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Water-based vs oil-based wipe on poly? For ukelele

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Forum topic by SMP posted 02-19-2019 07:18 PM 689 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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SMP

480 posts in 207 days


02-19-2019 07:18 PM

Hello All,

I am helping my daughter build a ukulele kit. I am letting her do almost all of the work, just guiding her along and some critical things like neck dowel drilling etc. We are at the stage where we need to decide the finish. The instructions and instructional videos show various finish options, but say if you want a simple finish just use a wipe-on poly. The wipe-on poly this particular company sells is water based gloss. I have some satin minwax oil-based wipe-on poly, and satin arm-r-seal, which I tested both on some scrap mahogany, but she wants her ukulele shinier. I then brushed some semi-gloss Polycrylic on the scrap and she liked that better. But it looks like minwax only sells satin or gloss wipe-on poly. And it looks like Lowes only carries water based now? Home depot has Watco brand wipe on poly, but again satin or gloss. I would just brush on the polycrylic I have myself, but I want her to do the work, and am worried if she tries it will have a lot of drips. So would kind of like to get something that she could do that is pretty forgiving that will hold up to a ukulele. Is water based as durable as oil based? And how does the gloss look rubbed with steel wool?

Thanks in advance
Steve


10 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5383 posts in 2795 days


#1 posted 02-20-2019 05:30 PM

Waterborne finishes have improved greatly over the past several years. They are very close (if not equal to) their oil based counterparts in durability. Some will say they are more durable. I will say I haven’t seen a waterborne that was wipe on, curious about how well that will work. You could make your own wipe on oil based finish….just mix a varnish you like about 50/50 with mineral spirits. Our Lowes still has some oil based finishes, so it may depend on where you’re at whether they stock any. Instead go to a paint store and see what they have, SW has some very good quality varnishes in polyurethane and alkyd-resin formulas.

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

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SMP

480 posts in 207 days


#2 posted 02-20-2019 07:34 PM


Waterborne finishes have improved greatly over the past several years. They are very close (if not equal to) their oil based counterparts in durability. Some will say they are more durable. I will say I haven t seen a waterborne that was wipe on, curious about how well that will work. You could make your own wipe on oil based finish….just mix a varnish you like about 50/50 with mineral spirits. Our Lowes still has some oil based finishes, so it may depend on where you re at whether they stock any. Instead go to a paint store and see what they have, SW has some very good quality varnishes in polyurethane and alkyd-resin formulas.

- Fred Hargis

Thanks,
I ended up going to my local woodworkers store and they had the Minwax oil based in gloss, so I picked some up. I mentioned its hard to get and he said since we are in San Diego, the big box stores hubs are usually in Orange County to service LA, San Diego, and Orange County. Since the regulations are much stricter in LA and OC, the big box stores just don’t even carry it, they don’t want to risk the massive fines. Which also explains why certain oil based paints I can only get in quart sizes or smaller now as well.
I am testing a few coats on some scrap to see if she likes it.

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OSU55

2157 posts in 2291 days


#3 posted 02-26-2019 01:38 AM

Just something to consider about gloss vs semi gloss or satin – gloss makes everything very shiny, especially any negative grain or grooves etc. I prefer to use semi gloss to tone down the negative areas, then rub the “top” to the gloss level I want. Results in much less of a “plastic” look.

View Jack Rigg's profile

Jack Rigg

29 posts in 69 days


#4 posted 02-26-2019 03:38 AM

DON’T use steel wool with water based poly. I use the water borne poly on stair treads and have never had a call back, probably over 75 sets since I switched over to it, so I’d imagine it would hold up well on a ukulele (I had to look up on how to spell that)

Edited to add that it’s very forgiving as well

-- Jack https://Carterscreekrenovations.Com

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gtrgeo

39 posts in 732 days


#5 posted 02-26-2019 04:14 AM

I would recommend the General Finishes Enduro poly. It gives a nice warm color of an oil finish with the ease of a water based finish. If you thin it a little with distilled water it lays down nicely with a brush. I have also seen where it is starting to become somewhat popular with instrument makers wanting to get away from oil based finishes.

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SMP

480 posts in 207 days


#6 posted 02-26-2019 04:32 AM



I would recommend the General Finishes Enduro poly. It gives a nice warm color of an oil finish with the ease of a water based finish. If you thin it a little with distilled water it lays down nicely with a brush. I have also seen where it is starting to become somewhat popular with instrument makers wanting to get away from oil based finishes.

- gtrgeo

Interesting, so is that water based? I do like the GF finishes. We actually just finished oiling the fretboard and bridge and stringing this thing up. She ended up putting about 6 coats of the minwax wipe on poly. I wet sanded with 600 between coats. She actually likes the gloss, i told her we could knock it down with some face steel wool(i showed her on scrap with that 2500 grit pad)She did about 98% of this, i mainly helped with making braces and clamps etc and drilling neck holes. Here are some pics.

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Rich

4155 posts in 891 days


#7 posted 02-26-2019 04:53 AM


Interesting, so is that water based? I do like the GF finishes. We actually just finished oiling the fretboard and bridge and stringing this thing up. She ended up putting about 6 coats of the minwax wipe on poly. I wet sanded with 600 between coats. She actually likes the gloss, i told her we could knock it down with some face steel wool(i showed her on scrap with that 2500 grit pad)She did about 98% of this, i mainly helped with making braces and clamps etc and drilling neck holes. Here are some pics.

- SMP

Looks beautiful. Great job. She should be proud of the result.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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gtrgeo

39 posts in 732 days


#8 posted 02-26-2019 05:22 AM

That looks really nice. She did an awesome job.

Yes, the Enduro is a water based product. https://generalfinishes.com/wood-finishes-retail/water-based-topcoats-and-sanding-sealer/enduro-var-water-based-urethane

You will need to go to the scotch brite type pads instead of the steel wool. The grey pad is a good substitute for 0000 steel wool. Plus you don’t have the pieces of steel wool on everything.

I have had great results using General Finishes products and they are easy to use and clean up. I am a fan.

George

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Craftsman on the lake

2892 posts in 3739 days


#9 posted 02-26-2019 05:34 AM

A note of interest that has nothing to do with musical instruments.

Water based poly has been great on my cherry kitchen cabinets, but steam around the stove will literally remove the poly from the wood. Once a year I have to get my brush out and redo a few areas. I also made cabinets for my sister. She has oil based. No such issues with it.

Just sayin.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

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gtrgeo

39 posts in 732 days


#10 posted 02-26-2019 05:49 AM

Interesting Craftsman. I did a kitchen table top out of Cherry a while back and was concerned about durability with potentially hot objects being placed on it. I chose Enduro because of past experience with General Finishes products and this article. https://www.woodcraft.com/blog_entries/finish-test-water-vs-oil

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