How to best apply top coat finish

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Forum topic by dalec posted 02-07-2009 12:47 AM 7149 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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612 posts in 4429 days

02-07-2009 12:47 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I am in the process of applying the top coat (General Finishes – Arm-R-Seal, Oil Urethane Topcoat) using old “T shirts” and wiping on to a table top. I am finding it hard to wiping on the finish without leaving streaks. The application directions says not to apply too much pressure on the rag, and also not to apply too heavy a coat with each application. The directions also suggests a foam applicator to be less prone to streaking.

Does anyone have a experience using a foam applicator? or does anyone have a method of application that works for you?


7 replies so far

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 4345 days

#1 posted 02-07-2009 01:14 AM

First you need to make certain that all sanding dust is off of the piece to be finished. You need to be working in a clean environment. I use a high quality foam brush or an old white tee shirt that is lint free. If you use a moderate amount of product and always work from an wet area to a dry area your results will improve. I also make a second pass with the brush or cloth over the wet area – this pass is with very little finish on the brush.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View Al Killian's profile

Al Killian

273 posts in 4294 days

#2 posted 02-07-2009 01:19 AM

Old t-shirts are great for engine work, but not for finishes. Either use a sponge pad for it or a decent brush. Pending on the wood type and finished used I will sand the surface to around 220 and wipe it down with a damp rag.

-- Owner of custom millwork shop

View GFYS's profile


711 posts in 4012 days

#3 posted 02-07-2009 01:23 AM

spray it. brushing it with anything always makes streaks. You can work the streaks out but its twice as much work.

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 4312 days

#4 posted 02-07-2009 01:28 AM

Hi Dalec,
I have used General Finishes Wipe on Polly quite a bit. Sometimes it thickens in the can and makes it very dificult to use. Typically, I will throw out that can and get another with fresher stuff. To level out brush (or rag) marks easier, add a bit of naptha and stir in well. This will thin the poly to allow it to flow better and eliminate those pesky marks.
In addition, if you need it to dry faster, you can add a few drops of Japan Drier.

Hope this helps…


-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View dalec's profile


612 posts in 4429 days

#5 posted 02-07-2009 02:05 AM

Thanks everyone.

I think I may just try one more coat added on a bit thicker and keep from over-working it. If that fails, trying a foam pad.


View dalec's profile


612 posts in 4429 days

#6 posted 02-07-2009 06:39 PM

Just applied a coat of top coat on my table top using a foam brush. I have to admit, I was shocked with the amount of finish the foam applied. I am guessing that I have been applying too light a coat and as a result leaving streak marks. The thicker coat is much more even. I have the table indoors, but plan to let it dry for a full 24 hrs to be sure it is fully dry.


View barringerfurniture's profile


224 posts in 2253 days

#7 posted 11-14-2013 11:55 PM

I’ve been using this stuff on just about everything and love it – fast, easy and looks good. I use a satin or semi-gloss depending on the wood species. I wipe on with very soft cotton wiping rags you can get at the big box store. I gently wipe off the excess and let dry. Gentle, long strokes all the way across with the grain. That’s really all there is to it for me. One thing I’ve discovered though; The manufacturer recommends three coats. It always seems to me that it looks best after only two coats. That’s partly because I like a real natural look without a thick buildup. On table tops and other heavily used surfaces, I do three. Also, the friction streaks don’t seem to show up until the third coat. The stuff’s really forgiving though and easy to buff out and reapply if you get the streaks. Also, on the can it says to not sand above 220 grit before first coat. You can see those scratches plain as day under the topcoat. And if you buff between coats with anything less than 0000 steel wool, you’ll see those scratches too! I sand up to 320 grit, then 0000 steel wool before first coat or use card scrapers to avoid scratches underneath.

-- Scott Barringer, Sacramento, CA

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