Help me save my shelves....and my sanity

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Forum topic by propman07 posted 10-30-2015 02:28 PM 701 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 969 days

10-30-2015 02:28 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing polyeurethane


I found this message board, and have been reading through some of the other threads on finishing. Here’s my situation.

The Wife wanted to have me put up shelves in our spare bedroom for books and craft supplies. I didn’t know where to go to get wood, so I ended up buying paint grade 1×12x8 pine boards from Home Depot (no laughing). I was able to get them cut to length, and added some trim molding around the edges to dress them up a bit. She wanted to stain them a dark red mahogany, so we ended up putting a few coats of stain on them. They came out okay (at least the Boss likes them), so now I’m at the point where I’m going to put a clear coat/varnish on them. This is where I ran into trouble.

I am trying to apply a polyurethane semi gloss coat but having a lot of trouble. I bought some spray cans but the finish didn’t come out as semi gloss. I bought the same type of finish in a can and bought a good brush and tried to brush it on. I wound up with a bunch of brush streaks. I tried to sand them out and spray another coat again but it still looks like crap. I talked to my brother, and he suggested that I try to put the finish on with a foam roller. Well, I tried that, and it was bubble city! When the finish dried, it looked like the surface of the moon, covered in popped bubble craters. I’ve been looking online for some suggestions and help. I’ve read that I could try to thin the finish with mineral spirits and that should fix the brush strokes/bubbles issues, but I would have to put on a lot of thin coats. I was thinking about buying more cans of the spray poly, and doing it that way.

Any suggestions on how to save my shelving project?

Thanks for your time.

-- David

5 replies so far

View chrisstef's profile


17429 posts in 3035 days

#1 posted 10-30-2015 02:58 PM

David – try sanding back your coat of polyurethane until you think it looks good and you don’t see the bubbles or imperfections. It may very well be all the way back to the stain coat. Id suggest 220 grit. Then make sure you wipe off all the dust. A tack cloth or a clean cloth with a little bit of mineral spirits on it will help out a ton. Then I would suggest a product by General finishes called arm-r-seal. Pour some of that in a little bowl or cup and using a clean rag (or an old tshirt) wiping it on with the grain. You can brush it on with the little foam brushes as well. Whatever you can get your hands on. If you cant find that stuff near you try minwax wipe on poly using the same technique. In between coats of poly lightly sand with some 320 grit sandpaper, clean and reapply.

Rereading your post you can thin the poly with mineral spirits. Wipe on poly is exactly the same thing as you described, thinned poly.

Good luck.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View propman07's profile


3 posts in 969 days

#2 posted 10-30-2015 03:25 PM

As it turned out, I was able to sand out most of the brush strokes and bubbles with some 220 wet sandpaper. I wound up buying more cans of the spray on poly (in semigloss), and applied several coats to the shelves. In the end, the Boss was happy (that’s what it’s all about, right?), so I think that I’m on my way to hanging the shelves.

@chrisstef- Thanks for the reply. I’ll have to look to see if I can get my hands on the arm-r-seal. I know that I’ve seen the wipe on poly at my local Lowes and Home Depot. For my next project, I think that I will give that technique a try.

In the end, the finish on the shelves came out okay to me. The Wife is happy, so as the saying goes, happy Wife, happy life.

Thanks again for the reply.

-- David

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2398 days

#3 posted 10-30-2015 03:57 PM

+1 to the arm-r-seal. You can buy it online in a gallon, about the same cost as the Minwax poly. I use it on most of my projects, and its fool-proof. Just understand that your coats will be thinner than brushing, so plan to do 2x as many. But, I find wiping to be easier and quicker than brushing. I usually do 2-3 coats wiped (with a blue shop paper towel, folded into a small square), sand with 320, then 2 more wiped on, sand w/ 400, then one more wiped on. After it cures, I usually rub it out with some 0000 steel wool and paste wax (both from Lowes/HD), and buff, but that’s optional.

Super simple, easy, and if you’re looking for a fool-proof way in the future, that’d be it.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View DrTebi's profile


267 posts in 3295 days

#4 posted 11-07-2015 04:53 AM

+1 on arm-r-seal from me too. I recently used it for the first time, and it was very easy to apply (I wiped it on) and leveled very nicely, no streaks. I do like the look of shellac better, but it’s a lot more work.

View propman07's profile


3 posts in 969 days

#5 posted 11-09-2015 03:21 PM

Thanks for the replies, and recommendations for the arm-r-seal. I’ll definitely have to check it out for my next project.

-- David

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