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Bubbles NIGHTMARE! HELP!

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Forum topic by Brokenanew posted 12-13-2018 04:17 PM 779 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Brokenanew

9 posts in 185 days


12-13-2018 04:17 PM

Topic tags/keywords: oak finishing

Ok I’m making my first table top. First time working with Red Oak. I had some trouble staining.It kept bleeding back and it was cold so it was taking forever. I eventually laid towels on it and some plywood for weight to soak up what came up. Worked great. I wanted it darker. I sanded down the bottom to try it.I restained it after 8 hours of sanding with a belt sander!!! It was super blotchy. Went from 50 grit to 80 to 100 to 150…just blotchy as heck. So I decide I wasn’t going to try to sand the top or it would end up looking like the bottom. SO I just accepted the color.
I didn’t do any cutting or wood working in the shop for a week to let dust settle.

Fine.
Wiped table top with wet cloth. Now I tried to use Minwax polyurethane satin, fast drying. The stain had been drying for nearly two weeks. It was dry. First time I applied the polyurethane, I used a polyester brush and straight polyurethane without any mineral spirits. Wiped with damp cloth before. I got crazy bubbles. I then sanded with 220 grit. It sanded smooth but I could see where the bubbles had been.

So the first picture is trying again but with a natural china brush and putting about 10% mineral spirits, long slows strokes. I even soaked the brush in mineral spirits to let all the bubbles escapes and wiped slowly on newspaper to get the mineral spirits off before applying the polyurethane to the table top. As you can see it bubbled like crazy again, so I wiped off before it could dry. AHHHHH!
DO I just need to sand more? I can see where the bubbles were but I cant feel them. I tried to take a picture of it but you cant see it in the second picture.

Ive read as much as I could but I don’t know what my mistake is.
Temp is around 50 degrees.
Please Help! This is supposed to be a Christmas present.

I will say it looks like there is still bad polyurethane on it so I may have to sand it even more, its just hard to see in the picture.
Second attempt still wet.

After first attempt sanded down.

Got mad and started sanding more with 220 grit. Now its hazy, I hope I didn’t mess up the stain.


16 replies so far

View johnstoneb's profile

johnstoneb

3107 posts in 2557 days


#1 posted 12-13-2018 04:59 PM

Temperature is most of your problem. Finish is too cold to release the air bubbles, Get it up in the 60’s. Try a foam brush and lay it on in one direction, don’t brush back and forth. The haziness is just the sanding of the gloss off the finish. You may have to put several coats sanding between coat to get the bubble pockets filled from the first coat. You need to get the temperature up.

I am not a fan of Minwax esp. their polyshades but I just finished a desk with Minwax polyurethane semigloss and it came out really nice. It took about 5 coats total on red birch to get the thickness and coverage I wanted. I used cheap foam brushes and had no problems with bubbles air temp in shop was low to mid 60’s. I would use the Minwax polyurethane again.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View jutsFL's profile

jutsFL

167 posts in 226 days


#2 posted 12-13-2018 05:06 PM

Thin your poly 50-50 with MS or turpentine, ditch the brush, and use it as a wipe on. Agreed with above though, cold temps are your only real issue.

-- I've quickly learned that being a woodworker isn't about making flawless work, rather it's fixing all the mistakes you made so that it appears flawless to others! Jay - FL

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splintergroup

2669 posts in 1607 days


#3 posted 12-13-2018 05:52 PM

If the temps are good and the product is thinned properly, any bubbles will work out before things set up.

Try it on a scrap (where you get similar bubbles) and just let it dry without messing with it. If the bubbles disappear, your project should react similarly. If the bubbles remain after drying, try to up your application temp to at least the high 60’s

View 000's profile

000

2859 posts in 1284 days


#4 posted 12-13-2018 05:54 PM

Next time you wipe it off, use a cloth dampened with mineral spirits, not water.
It takes a lot of time for the moisture to go away.
IDK what your timing was but that could have helped it trap moisture.

Last pic looks like you may have sanded into the stain,
try wiping some poly on a small spot and see if the color comes back,
if not you may try re-wiping a stain coat over it and see what it does, or you’re going to have to resand it all.

Stay off of it with the 50 and 80 grit paper. 100 should be rough enough to take down anything you need to.
(looks like you took a framing hammer to it?)

View Jeremymcon's profile

Jeremymcon

342 posts in 1064 days


#5 posted 12-13-2018 06:41 PM

I’ve had this happen with red oak too. I think the solution will be to thin the polyurethane and use it as a wipe on poly. You might also try a couple seal coats of shellac over the stain? Sometimes I think the big open pores of red oak contribute to the bubbling. Maybe if you can fill them a bit with shellac it’ll help.

The stain doesn’t look blotchy to me, I don’t think. That’s what red oak looks like when it’s stained. If you want more even color between early wood and late wood rings, try a dye or a toner (shellac with dye in it). Not sure a straight dye would go well over a stain – usually you’d dye first.

If you can’t bring the project somewhere where it’s warmer, maybe try to use a water based finish instead? Polycrylic can look really nice, and goes in fine over an oil based stain as long as it’s fully cured/dried. You could also do a seal coat of shellac before the polycrylic if you’re concerned about the stain not being fully cured. Shellac is great stuff.

View ChefHDAN's profile

ChefHDAN

1391 posts in 3234 days


#6 posted 12-13-2018 06:48 PM

Also keep in mind that you will not get a smooth flat furniture showroom finish on Oak without filling the pores, it is impossible to get a flat surface thinking that each poly coat will eventually fill in the pores and the surface will self level DAMHIKT

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View Phil32's profile

Phil32

538 posts in 288 days


#7 posted 12-13-2018 08:51 PM

+1 on previous post (ChefHDAN)

Oak is a porous grain wood. You cannot achieve a glossy, flat tabletop without filling the grain.

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

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ChefHDAN

1391 posts in 3234 days


#8 posted 12-13-2018 08:55 PM

I sanded that damn top for almost a month before I gave up, wish I had LJ back then…

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View johnstoneb's profile

johnstoneb

3107 posts in 2557 days


#9 posted 12-13-2018 09:01 PM

You can get a flat surface with numerous coats of finish on red oak but it takes a very long time. Much easier and faster to use a filler first.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View Brokenanew's profile

Brokenanew

9 posts in 185 days


#10 posted 12-14-2018 03:00 AM

Awesome! Thanks for the feedback! I feel confident in trying again. I’m actually going to break out my router sled and plane it down. One because I did end up sanding to much now the stain is uneven and blotchy. Also, there were a few sanding marks show up after the stain so I kind wanted to go darker.

So I’m going to plane it down. I just hope I can plane enough before I hit any pocket hole screws. I’m fairly certain I’ll be fine. Then I’ll try your suggestions. I’ll put some space heaters in the shop. Warmer temps ( how warm 80°?), thin 50/50 instead 10/90, wipe on with foam applicator, and maybe apply shellac before the poly. Did Imiss anything.

Also, yes, I was going for lightly distressed. I wanted a few marks here and there. There’s more the camera doesn’t see but I like it.

View 000's profile

000

2859 posts in 1284 days


#11 posted 12-14-2018 03:28 AM


Also, yes, I was going for lightly distressed. I wanted a few marks here and there. There s more the camera doesn t see but I like it.

- Brokenanew

Sometimes when I get mad, I end up with the distressed look, so, was just checking. :)

View ChefHDAN's profile

ChefHDAN

1391 posts in 3234 days


#12 posted 12-14-2018 11:31 AM



So I m going to plane it down. I just hope I can plane enough before I hit any pocket hole screws.
- Brokenanew

DOH!!!!!!

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View Brokenanew's profile

Brokenanew

9 posts in 185 days


#13 posted 01-02-2019 02:50 AM

Ok. HereswhrreIm at. After planning then sanding, stain. Went on well. I’m going to wait for a few days to make sure the stain drys. Next would be something to help fill the pores before polyurethane? I saw shellac was suggested. I’ve never used it. Any type I should look for? Any tips and tricks to keep in mind? Thanks so much for the help!

View Brokenanew's profile

Brokenanew

9 posts in 185 days


#14 posted 01-02-2019 02:51 AM

Ok. Heres where Im at. After planning then sanding, stain, went on well. I’m going to wait for a few days to make sure the stain drys. Next would be something to help fill the pores before polyurethane? I saw shellac was suggested. I’ve never used it. Any type I should look for? Any tips and tricks to keep in mind? Thanks so much for the help!

View Jeremymcon's profile

Jeremymcon

342 posts in 1064 days


#15 posted 01-02-2019 03:02 AM

Ok… Are you sure they were bubbles in the finish and not dust? Did you wipe down the board with a tack cloth or a micro fiber cloth to remove all the sanding before applying the finish? Looking back at the original pictures I’m not so sure that they were bubbles at all.

I don’t think you should be having so much trouble – people put poly on oak every day. It shouldn’t need much fussing over. Just make sure the workpiece is clean, don’t shake the can of finish, and do nice even strokes with the grain.

I’d recommend doing a test board – sand some scrap just like you did the top, and apply some poly. See what happens. I don’t think shellac is necessary – I just suggested that if you decided to use polycrylic since its water based.

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