An Office for the House -- Complete With Woodworking Projects #7: Getting Close to Done With the Desk--- and a quick question...

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Blog entry by RobH posted 09-14-2009 04:28 AM 4992 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Desk Update - Progress Worth Showing Part 7 of An Office for the House -- Complete With Woodworking Projects series no next part

Hey all,

I am making really good progress on the desk. I am currently putting the finish on the top. I got the two coats of shellac on it late last week, and today I got the first coat of water based polyurethane on. It is looking really good.

Now, for the quick question. The polyurethane is water based satin polyurethane. The question: Is it really necessary to sand between coats. I always have because I have always heard you needed to, but this finish is looking so good that I really do not want to sand between the first and second coat. So, give me your opinion on the sanding.

Hope everyone has had a good weekend,

-- -- Rob Hix, King George, VA

4 comments so far

View FirehouseWoodworking's profile


726 posts in 3514 days

#1 posted 09-14-2009 06:03 AM


Like you, I have always been told – and never failed to heed this sage advice – that you need to sand between coats. I use 220 grit, sand lightly, and use a tack cloth to ensure all the dust is removed.

Without the sanding, the first coat has no “tooth” onto which to adhere. It is more critical with water-based finishes since the second coat cannot “re-emulsify” any of the carrier (solvent) in the first coat, and cannot therefor attach the two coats.

Least ways, that’s how I’ve been taught. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

I’d be interested in everyone else’s opinions and experiences, since I’m yet to stop learning!

Good luck!

-- Dave; Lansing, Kansas

View jlsmith5963's profile


297 posts in 3590 days

#2 posted 09-14-2009 06:57 AM

Sanding between coats is not about the look but about the feel. Unless you are doing your finishing in a ‘clean’ room there are dust particles in the air that settle on to the finish while it drys. Your hands (or fingertips) are quite capable of feeling these little nibs that become embedded in the finish. Sanding knocks these nibs down. The other reason for sanding between coats (particularly with finishes that don’t melt into each other) is that it creates a mechanical ‘tooth’ that provides for better adhesion between layers of finish.

-- criticism: the art of analyzing and evaluating the quality of an artistic work...

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4063 days

#3 posted 09-14-2009 11:58 AM

I agree with the sanding between coats advice. Poly binds to previous layer by establishing mechanical bonds much like velcro. So sanding between coats is needed to “roughen” the previously applied layer. This is not a vigorous sanding as you would do to the raw wood but simply a very light hand sanding with 320 grit to produce nearly invisible scratches in the surface of the finish for the next layer to latch onto.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Durnik150's profile


647 posts in 3563 days

#4 posted 09-14-2009 12:03 PM

Wow, those first three pretty much say it all and very clearly. I’ll keep it simple and say that sanding is necessary and you should do it.

Best of luck!!

-- Behind the Bark is a lot of Heartwood----Charles, Centennial, CO

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