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Forum topic by A10GAC posted 12-21-2009 09:52 PM 863 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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191 posts in 3107 days

12-21-2009 09:52 PM

when enough is enough? I tend to favor satin vs. gloss on my projects and usually put on between 3-5 coats of poly, (I’ve had pretty good luck with Pratt & Lambert’s Varmor and Minwax Fast Dry) then scuff it with 0000 or rubbing compound just to smooth out the “feel” of the piece. Why do I do it this way?...because I’ve always done it this way…

I guess my question really is: At what point do additional coats of finish become purely cosmetic? Am I wasting product by applying additional coats ?

-- Men have become the tools of their tools. - Henry David Thoreau

5 replies so far

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3315 days

#1 posted 12-21-2009 11:04 PM

I stop when it looks right. I realize that’s pretty vague, but I guess the point is, are you happy with the look.
At some point I do think you’re are wasting time and product, but there is no pat answer for when that is.
I believe you can put so much finish on that you actually create potential problems. A finish that’s too thick could possibly crack later. I primarily use lacquer and know this to be true there. That and it begins to have a plastic look that takes away from the natural beauty of the wood.


View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4247 days

#2 posted 12-21-2009 11:42 PM

I agree with Kent that you stop when it looks right.

With poly, the number of coats I use can vary a lot. If I am looking for protection and a nice satin finish while allowing the texture of the grain to remain, 3-5 coats is plenty.

However, if I’m going for a smooth-as-glass mirror finish, I’ll might put 6-8 coats on, sand back down to 600 or so, then repeat until I get the build-up and evenness I’m looking for.

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

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3850 days

#3 posted 12-22-2009 12:49 AM

I am with Charlie and Kent on this one. Basically I just go with additional coats until it looks and feels right. One of my criteria is how it feels when I touch the cured finish. When I have achieved the build that I am after it feels smooth and very slick. With poly this can be as many, like Charlie said, as 6 to 8 coats. But if it needs more then so be it. With finishes like poly and shellac you can build the finish thickness.

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

View A10GAC's profile


191 posts in 3107 days

#4 posted 12-22-2009 07:20 PM

That’s pretty much what I figured; this started when a friend asked me to explain why I use 3-5 coats of poly. I didn’t really have an answer other than a shrug of the shoulders and “gee, I’m not sure…3-5 just looks right.” I had never really thought about it before, so I thought this would be a great place to ask. Thanks for the help; I appreciate you guys taking the time.

-- Men have become the tools of their tools. - Henry David Thoreau

View GMman's profile


3902 posts in 3726 days

#5 posted 12-22-2009 07:56 PM

I use water base and put 4 to 5 coats except on the top part I add 2 more coats, between coats I use 1000 grits and after 2 to 3 days I sand “very light” with 1000 grits to get a real smooth surface.

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