In the process of refinishing my dining room table, I’ve learned that I am not very good at brush-on finishes. I should have known, as I hate painting too. The table itself wasn’t an indicator as it was actually pretty easy. A broad, flat surface; it’s hard to screw that up. However, after it dried, I did notice that I had a small hair or two stuck in the finish. Blast! The real hard part, however, was the legs. They’re fairly complex, though largely broad and flat. My first shot at this had me brushing on a thinned poly/mineral spirits blend (about 60/40). That was probably my first mistake, and one that I could later see cost me many a run and sag. The mineral spirits also dissolved some stain that I hadn’t adequately wiped off. This means the runs are richly colored. Three days later, the legs are still sticky with a bad poly job. I have no idea why it won’t dry, even though it’s now inside my house where I can control the temperature better.
Yesterday, I bought one of Taunton’s finishing books – I’m a fan of Taunton Press. The book taught me that I really had no idea how to apply a finish. So I used a cloth dampened with mineral spirits and wiped the pieces until they were no longer sticky. I was also able to wipe out some of the runs, though this took quite a bit more effort. I then sanded down what poly was left with 320 grit and began refinishing per my new instructions. Turns out, I like the wipe-on style of applying varnish over brushing. I seem unable to handle a brush very well, so I used a cloth that allowed me to have the control I needed. The finish left by wiping a varnish looks so nice too. Granted, this surface is still somewhat of a disaster from the previous errors. But I can see the little successes of this style in areas of the finish that are clean. It will take longer to get the same durable finish you could get by brushing, but I really like the look of the finish over what I can accomplish with a brush. As I was only an oil and wax kind of finisher before, wiping on poly seems like the most natural fit.
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