oil-based poly - satin over semi-gloss?

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Forum topic by JeffP posted 10-26-2015 12:31 PM 760 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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573 posts in 813 days

10-26-2015 12:31 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing

First, this is not about a fine woodworking project. I have an old Ikea dresser in a spare bedroom that has fallen victim to various abuses over the years. I decided on a whim to lightly sand the top and apply some new finish just to make it a little less ugly.

I had some minwax poly laying around and it was semi-gloss. Really wanted to go with less sheen than semi, but it was sitting there and it was “free”. Figured I could just buy some less glossy and do a second coat with that if it was too shiny.

Well, you guessed it. The semi turned out to produce a very glossy result, and I bought a can of satin and put a coat of that on it…doesn’t seem like it knocked down the sheet AT ALL.

So, I’m wondering…is the notion that a lower sheen poly over a shiny poly will knock down the sheen just broken? Does that not work in general? Or does it take a bunch of coats?

Should I just forget about “building up a lower sheen” with a few more coats and go ahead and sand the sheen off and start over? (being very careful not to sand through the paper-thin veneer)

note: both the semi-gloss and the satin are “fast drying” oil-based minwax poly from Lowes.

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

8 replies so far

View chrisstef's profile


15472 posts in 2428 days

#1 posted 10-26-2015 12:53 PM

Take a paper bag and rub it over the top just like you were sanding once the poly dries. That should knock down the sheen for ya.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View CharlieM1958's profile


16229 posts in 3640 days

#2 posted 10-26-2015 01:14 PM

Are we talking brush-on? Applying one coat of satin over a semi-gloss should give you satin. Maybe the satin is just still glossier than you would like. You might try one more coat to see if it makes a difference, but you definitely don’t need multiple coats.

If that doesn’t work you can try the paper bag trick chrisstef recommended, or buff with 0000 steel wool.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1176 posts in 1532 days

#3 posted 10-26-2015 01:38 PM

Stir them well! Unstirred satin and semi-gloss finishes are just gloss with a slurry of flattening agent in the bottom.

View splintergroup's profile


734 posts in 644 days

#4 posted 10-26-2015 02:01 PM

Oggie is right, semi-gloss and satin have silica added as a flattening agent and this stuff settles out and requires a good mixing before use.

Normally I find it much better to use gloss, then flatten it out with the 0000 wool followed by a brown paper bag polish. The silica will obscure the grain and make the finish appear foggy. In you case (just want a quick finish), mix it up good, then apply. If it is still too glossy, try the steel wool.

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 813 days

#5 posted 10-26-2015 03:26 PM

Ahhhh, I see. It “looked ok” in the can, so I didn’t bother to actually stir it with a stick.

This will likely solve the problem. If not, I’ll use the other techniques suggested.

This forum is awesome!

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View Clint's profile


3 posts in 278 days

#6 posted 09-06-2016 09:46 AM

Some really knowledgeable woodworkers on this forum. Hopefully y’all can help me. I have been given a five gallon container of oil modified polyurethane gym floor finish. Really good product but has a very high gloss. It has it’s place on some projects but I would like to flatten it some to a satin if possible. I called the mfg. and the tech there didn’t have a clue and doubted it could be done since it was a specialty product designed for one purpose. Being a hard head set in my ways I have a problem with that answer and believe anything can be modified or adjusted. Hopefully someone on here can prove me right. I have tried using 1/3 poly, 1/3 BLO and 1/3 mineral spirits. That toned it down but not to the level I was hoping for. Any suggestions other than #0000 steel wool till my arm falls off?

-- Clint, Florida

View OSU55's profile


1039 posts in 1411 days

#7 posted 09-06-2016 11:54 AM

Clin is it oil or water based? Target coatings sells the flatting agent for their wb coatings. You may have to call, I couldn’t find it on the website. I haven’t tried it in ob but it may work.

View Cooler's profile


216 posts in 265 days

#8 posted 09-12-2016 07:59 PM

Stir them well! Unstirred satin and semi-gloss finishes are just gloss with a slurry of flattening agent in the bottom.

- OggieOglethorpe

That was my first reaction. I only use the satin or semi-gloss for the final coat. It gives a nicer effect because the finish is not so cloudy.

Also, elbow grease with 600 or 800 grit wet or dry might be an alternative.

-- This post is a hand-crafted natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar should not be viewed as flaws or defects, but rather as an integral characteristic of the creative process.

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