Wipe on Poly frustration,Help!!

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Forum topic by longboarder posted 10-24-2010 10:00 PM 20614 views 3 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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29 posts in 3265 days

10-24-2010 10:00 PM

I built a cherry coffee table 30”x 60” this is a large surface and want protection so I read on this forum to do a wipe on poly (Minwax). I used dew-axed shelac for 1st coat sanded with #320 then applied 6 coats of Minwax poly clear gloss, sanding between coats with #400. Let sit for 3 days. I want a satin finish so I sanded the last coat of gloss with 400 to get rid of dust nibs and Applied a coat of with cotton cloth ball as I did with every coat. Now I have a mess! I have dull streaks and gloss streaks and the sanding marks from the last sanding of the gloss coat are showing . Why is it that gloss hides previous sanding marks but not clear sating and why the streaking of gloss and dull ( Satin). Sure could use some advice. Maybe I should have done just a Poly Gel Satin from the beginning. The Gel process eliminates dust nibs problem from what I’ve heard and no sanding in between. But here I am with the current problem in front of me and not looking forward to going back to bare wood.

22 replies so far

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1285 posts in 3736 days

#1 posted 10-24-2010 10:06 PM

I usually spray the last coat of poly. However, you will need to make sure the humidity and temps are proper for wiping on the final coat. You also need to apply enough material so as to keep it completely wet fro start to finish. This way it will have a chance to even out. Spraying is a lot easier. Just buy a spray can of satin and have at it.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View longboarder's profile


29 posts in 3265 days

#2 posted 10-24-2010 10:47 PM

Thanks for the reply but one of my biggest culprits is dust nibs even though I have a makeshift booth over the table.

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3577 days

#3 posted 10-24-2010 11:20 PM

I’m not sure but if it’s water base you can have problems waiting that long to recoat. If you have that many coats you can probibly buff if out.
Take a look hear

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3667 days

#4 posted 10-25-2010 12:38 AM

I dont believe the product you are using has anything to do with the problem. The fact that you have dull and shiny streaks suggests to me that your final sanding is not consistant across the top, or you sanded through some sections of finish. Are you sanding by hand or machine? If by hand, the dull streaks are from where you were pushing down harder than on the shiny streaks. This is the hardest part of rubbing out a high gloss to a satin sheen. You are trying to get a consistent scratch pattern in the finish to distort light rays.

I personally like to apply homade wipe on poly (60% MO 40% Poly) and on the final coat I use full strength to get a good thick “film” of finish on the wood.

Try rubbing out the final coat with 0000 steel wool. Also, a desk lamp laid on its side will help to guide you on where you are.

Good luck and don’t get discouraged, in the end you will only be a better woodworker.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View shipwright's profile


7980 posts in 2797 days

#5 posted 10-25-2010 12:57 AM

OK I am a big fan of Minwax Wipe On Poly (see my projects) and I don’t think that the product is the problem. I have run into the dull / glossy scenario on a last coat a couple of times and I think it was because I was over wiping or cheaping out on the finish to get a quicker dry and avoid the dreaded dust. I have two bits of advice:
1) As others have stated, you must put a full wet coat on so it can self level
2) Do you have a walk in shower? It’s the most dust free environment you’ll ever find. I know 30×60 is pretty large but try to think of a place like that.

Personally if I wanted a satin finish and was worried about dust I’d produce the best gloss finish I could and then rub it out with mineral oil and wet / dry paper to about 600 grit, higher for higher sheen.

Paul M

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4218 days

#6 posted 10-25-2010 01:51 AM

I pretty much agree with everything shipwright said. Even the “mess” you have now could probably still be rubbed out to a satin finish without having to apply any more poly than you already have.

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

View ghazard's profile


382 posts in 3509 days

#7 posted 11-01-2010 03:36 PM

I have used Minwax wipe on poly on all my non cuttingboard projects. And plan to use it on a bar top that I am planning this winter. In doing some research I found Charles Neil on youtube. Excellent videos…specifically this video on rubbing out a finish. I suggest watching it.)

In my experience with Poly…which is comparatively little, I have found that I need to be at 800 grit or higher for the final sanding to keep the surface uniform. I use 400 for the first few coats then 800 before the last coat. I’m in a home/garage shop so realistically, in my mind, I am never going to get 100% dust-nub free. A trick that I learned here on LJ was to use a piece of a brown paper grocery bag, after the last coat is well dried, to get a smooth feel to the final coat. It knocks the nubs off, doesn’t reduce the sheen and is safe to do after the final coat. I don’t use a block or anything, just a scrap of paperbag around my fingers. I find that it works very well.

After watching the Charles Neil video I would venture that you might be OK, as CharlieM1958 suggests, to rub out the current finish a bit more and end up with the desired sheen without having to sand back to bare wood.

Good luck on the repair job.


-- "Hey, you dang woodchucks! Quit chuckin' my wood!"

View groy87's profile


136 posts in 2839 days

#8 posted 02-09-2011 02:49 AM

is there any difference between the different brands out there? I’ve been looking at Minwax and watco wipe on poly and I’m wondering if people have had better results with one brand over the other.

View Campzeke's profile


66 posts in 1933 days

#9 posted 01-04-2015 07:14 PM

I am also VERY frustrated with the Minwax wipe on poly. I am trying to use it on some small boxes and ending up with a blotchy, sticky mess. Yes, it is still sticky after 24 hours. It appears this is a very finicky product that is marketed as easy to use. I spend a great amount of time on my projects and sand to an almost polished finish before any finishing product ever touched the surface. I am ready to drop kick this garbage into the next time zone and go back to Watco Danish Oil.

-- Campzeke, Tampa, FL

View NoSpace's profile


120 posts in 1240 days

#10 posted 01-04-2015 08:20 PM

The one thing I think I can do pretty well after a learning curve consisting of lots of trial and error and reading all kinds of advice is finish, and all I’ve ever used is Minwax stain and poly, though I use semi-gloss. I hate waiting days on end for stuff to dry so I’ve got my system down to a one-day process. I’m sure there’s a slight sacrifice for quality doing it this way but I personally couldn’t do better with the 10 coat sand-in-between method.

First, I do everything outside and only take minor precautions for keeping dirt away. Second, I only use those “Bag-o-rags” or the HDX equivalent from Home Depot and I think they work fantastic.

I dip the rag directly into the can and rub on coat on as thin as possible and try to go fast, as streaking happens when you work over a portion of the surface that has had a chance to get even a little sticky. I let it dry 1-2 hours, and if it isn’t completely dry, I don’t care, I put coat 2 on exactly the same way with no sanding and same for coat three and four (if it’s a table top or something). The main thing I care about is avoiding bubbles, which is pretty easy with a rag, but even a few of bubbles isn’t a deal breaker at this point.

The last coat per the fashion above needs to be very dry, and so that last coat can dry several hours or overnight If I went three or four coats instead of my typical 2. Then, I sand with about 320, lightly, and run my palm over the surface to make sure its smooth. It will look like hell with what appear to be gouges and rings from bubbles and scratches etc., but if it feels smooth, it’s good. Then I go straight to smoothing it out with 000 steel wool until it’s really, really smooth; then wipe off the dust.

Now it’s time for the final coat, or final two coats, depending. I mix 60% poly (I eyeball it) with 40% mineral spirits so it gets ultra thin. This is where I take a breath and go carefully. I map the wiping strokes out in my mind first, so I can wipe on as fast as possible; make sure the rag isn’t saturated but there is no time for dipping again so it has to be the right amount. Then I wipe the whole surface down as fast as possible with wide strokes and if I miss a spot, or if I re-work a patch that’s dried for more than about 5 seconds, I know there will be a second coat, because that might streak. Any other coats just steel wool probably in between. Only dry an hour in between or less because it’s thinner.

View Logan Windram's profile

Logan Windram

346 posts in 2461 days

#11 posted 01-04-2015 08:29 PM

Wipe on poly is almost impossible to mess up. Apply, light scuff sand, recoat. Repeat until you feel is needed.

The final process, sand all over thoroughly with 800-1000 grit, rub out with steel wool in the same direction with wool lube. Buff off with a clean cotton cloth.

Wipe on poly doesn’t leave brush marks, so you shouldn’t have to level.

View mahdee's profile


3883 posts in 1767 days

#12 posted 01-04-2015 09:27 PM

All very good advice. I learned a few things from this forum. I think the reason you can see scratches on the final coats and not the previous ones has to do with curing process. When you sand a partially dry poly, the scratches go deeper and wider. In worst case scenario, you get little balls before your sand paper clogs up. I suggest leaving it alone for a few weeks prior to proceeding with above recommendations.


View MrUnix's profile


6715 posts in 2198 days

#13 posted 01-04-2015 09:39 PM

I suggest leaving it alone for a few weeks prior to proceeding with above recommendations.

Really don’t think it’s necessary to wait THAT long! Poly cures in two steps.. first, the solvent flashes off and it becomes dry to the touch pretty quickly.. then a chemical reaction takes place for the final cure. I believe the directions for the Minwax wipe on stuff says to wait a minimum of 2-3 hours.. I like to give it at least 12-24 (overnight is usually sufficient), but that’s just me, and I make my own wipe-on using regular poly thinned with MS.

I have had sanding scratches show up after a coating.. not a problem usually, you just need to do another coat (or more depending on the severity of the scratches). Also, don’t be too aggressive with your sanding.. a very light sanding with 320/400 grit.. one or two passes just to knock off the dust bunnies is all you need. Sometimes, just wiping it with your hands will work to remove them.


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

View mahdee's profile


3883 posts in 1767 days

#14 posted 01-04-2015 09:39 PM

groy87, I like cabot. But you have to get used to application process. It is much thicker and you will rarely need more than two coats. As such, best result occur in cold weather when evaporation time is slow. I mostly use Cabot for small project. It is fast drying and the second coat has to go on very fast or you will have a mess. I love lacquer much better for most projects. I dries in 30 minutes or less and you are good to go for concomitant coats without having to sand in between. Spray can’s are great for small projects. Be sure to spray very thin coats and don’t worry about spots that are not as shiny as additional coats will melt into the previous ones.


View mahdee's profile


3883 posts in 1767 days

#15 posted 01-04-2015 09:49 PM

Brad is right- when the application is done correctly, i.e., the previous coats have had 12- 24 hours of drying time. Two reasons for waiting a few weeks:
1- It allows for previous coats to dry completely, in case they hadn’t.
2- Psychological reasons. Sometimes you have to unplug from a project for a time in order to tackle it rationally.


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