Waterlox finishing issue / introducing myself

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Forum topic by Woodworker123 posted 08-03-2010 11:59 PM 11660 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Woodworker123's profile


89 posts in 2853 days

08-03-2010 11:59 PM

Topic tags/keywords: waterlox finishing beginner

Hello all. I’m a new woodworker. I recently finished school (mechanical engineering) and have decided to use my new-found time and money for this great hobby which was my father’s as well. I’ve taken beginning and intermediate woodworking at my local community college and I am planning on taking the third and final course in the series this fall. I’ve been reading LJ posts for a month or two, but haven’t had a very compelling reason to post up to now.

For my intermediate course, I built a shaker style hallway table out of african mahogany. The intent was for this to be a gift for my mother, since I prefer a more modern simple design myself and I knew she’d really enjoy it. So, now comes the finishing.

I was on the verge of finishing the table with pure tung oil, cut with turpentine for the first few coats, but then read somewhere online that it can require more maintenance and I don’t want to give a piece of furniture that requires upkeep so I decided upon Waterlox. I know Waterlox is a varnish/oil mix, but it seemed like a good compromise to me. I put a coat on the table with a new foam brush, waited a few minutes, and tried to wipe of the excess (there wasn’t much excess, no puddles, but I was able to wipe some color off onto my wipe rag. Then I put it in a vacant room with the doors and windows shut and the window unit off. I put a second coat on 24 hours later this time with an old towel, which was an even worse mistake cause the lint was difficult to wipe off.

That was three days ago. Last night, I checked on it and noticed it was still tacky. Immediately, it occurred to me that by stuffing it in this closed room in an attempt to avoid dust, I didn’t allow any ventilation. In hindsight it seems so obvious. I’m not sure how to proceed from here. I put it in another room with a fan going and the doors open this morning and although it feels a little better, there is still a barely discernible tackiness to it. Waterlox says wipe it down with a vinegar and water solution, sand it with 0000 steel wool and restart and other sites say just sand and go right ahead. Should I take Waterlox’ advice, or if the tackiness is ever so slight, should I wait a few more days to see if the two layers of uncured Waterlox can cure and I can go ahead from here? Regardless of what I could get away with, will sanding with the steel wool and restarted benefit the finish, cause that could make my decision easy.

Sorry I don’t have any photos, I’ll be sure to post some under projects when I finish up. Thanks again and I look forward to being part of this great community.

10 replies so far

View davidpettinger's profile


661 posts in 3200 days

#1 posted 08-04-2010 12:27 AM

Jack, I would follow the instructions from Waterlox, I think that they know their product. Next time, add a couple of ounces of a 1/2 lb cut of clear shellac to the tung oil mixture. Basically the same as what Waterlox sells as a sealer. It will help seal the Mahogany. Otherwise, you are looking at lots of hours of wiping and sanding.

PS. you are right about the air exchange. If you go to their website it tells you to avoid non-air movement.

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View CharlesNeil's profile


2399 posts in 3870 days

#2 posted 08-04-2010 01:19 AM

Jack, give it a wipe down with some naphtha, let it dry , in an open air, and advise when its dry, we will go from there, Waterlox is a good fiinish, the Naphtha will not harm the finish, but it will help the dry process, I am also concerned with how much you applied in 1 coat, please advise , photos would be very helpful, just dont panic, it will be fine,

View Woodworker123's profile


89 posts in 2853 days

#3 posted 08-04-2010 01:38 AM

UnionLabel, I agree they know their own product, my only hesitation is that my situation may not be as worse as the situation those instructions were meant for. In other words, maybe I don’t need to go to those lengths for 2 coats as opposed to someone who had say, 6 coats uncured Waterlox.

Charles, I have turpentine around, would any solvent work just as well or is there a reason to go with naphtha? I wouldn’t mind picking some up tomorrow, just curious.


View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 2953 days

#4 posted 08-04-2010 01:35 PM

Sounds like you’re having a summertime humidity issue. WaterLox is wonderful stuff, by far, my favorite finish and just about the most forgiving stuff available. Just let it dry, wet sand it back, and apply very light coats, sanding in between. I would be very reluctant to begin smearing all kinds of solvent or other over the undried finish. You may just end up with a sticky mess. In all liklihood you would have similar issues with any other varnish. Summertime is a very difficult time to varnish in humid conditions.

I just had the same problem with dipping a newly made bamboo flyrod. I normally do this in winter in MI, but tried it in June and it took nearly three weeks to dry hard(this was using Verathane Marine Poly). Normally rock hard in 12 hours. Infuriating, but I’m sure it was just the weather.

Don’t be put off with WaterLox. It’s probably the most flexible and repairable finish out there for high quality projects… from satin wipe-on to mirror rubbed finishes. Don’t panic. Summer is just difficult.

Good luck. Roger

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View CharlesNeil's profile


2399 posts in 3870 days

#5 posted 08-04-2010 02:15 PM

just use Naptha, lightly, cant tell you exactly why but it seems to help finishes dry , and is relatively mild, paint thinner and turpentine are entirely different animals, but be sure the finish isnt super soft, and just wipe it wet and leave it, dont rub or scrub on it, just a gentle wet wipe, what it will do is to open the finish up a bit to let it dry on down, in hot humid weather they like to skim over,

View bill1352's profile


130 posts in 3121 days

#6 posted 08-04-2010 03:16 PM

I sure wish I could get stuff to dry this summer. I like arm-r-all but I don’t have 3 days to put 3 coats on. summer humidity has been a killer this year. I might try your naptha idea on the stubborn items Charles.

-- Keep Your Stick On The Ice

View Woodworker123's profile


89 posts in 2853 days

#7 posted 08-05-2010 12:35 AM

Ok, thanks for the info everyone. It is less tacky today, so I may give it a week or so, sand it a little with the 0000 steel wool and put a couple more thin layers on. I’ll google a wet sanding process, I’m not familiar with that.

I promise I’ll post some photos once I’ve finished the finishing and installed hardware.

View Woodworker123's profile


89 posts in 2853 days

#8 posted 09-17-2010 06:33 PM

Just an update, and request for more advice.

I let the table sit, and it cured. I thought it looked a little splotchy after several coats still, so I called Waterlox, who said I shouldn’t apply it with Viva papertowels unless I was prepared to put MANY coats on, instead I should use a brush. So, I put a coat on with a brush and it went on thick and dried much glossier than previous coats.

The person this table is for would like a less glossy finish. Maybe I put the last brush-on coat on too thick… I was going to buy Waterlox satin for the last brush-on coat but guy at Woodcraft recommended sanding it lightly instead to achieve a satin finish. What do you think, is that inferior to the Waterlox satin, will it be difficult to get an even satin finish with sanding without taking too much off? Will one possibly look better than the other regardless?

Oh, and I have a photo now, although this is before the last coat which increased glossiness, and I still need to find/install hardware. (I’m open to suggestions even though I know it’s so subjective)

Unfinished sofa table

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3269 days

#9 posted 09-17-2010 07:08 PM

I would do a rub to the finish now that it is dry. This will reduce some of the shine and get rid of any bubbles or specs from dust or other foreign objects.

What I typically do is use a 600 or higher grit – wet/dry sand paper. Dampen it with water or a rubbing oil and very lightly rub the surface with long strokes…do not rub hard or use short sanding strokes (you are rubbing…not sanding). You do not want to rub off the finish…or get down to the wood – you only want to flatten the surface and reduce some of the reflective nature of the finish.

There are many different ways to rub a finish – You can also use a buffing compound and a buffer (but be careful here – this can be more agressive)....You can purchase high grit rubbing pads like micro grit…You can use a pumice rubbing compound…You can use rottenstone (this is by far the most pleasing finishes).....and the list goes on…. Just remember that you are not sanding….you only want to make the surface flat and to reduce some of the reflective nature of the finish.

For low sheen finishes…I also recommend that you start with a satin or flat finish…Gloss or High gloss will rub quite well….but then you would be defeating the purpose of using a shiny finish. For a glossy finish…I rub and then use a good quality wax to bring back the reflective shine of the finish.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Thomas Keefe's profile

Thomas Keefe

131 posts in 3408 days

#10 posted 09-17-2010 08:20 PM

Beautiful table.

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