Rubbing and polishing your poly finish

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Forum topic by Resurrected posted 02-05-2011 05:42 PM 27492 views 1 time favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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671 posts in 2897 days

02-05-2011 05:42 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I sand between my coats of poly (Minwax), Clean up and wait a few hours to let the dust settle before spraying but still the little rough (Dust) spots are there. I would like to learn how to rub out and polish my projects.

What do you use to rub out the little particles in your poly? What products?

What do you use to polish it out? What products?

Is there any other steps that can help make a smooth, perfect (Used loosely) finish?

-- Who can I block now???????????????????????

12 replies so far

View childress's profile


841 posts in 3747 days

#1 posted 02-05-2011 06:35 PM

Not a whole lot of experience here, but I learned from a friend who used to work for a stain and poly manufacturer (no longer in business). What he used to do after he sprayed was sand with 600 between coats and for the last coat he would apply by hand, usually with a foam brush. His finishes used to be soooo smooth and elegant. I still haven’t perfected it like he did, I guess it comes with practice.

There are other things to do to a top coat. Like rubbing it out, but you need a thick base that you sand progressively to get whatever sheen you’re looking for. But that is a whole other ball game than just putting on 3 coats of poly and trying to get a smooth finish…

-- Childress Woodworks

View GMman's profile


3902 posts in 3902 days

#2 posted 02-05-2011 06:59 PM

I never yet got used to spaying I bought different guns and I am back to foam brushes.
I do sand between coats and I wipe with a rag with just bit water damp.
The last coat I use a 1000 grit and sand with hardly no pressure, and the shine comes out very nice.
The last sanding it is best to wait a day.

View Rick  Dennington's profile (online now)

Rick Dennington

6306 posts in 3399 days

#3 posted 02-05-2011 07:06 PM

Ok bud,

You ask for it, so I’ll tell you my secret to getting a smmoooth finish…..but you can’t tell anyone…it’s a secret…..After you have applied the final coat of poly (sanding between coats, of course), let it dry really good for about 24-36 hours (if you can wait that long), and here’s the secret…..!!!!! Use 800—1000 wet-dry sandpaper and LEMON OIL for the final smooth finish. Douce the lemon oil on the sandpaper and project and ever soooo lightly (like floating a feather over it), just to knock off the little tits of dust….with a clean cloth (like a T-shirt) wipe it down as you go. When done, buff it out with another dry cloth….finished…..In about a month, if you want to, you can use some Johnsons Paste Wax and polish it. Just give the finsih time to dry real good….that’s it….. I think I’ll cook some fish tonight for supper….........

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....!!

View bigike's profile


4055 posts in 3493 days

#4 posted 02-05-2011 07:38 PM

For rubbing out a finish you need a very thick layer on the piece at least seven then you can sand with wet dry 400-1500 and either use pumice and rotten stone or you can use swirl remover for cars your gonna have to follow directions for the pumice and rotten stone on the carton. for the swirl remover you can get that from here, if you scroll down the page you will see other products that go with it.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View Resurrected's profile


671 posts in 2897 days

#5 posted 02-06-2011 01:44 AM

Ah ya ya thought it was simpler than this.

Hmm Rick is that those guppies from a year ago your cookin?

-- Who can I block now???????????????????????

View bandit571's profile


21797 posts in 2888 days

#6 posted 02-06-2011 02:34 AM

Simple as a rag! Between coat #2 and#3 I steel wool ( #0000) the whole surface. I then wipe everthing off, using a tack cloth. One swipe, change the area of the tack cloth, swipe on. I apply the third coat, and wait a bit. I wait until the surface is no longer tacky to a fingertip. Now the “secret”. I grab an old towel ( or even an old, clean T-shirt) and start rubbing things down, HARD. The more “elbow grease” the better. You are creating friction with the rag. “polish” the whole surface until you have the gloss you are after.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Ollie's profile


146 posts in 3480 days

#7 posted 02-06-2011 02:40 AM

Just wet and dry paper with water and a tiny bit of soap (washing up liquid ) , use something like 1000 grit for just one swipe every where and then a very, very fine grit 4000/6000 or so for a few passes, or an automotive polishing compound for the final buff. Then clean it all off and buff with a tiny bit of paste wax.

if you want ultra smooth finish search car painting techniques, they call it `colour sanding`its just polishing with finer and finer grits.

-- Ollie, UK.

View bill1352's profile


130 posts in 3327 days

#8 posted 02-06-2011 07:27 AM

I have no trouble getting a great shine and smooth as a baby s bottom but even with swirl remover I can’t get those tiny swirl marks out. You have to look sideways to see them but I look sideways. Glow in the dark finish is ruined by those ** swirls. I’ve wondered if it was the RPM’s of the polisher so I used a car polisher with no difference. I use wet Micro Mesh disc’s which go up to 12,000 grit. Micro Mesh says not to get over 1200 RPM on the orbital polisher, mine hits 1200. I’ve used pumice & rottenstone, Micro Mesh is easier & faster & if I’m going to have swirl marks easier & faster is better.

-- Keep Your Stick On The Ice

View gko's profile


83 posts in 3449 days

#9 posted 02-06-2011 12:35 PM

I would get Flexner’s Understanding Wood Finishes and read the chapter on finishing the finish. When he makes recommendations, I generally follow them. His method takes about two weeks but has always worked. I usually brush on several coats of varnish that has been thinned about third or half with mineral spirits for less brush marks and to make sure the bubbles will pop out. Where i live the humidity is sometimes high which causes the finish to take a long time to dry out (not cure which takes a week or two) which means a longer wet time for dust and bugs to get stuck. So I sometimes thin with naphtha which evaporates much faster and thus fewer dust problems. I wait about a day between coats and sand with about 320 between coats. After 3 or 4 coats I wait about 2 days and sand more aggressively without cuttting through the finish. I try to flatten and get rid of all brush marks using a sanding block (rubber or cork on bottom). Before the final sanding, you need to wait until you cannot smell anything with your nose nearly on the surface. This is usually a week or two. If the finish is pretty flat I go with 0000 steel wool or 2000 grit synthetic steel wool (I personally like Mirlon, seems to be a more even pattern) in water with some dish washing liquid and work it until no shiny spots are left. Then I rub it out with rottenstone in a blend of mineral spirits and mineral oil. The longer you work it the more mirror like it will get. If the surface of the wood was not perfect its better to stop short of a mirror finish. For a mirror finish I then go with rubbing compound. Wax the finish twice and you should have an amazing finish. I like Renaissance wax because fingerprints don’t seem to stand out as much and it seems to last longer than most. I got most of this from Flexner’s book. Highly recommended.

-- Wood Menehune, Honolulu

View wisno's profile


88 posts in 3216 days

#10 posted 02-09-2011 08:09 AM

There are some method of rubbing process. But mainly the step is : wet sanding and buffing or compounding.
For the simple rubbing you can end up with steel wool your finish and it will give you satin looked.
For high gloss finish, you need the buffing machine and rubbing compound.

You can view the rubbing process by go to this link: rubbing and polishing.


View Jack_T's profile


623 posts in 3236 days

#11 posted 02-11-2011 05:35 PM

I think on the best things that you can do is to change your procedure slightly. You said:

“I sand between my coats of poly (Minwax), Clean up and wait a few hours to let the dust settle before spraying”

The simplest way to eliminate the rough (Dust) spots from the surface is to minimize their occurring. After you spray and your finish dries move the project to a different area and then sand. Clean up the dust and then move your project back to your finishing area.

One other thought, hand sand between coats. Hand sanding results in less aerosolization of the dust.

I also agree that Flexner’s book Understanding Wood Finishes is an excellent resource.

-- Jack T, John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life."

View Resurrected's profile


671 posts in 2897 days

#12 posted 02-12-2011 04:33 PM

Thanks all for the good information.

-- Who can I block now???????????????????????

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