buffing/rubbing out a finish to an even sheen

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by rusticandy posted 12-18-2010 07:16 PM 3722 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View rusticandy's profile


110 posts in 3769 days

12-18-2010 07:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing

Hello all,

I’m having a hard time with a final finish (happens to be water based poly), and getting the finish lookiing even/not mottled.

To be more specific- I’m talking about the top layer (not in the wood or the finish). I tried lightly rubbing it, but went too far, and spraying another coat have left an uneven sheen. I was looking for others’ buffing tips/techniques, rather thn a daignosis of the issue (uneven sheen on the top surface)

Its a pretty flat, built up, dark walnut surface that continues to show an uneven sheen even after spraying twice that I want to buff or rub out.

Please share your tips, buffing techniques with the team!!

Thanks for your ideas!!!


-- rustic andy

7 replies so far

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 3193 days

#1 posted 12-18-2010 07:29 PM

I suspect you will have to provide more information before someone will be able to help you. Such as, what is the wood? What’s under the poly? ...stain, filler, sealer? Did you spray? Brush? Wipe? What was your sanding regimen? What do you mean by “mottled”? Also pics would help. I’m sure there are many who would be willing to help you if they can understand your problem clearly.

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

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5149 posts in 4200 days

#2 posted 12-18-2010 10:02 PM

IMNSHO, the poly is the culprit. I have quit using the stuff ‘cause I want a much more “classic” finish. I’m now using a wiping varnish for furniture, shellac for display pieces, some oil where applicable. Only use poly for high abrasion surfaces. I still think that NC lacquer is a great finish.
Best to take the finish down as far as possible and start over with mutiple coats wiped on. Then, abraide the surface for the next coat. I mostly use woven pads for rub-out. No steel wool for water based finished goods. Last coats are a finishing wax of your choice (brands), then buff like crazy by hand.Bill


View Brit's profile


7609 posts in 3082 days

#3 posted 12-19-2010 11:53 PM

I agree with Roger, you need to supply more information in order for anyone to offer reliable advice.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3290 days

#4 posted 12-20-2010 07:57 PM


Post a pic if you can, but if I read you correctly, You’re not going to buff this out. If you had scratches or uneven sheen and shot another coat over it, you buried it. Water-based doesn’t burn in or dissolve and blend with the last coat like laquer or shellac, but lies on top and leaves “witness lines”. Your only choice is to sand the whole thing down, get a smooth surface, and start over. A properly applied, sprayed finish should need minimal buffing. For info on how to buff to an extreme gloss, go to and search in finishing. There’s a wealth of info there.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4458 days

#5 posted 12-20-2010 08:32 PM

In my experience, it takes many coats of poly on walnut to get to a point where you can rub out to a consistent sheen. The grain in some areas will soak up more finish than in other areas, hence the inconsistent gloss level.

A method I have used with success is to apply a number of coats to really get the surface built up, then sand back with 400 grit to level everything off. The result at this point will be milky and ugly looking, but don’t worry.. the final coat will restore the sheen, and now you will have a surface thick enough to rub out without going through.

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

View shipwright's profile


8187 posts in 3037 days

#6 posted 12-21-2010 01:26 AM

What kind of wb poly? The one I use (Target) does burn in up to about 24 hours coat separation, but if you sand through that last group of coats you will get witness lines and have to go back to square one.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View wisno's profile


88 posts in 3250 days

#7 posted 01-01-2011 05:35 AM

You need a enough film layer if you want to rub your finish.
Make sure your finish is really dry.
You can use steel wool to rub your finish.
You can rub your finish lightly but it need to be done consistently. The rubbing result is depend on the consistency of your rubbing. The more pressure on your wool the higher sheen you will get. The inconsistent in your rubbing pressure will result on a inconsistency gloss.
You may need a hand block to make an even and consistent rub.

Rubbing for wood finish

Good luck



Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics