Tack cloths, How important ?

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Forum topic by MrWoody posted 03-16-2008 06:48 PM 35376 views 2 times favorited 38 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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325 posts in 3949 days

03-16-2008 06:48 PM

Topic tags/keywords: sanding finishing

Ok, I just spent 2 days sanding.(Maybe with a few longesh breaks, I hate sanding). I know I should use tack cloths before finishing, but recently there was something about them possibly being responsible for fish eye.
So is there an alternative method for clean up before finishing ?

-- If we learn from our mistakes, I'm getting a fantastic education.

38 replies so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4163 days

#1 posted 03-16-2008 07:13 PM

Not sure about fisheye. I usually use compressed air. I think it’s way better than a tack cloth.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View toyguy's profile


1662 posts in 4012 days

#2 posted 03-16-2008 07:38 PM

Yip, I too use the compressed air method. No compressor, no problem, try a can of air.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View CharlieM1958's profile


16278 posts in 4393 days

#3 posted 03-16-2008 07:41 PM

What finish in particular?

I don’t do much lacquer, but for poly I just wipe down with a mineral-spirits-dampened rag.

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

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3997 days

#4 posted 03-16-2008 08:33 PM

Fish eye is generally not a problem with tack cloths. Instead what they do is transfer chemicals to the wood that may interfere with the stain/finish. It is better to use compressed air or a clean cloth with mineral spirits to remove the dust and sanding grit between each individual grit that is used in the sanding routine.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4029 posts in 4239 days

#5 posted 03-16-2008 09:07 PM

And those micro-fiber tack clothes work as well, as long as you aren’t transferring the offending chemicals in the same manner as a regular tack cloth. If you are using the compressed air technique, try doing it in an area other than the spray site, or let the air settle before firing up the spray gun.

The regular tack cloths can be a problem with waterborne lacquers.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4049 days

#6 posted 03-16-2008 10:09 PM

I’ve heard the compressed air method before, and I use compressed air as a first step, but even though I use a blow nozzle at 110psi a couple of inches from the wood I still find a layer of very fine dust is left on the surface. I’d love to skip the tack cloth step, but I’ve never found that air alone would get my pieces clean enough.

I’ve used the waxy cloths without any fish-eye until recently (and I’m not positive that my problems were caused by the tack cloth), but the microfiber cloths seem to do just as well and last longer.

-- -- --

View MrWoody's profile


325 posts in 3949 days

#7 posted 03-16-2008 10:19 PM

I love this site. You ask a question and get 6 replies in a couple of hours.
I’m not sure that blowing the dust off is a good idea in my 12’ X 20’ ft. wood, metal, welding shop and finishing room. I’m going to be using a wood conditioner that calls for Mineral Spirits for clean up. Now I’ve never used a wood condidtioner before, so can I assume that wiping down with it won’t be a problem?
Should I leave it dry over night before applying the conditioner? I can leave the air cleaner running over night as well. That should keep too much dust from settling on it.

-- If we learn from our mistakes, I'm getting a fantastic education.

View Safetyboy's profile


119 posts in 3934 days

#8 posted 03-16-2008 11:36 PM

I usually wipe down with mineral spirits before staining, mostly to look for glue spots… but I also have used tack cloths between coats of poly, on a number of projects, and never had a problem. I’m transitioning to microfiber cloths for that now though – I think I like them better – my hands don’t get so sticky.

-- -- Kevin in Mentor, Ohio

View gizmodyne's profile


1780 posts in 4265 days

#9 posted 03-16-2008 11:39 PM

I always tack cloth. No problems yet.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 3979 days

#10 posted 03-17-2008 12:12 AM

I use compressed air and a clean cloth with mineral spirits.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View mrtrim's profile


1696 posts in 4055 days

#11 posted 03-17-2008 12:38 AM

the reason you get fisheyes from a tack rag is usually applying too much pressure on them . the concept is too litely drag the cloth over the surface and the dust sticks to the wax . when you use too much pressure it can transfer the wax onto your piece . on smaller pieces i choose to use my clean bare hand because i can feel the dust that i cant see .

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3943 days

#12 posted 03-17-2008 01:55 AM

i use compressed air but i have used tack clothes in the past and they work good too but on porous woods compressed air is better because the cloth doesn’t clean out the pores well. otherwise tack clothes work fine in my opinion.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3997 days

#13 posted 03-17-2008 02:00 PM

Wood conditioner is simply a diluted finish. You can either buy it premade or make your own. Examples of conditioners are:

1 pound cut of shellac
lacquer 1:1 with lacquer thinner
thin varnish/oil poly with 2 parts of mineral spirits to 1 part of varnish/poly

Bulls eye shellac is available in both a 2 and 3 pound cut. Just thin with alcohol to desired cut.

Hope this helps.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Myron Wooley's profile

Myron Wooley

226 posts in 4071 days

#14 posted 03-17-2008 03:45 PM

I use a shop vac with HEPA filter and a soft bench brush. Tack cloths can contaminate the surface, and air compressors just launch the dust into the air. What goes up must come down, and it will probably come down on your nice, sticky fresh coat of finish.

-- The days are long and the years are short...

View MsDebbieP's profile


18616 posts in 4335 days

#15 posted 03-17-2008 05:04 PM

in one of my interviews I did (I forget which one), when I asked “any tips for LumberJocks” the quick reply was GET RID OF THE TACK CLOTHS”.
or something like that :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

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