Finishing a rough sawn plank

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Forum topic by BudFox posted 06-11-2018 09:28 AM 597 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 586 days

06-11-2018 09:28 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing rustic question

I have a tubular steel frame that I thought would work as a coffee table base. I went out to get a glass or acrylic table top and I came back with a rough sawn wood plank. I am far away from my brother’s woodshop, so I thought I would put some finish on it and call it rustic.

Right now I have 4 coats of water based gloss poly on it, and have just about used up the pint. Having no idea what to expect, I think it looks better than I thought it would. Now what?

I have been using a white pad between coats. In the past, I have wet sanded oil based poly with 600 grit and been impressed by the results. But because this surface has so much texture, that doesn’t seem like it’s going to work. Also because of the texture, the high gloss is not too glossy, but I wouldn’t mind knocking down the sheen a little. Anyone done anything like this before and have any suggestions? Things I am wondering include…

How long do these pads last? When I have used steel wool in the past, I knew I needed new steel wool when the piece I was using had vanished. Do I need another color pad? Should be using a lot of elbow grease, or will I cut through finish on the high spots? Should I apply some kind of product, and rub it out? Wax? Polishing compound? Soapy water? Thanks in advance for anyone’s thoughts.

4 replies so far

View jmos's profile


917 posts in 2971 days

#1 posted 06-11-2018 12:17 PM

I would really recommend spending the time to sand out all the saw marks. I think the slab would look great sanded down. If you can’t do it yourself, you could probably find a shop that would run it through a drum sander for you inexpensively.

You’re never going to get an even finish with a surface that irregular; the sanding medium won’t be able to get down into the ‘valleys.’

If you really want to go this route, I think you’ll have to live with the finish off the brush. If you want a lower sheen, switch to a lower gloss version of the finish you’re using; satin maybe (it will have flatteners in it to reduce sheen.)

I would also avoid using steel wool with water based finishes; rust sucks.

-- John

View msinc's profile


567 posts in 1105 days

#2 posted 06-11-2018 01:14 PM

Well, if you like/want the look of the mill marks in the wood then do not sand them out. I do a lot of live edge stuff similar to what you have there. Many people want the rough saw marks so when I leave them there I always partially sand them to get the surface “smoother”, show some of the grain and still have the marks. You do not need to apply finish to the point that your table is completely smooth and flat with the finish.
I also do not sand in between every coat. I usually build up about 4 coats of satin MinWax poly brushed on before I sand it down to smooth it up. This is done with 220 grit sandpaper. I spray the final coat and at this point it is done. If it still appears to need some massaging at that point then I will go to steel wool or an even finer grit of sandpaper, 320 or maybe even 400, depending on what I have on hand at the time. Can it “look better” if you sand out all the saw marks? Maybe, but that depends on the look that you want. Once they are gone you cannot put them back. If you want the finished surface to be smooth as glass when you are done then you either need to sand it all smooth or plan on applying a lot of coats of finish. Good luck.

View waho6o9's profile (online now)


8811 posts in 3178 days

#3 posted 06-11-2018 01:33 PM

Leave well enough alone.

“I think it looks better than I thought it would. Now what?”

View BudFox's profile


2 posts in 586 days

#4 posted 06-11-2018 08:21 PM

Thanks everyone.

jmos – I’m not ruling out giving this thing a real sanding at some point, but that is going to have to be somewhere down the road. Maybe this coffee table is really a one piece storage rack. Agree about the steel wool

msinc – thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one who had an idea like this

waho6o9 – yup, that is great advice, I am almost there but I am still willing to learn a few things the hard way here.

If anyone wants to suggest a specific recipe for rubbing out this finish, I am still willing to experiment a little.

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