I need a smooth painted finish without a sprayer!

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Forum topic by rbterhune posted 01-12-2011 06:19 PM 23001 views 2 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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176 posts in 3216 days

01-12-2011 06:19 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing sanding question tip

Hello everyone. I’ve looked through some of the forums for the answer to this question but haven’t really had any luck with the search. (an area where lumberjocks could improve.)

My first project is a painted poplar bookcase. I’m using solid wood throughout.

I do not have a sprayer and do not plan on buying one anytime soon because I need too many other tools instead.

I still want a very smooth, almost slick painted surface for the project and need some pointers on how to achieve that…sanding tips, paint choice, application methods, etc.? I want to make the grain disappear. Any help would be appreciated.

To better describe the look I’m going for…think Pottery Barn painted furniture…you know, the can’t tell there’s even a grain to the wood type of smooth.


18 replies so far

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 2953 days

#1 posted 01-12-2011 06:29 PM

Put the paint on in several coats, lightly sanding in between to build up a nice thick surface, then sand down to 500 and polish it.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View childress's profile


841 posts in 3536 days

#2 posted 01-12-2011 06:38 PM

I’ve had good results painting trim work with an oil base with penetrol added to it. Makes it flow better. You also need a high quality brush. Home depot carries it in my area.

-- Childress Woodworks

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 3457 days

#3 posted 01-12-2011 06:41 PM

Floetrol also works well. You can also lightly wet sand with 400 grit after the paint has cured.

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View rbterhune's profile


176 posts in 3216 days

#4 posted 01-12-2011 07:07 PM

Nomad…should I thin the paint?

Whoops….posted too soon…The Floetrol improves flow without thinning.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4213 days

#5 posted 01-12-2011 07:16 PM

A good quality aerosol will do the job also. I repainted all the vanity doors and drawer fronts in one of my bathrooms using spray paint, and I got the smooth finish you’re looking for. The key is to spray several light coats to avoid runs.

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

View botanist's profile


167 posts in 3533 days

#6 posted 01-12-2011 07:39 PM

I’ve had a lot of good luck with a 4” foam roller from Lowe’s. On the package, they say these rollers are for cabinets. They’re not like the rollers you use for walls; these are smooth foam. They leave a pretty smooth finish on their own. I put on a relatively light coat then sand with 150 grit drywall sandpaper (doesn’t clog as easily as regular sandpaper). I do this a couple of times then finish up with higher grit sandpaper and it leaves a pretty good finish.

I’ve used Floetrol on exterior applications and I’ve had pretty good luck with it. I was painting my house last year and needed something to extend the drying time (it was a really hot summer last year in Illinois). It did a really good job of preventing visible brush strokes.

View rbterhune's profile


176 posts in 3216 days

#7 posted 01-12-2011 07:42 PM

Maybe the 4” roller combined with the Floetrol would be a good combo. I like the aerosol idea except that it might take many, many cans.

View botanist's profile


167 posts in 3533 days

#8 posted 01-12-2011 07:59 PM

I would test the roller on a piece of scrap first, just to make sure it works the way you want it to work. I’d hate to give you advice for something that would ruin your work. I’m curious if the paint raises the grain like water does. If so, you’d probably want to wet the piece with a damp rag, resand, and then prime and paint. If you’re thinking about white paint, use BIN by Zinsser, which is a shellac based primer that does a great job of blocking anything from the wood from bleeding through. Even if you’re not using white paint I would still use BIN for a couple of reasons. I was working on a hall bench for my wife between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year and didn’t want to deal with paint fumes inside from the primer but that caused another problem. It was 30 degrees F outside and I don’t have heated garage! Because the solvent in BIN is basically alcohol, it has a very wide range of temperatures at which it’s effective: 0 degrees to 90 degrees F. It also dries very quickly.

View rbterhune's profile


176 posts in 3216 days

#9 posted 01-12-2011 08:33 PM

botanist…the BIN info is good. I’ll keep that in mind…especially that it will be an off white color.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2965 days

#10 posted 01-12-2011 10:12 PM

I refinished a bookcase last spring. Let the dorks at HD talk me into latex enamel over BIN primer. The primer was fine, but if I never see another can of latex enamel it will be too soon. Latex paint is a PITA for a bookcase. Especially if you apply 2 or more coats. The crap will not dry. I had to sit the case in front of a de-humidifier for 6 months before it was hard enough to use. The surface looks nice and slick and smooth, but it is also tacky. After a couple of weeks I tried to place a few books on a shelf and the next day the bottoms of the books were stuck to the shelf.

My dad’s method would have been to use oil base primer and enamel with a little BLO mixed in to help the flow. Sometimes he would also use a product called Japan Dry to speed up the drying process and to make a nice hard surface.

I have used the small foam roller and it’s nice. A good paint with some BLO in it will go on with a quality brush just as smooth though.

View JBfromMN's profile


107 posts in 2771 days

#11 posted 01-12-2011 10:55 PM

I agree with Crank, what ever you do stay away from Latex paint. Make sure your surface prep is very thorough. Sand, wet down to raise the grain, air dry, sand and repeat until the grain no longer raises on the wood. I find about 3 passes does the trick. The a couple of coats of a good primer, sanded between coats. Then the top coats of an oil based enamel and wet sanding between coats. 2 tops coats should be enough if you have done all of the prep work. The finish will be rock hard and smooth as glass.

View rbterhune's profile


176 posts in 3216 days

#12 posted 01-13-2011 04:56 AM

JBfromMN…would you use the penetrol as suggested above?

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2917 days

#13 posted 01-13-2011 05:27 AM

The secret of good painting is correct viscosity of paints and the temperature. I use lacquer based paint and mixed with lacquer flo for controlling temperature and humidity changes. Lacquer thinner is for thinning only that you can add everytime the viscosity becomes low. I use 1 inch roller (cloth and not foam) but sometimes it is much better to use a wider brush specially using lacquer, dries quickly. Do not apply too thick coats. Let it dry first.

-- Bert

View Loren's profile (online now)


10377 posts in 3642 days

#14 posted 01-13-2011 11:09 AM

“weenie roller” it. A weenie roller is a narrow foam roller. I know
pro painters who swear by this method. Sand between coats to
level it, but the final coat should roll on real smooth.

You can paint a car with this method too. Done well, it looks just
like a spray job.

To cover grain use a grain filler, sand, then fill and sand again. Some
woods need it once, some twice.

View Earlextech's profile


1161 posts in 2685 days

#15 posted 01-13-2011 04:46 PM

Latex paint is never an acceptable finsh material for any type of furniture project. Oil based paints or solid color lacquers will work best. Using a flow agent or possibly a retarder will help make the finish smoother. Sand between multiple coats, wax after it cures.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

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