Help with Wipe-On Poly over Paint

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by dakremer posted 08-08-2011 03:56 AM 32329 views 0 times favorited 57 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View dakremer's profile


2748 posts in 3948 days

08-08-2011 03:56 AM

Topic tags/keywords: nightstand wipe on poly paint aspen

Hey guys. I’m trying to finish this little nightstand I built for my fiance for one of her birthday presents. She is not into fine woodworking and likes the “ikea” look – that is, no wood grain/looks like plastic. I made it out of clear aspen because I wanted to avoid knots and didnt want to spend that much money on it.

Because she likes the “Ikea” look – I sanded the nightstand up to 220, I put three coats of FLAT spray-paint (black) on it, and let it dry the appropriate amount of time. I then sanded it with 600 Grit, and got my air compressor out and removed all the dust from it. I then put on ONE coat of wipe-on poly so far. I would like to put at least 2-3 coats on it so it gives it that nice glossy/smooth plastic look (that she likes so much). After about 2-3 hours, I went back into the shop to check on it, and saw that it was really streaky on the top and sides. Is this normal? Will more coats of poly cover this up??? I just want to check with you guys before I move on to putting another coat of Poly on. I dont want to have to scrap this project. Any help would be appreciated.

This is my first time trying to do a nice paint finish. Did I do this correctly? Should I have done something different? What do you guys do to get that nice glossy/smooth Paint finish? When I’m all done putting coats of poly on it – how do I buff it out to give it that nice glassy/glossy/smooth look? Thanks a lot in advance!

PS…i just lightly screwed the knob on the front to see what it is going to look like…..i did not finish it with the knob on it! :) i also did not finish the drawer while it was in the stand…..

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

57 replies so far

View Adam's profile


46 posts in 4010 days

#1 posted 08-08-2011 04:17 AM

I have never put poly over paint but had a similar problem with wipe on poly. I came to the conclusion that summer heat & humidity had caused the streaky finish.


View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 3916 days

#2 posted 08-08-2011 04:44 AM

Let me guess is it water base poly?

View dakremer's profile


2748 posts in 3948 days

#3 posted 08-08-2011 05:38 AM

hey Steve. Not sure. Its all from a big box store. Regular flat spray paint, and wipe on poly from Lowes. Spray paint isn’t oil based is it? so if it is a water based poly, that shouldnt matter? I will check tomorrow to see which products I used…maybe I’ll post some pictures of them

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View Luke's profile


546 posts in 4150 days

#4 posted 08-08-2011 06:01 AM

I would think that krylon and minwax would work well together. That what you used?

-- LAS,

View DrDirt's profile


4614 posts in 4598 days

#5 posted 08-08-2011 06:13 AM

THe spray paint is likely oil based – so long as it was dry the poly shouldn’t matter (water or oil based).
If it was oil over oil – maybe the streaks are that the poly redisolved a bit of the paint.
I think the only was to sort it out will be an additional coat – it will either be OK or still look streaky, and you would need to sand :-(
You might try spray on poly (spray can or gun) – as it won’t “disturb” the layer underneath.

Look forward to what you find out. When we did this in finishing – using Arti Water based dyes to make the wood black – we sealed with a spray coat of shellac – before building a finish.
Using Oak we did:
2 coats spray lacquer
Then we mixed some gel varnish with Mixol colors – and made a colorwash – in Red or Blue which when wiped on just colored the deep grain of the oak
Then sprayed clear lacquer over it. Goal is to be subtle…hard to photograph with the high gloss – but here it is Red – just the black – blue and white

Througout the class the theme seemed to be that Shellac was our best friend.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View tomd's profile


2218 posts in 4626 days

#6 posted 08-08-2011 07:25 AM

Here’s my 2 cents, almost all spray cans are lacquer based, therefore you have put a lacquer finish on the wood, and a clear lacquer finish should top it. I have however ran into a few water based spray cans but they are usually labeled very clearly water base. If it dryed very fast and smelled harsh it was probably lacquer, poly will not lay over lacquer for very long.

-- Tom D

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 4015 days

#7 posted 08-08-2011 08:00 AM

Ouch, not good!

My guess is that the solvent (mineral spirits) in the poly (which is quite a bit in the wipe-on products) dissolved portions of the spray paint, which also uses mineral spirits as a solvent. The streaks are likely from finger pressure during the wiping…it wouldn’t take much too desolve a thin layer of spray paint.

Anytime you wipe on a product over the top of something else that uses the same solvent, well, time to strip it down and start over. This happens all the time with stains. If you wipe on something with the same solvent, it will pick up the pigments in the stain and move it around. This is why spraying is often better for such things, though you could solve that issue in the first place by using wipe-on products over something that does NOT have that same solvent. For example, you could use something like an ebony dye (mixed with water or alcohol) and THEN your poly. Dye is better anyway since it cannot be dissolved (it already was dissolved in the first place). Or, you could have been safe by using a seal coat of dewaxed shellac between the paint and poly layers. Or, you could have mixed some black dye into your poly and wiped that on.

Poly builds upon existing coats…it doesn’t work like a lacquer whereby coats melt the coats underneath it. So, putting more poly on will likely make things worse. However, the good news is that if you DO mix some black dye into your poly, then you’ll fix your problems. Basically, the tinted poly will cover the streaks underneath. Heck, I’ve mixed Minwax Ebony stain in poly and got exactly the same look you are describing. I normally coat with a plain coat of poly (or two) over the top.

If you wanted to use spray paint, for your application, you should have used a gloss black enamel spray paint. Enamel paints are designed to be very tough and durable on their own…and putting anything over the top of them will, in fact, cloud up the glossy finish. You wouldn’t need the poly.

Hope this helps!

-- jay,

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 4015 days

#8 posted 08-08-2011 08:04 AM

BTW, you can always see what the solvent is by reading the label. If it says you can clean up your brushes with mineral spirits, then you know what the solvent is, right? Most of your typical spray paint cans clean up with mineral spirits…all the ones in my shop are that way.

-- jay,

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 3496 days

#9 posted 08-08-2011 11:45 AM

Deft spray gloss lacquer would have been better… and over gloss spray paint (of which I recommend the Rustoleum Universal). That black is so hard and shiny you may even skip the clear gloss over it.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

25197 posts in 3962 days

#10 posted 08-08-2011 12:41 PM

Hi Doug.What you have is typical for the first coat. It will take many coats to “build” the finish- especially if you want that full finish look…. like “Ikea”. I just did two tables that started out with 4 coats of lacquer sprayed on. I did not like the open grain showing so much so I wound up using wipe on poly for the final finish. I also got some streaking using the wipe on poly with a rag, so I reverted to what I learned from a guy a long time ago and I wrote it on my paint cabinet!! Use naphtha in poly!! This it to make it dry faster to reduce dust and to make it level out better. So I put on the last two coats by pouring the poly in a cup, adding about 1/8 naphtha and applying it with a foam brush. I wet sanded with 400 in between all coats. It came out to almost a full filled finish….........Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View RonWoods's profile


18 posts in 3344 days

#11 posted 08-08-2011 01:26 PM

I think the problem here is most probably the sand, I might be wrong but from the pictures, it appears to have been over-sanded. I think you should have used something lighter. And my guess now is that you just sand it all over again with something relatively lighter and repaint it all over.

Just adding another coat of poly over it will change anything. Just my 2cents anyways.

-- I need your woodworking ideas and questions on a Woodworking Survey. You can find the survey on my profile page. Earn a reward after filled up.

View dakremer's profile


2748 posts in 3948 days

#12 posted 08-08-2011 01:33 PM

I only sanded the wood to 220. So that wasn’t too much sanding. I did sand the paint w/ 600 though. Is that where I sanded it too much?? I will post pictures of the two products I used later today! UGH – I hope I dont have to sand this thing down to the wood again! What a pain in the butt!

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View BobTheFish's profile


361 posts in 3408 days

#13 posted 08-08-2011 02:53 PM

I say you should ditch the sanding and the poly and just go with spraypaint and spray finishes. The sprays often take more time to build up, but the glossy sheens are far more “glossy” and “plastic” than trying to do a hand finish. And brush finishes leave more streaks than hand rubbed.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16286 posts in 5074 days

#14 posted 08-08-2011 03:34 PM

I can’t comment on the compatibility of the paint and the poly. But I can DEFINITELY say that a streaky appearance is perfectly normal for the first couple of coats of wipe-on poly. Because the finish is so thin, it takes two or three coats just to get even coverage. The flat black color on the table is probably just making this more noticeable than it would be on unpainted wood.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 4015 days

#15 posted 08-08-2011 04:47 PM

Get a test board. Put some black spray on it. Let it cure. Wipe on a coat of poly like you did on the table…use a white paper towel. Inspect the towel once finished.

That should let you know the origin of the streaking.

I agree that wipe on poly will show some streaking initially, especially over dark colors, but I thought the pictures looked more atypical of that.

-- jay,

showing 1 through 15 of 57 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics