Having a hard time with the polyurethane

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Forum topic by erika1 posted 10-16-2015 12:58 AM 933 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 888 days

10-16-2015 12:58 AM

So I am having a hard time getting an even finish with the polyurethane on a table I am redoing. I refinished my dresser a few months ago without a single problem. I don’t get why I am having so many issues with this stinking table. First I decided paint it with chalk paint and I did not really like the way it looked with the color of my walls. So I sanded all down and went to stain it. I used Ebony and I loved the way it turned out. I applied the poly then I noticed it was thicker around the edges and just completely uneven. The back of the can said to sand with 220 so I did that and it completely scratched up the finish and looked awful! So I sanded it back down, stained it, applied two coats of poly and tried to make it as even as possible. It still looks thicker around the edges and in different spots. I am terrified to sand it! What am I doing wrong!? I didn’t have these problems with me dresser and everyone I talk to says applying the polyurethane is the easy part!

10 replies so far

View MrUnix's profile


6483 posts in 2132 days

#1 posted 10-16-2015 01:05 AM

I’ve found poly fairly fool proof… but I make my own wipe-on and apply with a soft cotton cloth. Sanding it will make it dull/scratched/ugly… but it will all disappear with the next coat. There was no need to sand it back down to bare wood and re-stain IMHO.


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

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5302 posts in 2199 days

#2 posted 10-16-2015 01:26 AM

I use thinned down poly and a folded piece of polyester wrapped inside a piece of pantyhose. I work it like a squeegee. I’ll do numerous coats, 6 or more. I let it dry hard, a day or two and use 600 grit wet/dry paper to smooth it between coats. The polyester and panty hose prevent any lint in the process.

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1309 posts in 1731 days

#3 posted 10-16-2015 01:32 AM

I bet your dresser wasn’t stained black.Black is one of the hardest colors to get a decent top coat on.All your finishing flaws in your technique will stand out.Having the finish build up around the edges is pretty normal.
White woods like maple will make feel like a pro.

-- Aj

View erika1's profile


6 posts in 888 days

#4 posted 10-16-2015 01:47 AM

Yeah the dresser was more like a cherry color this black has been a pain. I have just been using a foam brush… could that be whats giving me issues?

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19508 posts in 2616 days

#5 posted 10-16-2015 02:12 AM

Use a trick called “Tipping off”? Holding a DRY brush straight up and down, run it from the ends in, both directions.
BTW: I have never thinned poly. I also just use a regular brush.
The sanding is to allow any follow on coats to adhere better, that is about it.

Final coat: I wait until the coat is just tacky to the fingertip, barely sticks to the skin. I will then grab a clean, old, lint free T-shirt, and start rubbibg the surface. Just as hard and fast as I can. No need for sanding, just the cloth rub down will do.

I try to heat the surface up with the cloth, about like running a polisher on a car’s wax job.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Aj2's profile


1309 posts in 1731 days

#6 posted 10-16-2015 03:15 AM

Too many variables that make a finish good or poor.Temp of the material size of the top what brand of poly.Just try to find something that works for you and stick to it.I do like foam pads for water based.I use Woosters foam brushs or pads.They are a bit more pricy.Than the generic.

-- Aj

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764 posts in 1152 days

#7 posted 10-16-2015 12:51 PM

sanding is supposedmto scratch the surface up. it will look aaweful until the next coat of poly goes on.
use a sanding block. something about 6”. that will help flatten the surface. youre nkt trying to take off all the poly. just flatten it.
it reads like too much poly is getting on the surface. it takes practice to get an even film build on an entire surface.
ive had the same problem brushing. i dont brush any more. small projects i grab a rattle can. large ones i break out my spray gun.
no more problems.

you may want to try a rattle can

View dhazelton's profile


2722 posts in 2230 days

#8 posted 10-16-2015 01:19 PM

You never say what the wood is. If it’s pine or another softwood it will absorb unevenly, hence that “too thick” in some areas look. It will take about three coats of poly on pine to look really good. 220 is okay before you apply the first coat but go with finer sandpaper as you go on. The last coat you may want to rub down with 0000 steel wool and then polish with paste wax.

View CB_Cohick's profile


484 posts in 1184 days

#9 posted 10-16-2015 02:01 PM

I sprayed some poly recently with pretty good success. I have brushed it on also with a foam brush. That works, but I am not skilled enough with a brush to get it as even as I would like. I agree with the rest of these folks, sanding will scuff it up some, but that goes away with the next coat.

-- Chris - Would work, but I'm too busy reading about woodwork.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5595 posts in 2746 days

#10 posted 10-16-2015 03:18 PM

Spraying is the way to go. Since there is no brush, pad, or rag contacting the stain it will stay an even color. Poly is not my favorite because it takes so long to dry. I prefer spraying lacquer.

If you are set on brushing, try a sample board with this procedure…
1. Stain sample board, and let dry 24 hours.
2. Brush on a coat of Bullseye Sealcoat (thin shellac) and let dry 2-4 hours.
3. Scuf sand with a 320 or higher grit soft sanding sponge (not regular sandpaper).
4. Apply your poly topcoat. Allow 24 hours for each coat to dry, and scuff sand between coats.

The shellac will seal the stain, and keep it from smearing. Testing all steps on a sample board is the only way to know how it will look.
Good luck.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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