

I built some cabinets this year for the garage and I used poplar. I tried a pre-stain and followed it up with a gel stain and it still looked blotchy. I did use rattle cans of lacquer for the clear coat and that seemed to work ok.
Your box is way to pretty to stain. How about a tongue oil or maybe a wipe on poly?
You could test it out on a scrap and see what you think.
I don’t have much experience with waxes so I’m no help there.

Let us know how it all turned out.

-- A bad day woodworking is still better than a good day working.

View Ripper70's profile


1377 posts in 1681 days

#2 posted 10-12-2017 10:44 PM

I tried a pre-stain and followed it up with a gel stain and it still looked blotchy.

- fivecodys

Thanks, Chem.

That’s exactly what I’m hoping to avoid. From all that I’ve read about finishing Polpar, the blotching is difficult to contend with. Perhaps the oil or wipe on poly will do the trick.

-- "You know, I'm such a great driver, it's incomprehensible that they took my license away." --Vince Ricardo

View doubleDD's profile


9465 posts in 2815 days

#3 posted 10-12-2017 11:47 PM

I have used wipe on poly on poplar projects before by first making sure it was sanded well. I had mixed feelings about the way it looked when finished. There was no blotchy look to it but just wasn’t what I wanted. I sprayed them with lacquer and liked the look much better. Most likely you will have to try both to decide what your preference is.
Don’t know if that helps but that’s the only experience I have with it.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

6241 posts in 3265 days

#4 posted 10-13-2017 10:45 AM

If you want to color that piece, you can avoid the blotch that’s common to polar. Seal the surface, then apply a gel stain. To seal it, apply a very thin coat of a finish…shellac might work best, since the oil in oil based finishes might also cause some blotch. Another approach might be to use a dye, though that is slightly more work. The dye might raise the grain, so you would have to remove the fuzzies (I apply a coat of finish and just sand it back, then another coat. Another thing about dyes is that using a waterborne finish on top of them can cause streaking if you don’t seal it with something like shellac. Or you could just apply a coat of shellac (or lacquer) from a rattle can and call it good. That’s a very nice piece, and there’s little doubt your father would be proud

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View richardchaos's profile


583 posts in 1152 days

#5 posted 10-13-2017 11:59 AM

I hate to STAIN anything. Clear coat 90% of the time

-- β€œIn a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” ― George Orwell

View OSU55's profile


2647 posts in 2762 days

#6 posted 10-13-2017 12:18 PM

For simple and quick a rattle can of lacquer or shellac. Both will end up close to the same color after a year or 2- some yellowing. Poplar does blotch, about as much as any wood, but it can be colored quite well. Read this – blotch control. Poly cut 1:1 with ms wiped on will work also. I would use a blotch control method with any finish on poplar except water clear wb, which will not pop the grain.

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