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Wipe on Finish - Talk to me like a 3rd grader

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Forum topic by Don Carrier posted 932 days ago 1619 views 2 times favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Don Carrier

114 posts in 962 days


932 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’ve read everything I could read on wipe on finish, the best type to buy, how to make your own, best tempature etc – and after a week of fooling with it I have to admit I don’t get it. What I end up with is micro fine streaky finish that will have to be polished. I feel like I should have brushed on 3 coats, sanding between each, and then a final polish. Why should I take all this time? I tried every combination of wool, paper towels, and t-shirts I could think of and in the end it streaks going on and dries that way. I tried adding small amounts of BLO to slow the drying and it still streaks.

It’s such a popular finish I must be missing something. So explain to me, like a 3rd grader, how to properly apply a wipe on finish.

-- Don


32 replies so far

View Blakep's profile

Blakep

231 posts in 1387 days


#1 posted 932 days ago

Wipe on, Wipe off. haha I honestly don’t know and haven’t tried it but I just liked how you said, “explain it to me, llke a 3rd graded” so I had to comment.

View Don Carrier's profile

Don Carrier

114 posts in 962 days


#2 posted 932 days ago

Nice to meet someone with a sense of humor Blakep! It’s and old saying we had in the military. People who know how to do something inevitably leave out the important little details. I remember an old tech manual that stated:

Step 1. Remove the lug from the red wire using a 9/16 wrench
Step 2. Remove the lug from the yellow wire…
Step 3. Remove the lug from the green wire….

Warning: Unplug the transmitter before you remove the lugs or you will be exposed to 10,000 volts.

It’s all in the timing and presentation right?

-- Don

View HamS's profile

HamS

1089 posts in 974 days


#3 posted 932 days ago

I also need to hear this, because I have never gotten good results with the wipe-on finishes.

-- My mother named me Hamilton, I have been trying to earn my nickname ever since.

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15623 posts in 2804 days


#4 posted 932 days ago

Go clean your room!

(Well, you said to talk to you like a third grader.)

Wipe on finish is great. Don’t give up on it yet! It sounds like there are two main things that may be happening:

First, you don’t want to apply much pressure with the cloth when you are wiping the finish on. Remember, the cloth is just your “brush”. If you press too hard, you will not be leaving enough finish on the surface.

Second, a wipe on finish is quick and easy to apply, but it does take several coats to achieve the depth you might be looking for. (Six to eight coats is not uncommon for me.) A wipe on finish applied to bare wood is never going to look good after the first coat or two. The finish itself is thinner, so it will take several coats just to achieve uniform coverage.

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

View Don Carrier's profile

Don Carrier

114 posts in 962 days


#5 posted 932 days ago

Ok Charlie,
Are you saying I should be using the rag like a brush and leaving enough finish on the surface to flow?

-- Don

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15623 posts in 2804 days


#6 posted 932 days ago

It’s kind of a learn-by-feel process.

You don’t want to leave so much finish on that it would run on a vertical surface, but you want to leave almost that much, if that makes sense. And, again, some streaking is perfectly normal on the first couple of coats.

If you are going for a very glossy finish, you will want to leave as much finish on the surface as possible on the later coats without it running. For satin it’s not as critical.

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

View Don Carrier's profile

Don Carrier

114 posts in 962 days


#7 posted 932 days ago

Thanks Charlie,
The vertical surfices seem fine. It’s the top I’m having trouble with. I’ve done a coat a day for 7 days now of 50/50 varnish mineral spirits. Each coat is as streaky as the last. I have sanded twice with 1200 grit/ soapy water. I’ll try one more coat today. Sounds like I’m not leaving enough on. I have to admit though it sounds like my purdy brush would fill the bill.

-- Don

View SnowyRiver's profile

SnowyRiver

51451 posts in 2066 days


#8 posted 932 days ago

I like the wipe on too. I have never tried making my own. I use Minwax which has always worked fine. It takes a few more coats to get the same finish with it vs the regular poly, but it works well. I just use a clean soft rag, pore some in a flat container, dip the rag in it and wipe it on.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15623 posts in 2804 days


#9 posted 932 days ago

Yeah, if you are trying to get a deep, glossy finish on top you need to leave a little more finish on the surface for the final coats.

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

View Don Carrier's profile

Don Carrier

114 posts in 962 days


#10 posted 932 days ago

Wayne,
Why does your just wipe it on work and mine not? There has got to be a reason. When you wipe it must leave streaks are you appling enough finish so that it levels its self?

-- Don

View SnowyRiver's profile

SnowyRiver

51451 posts in 2066 days


#11 posted 932 days ago

I actually rub it into the wood, but I dont overwork it since it starts to set as soon as its wiped on. As I mentioned earlier, I have never made my own by thinning regular poly down with mineral spirits. I know some times folks mention thats all you have to do, but I have never tried that. Have you tried using the Minwax wipe on, or some other brand? I also have used it primarily on medium to darker woods. I know wipe on poly can sometimes amber when used on lighter wood. I do sand between coats, but I usually dry sand using 220 to 320 grit. Remove the dust with a rag and mineral spirits, then recoat.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View rustfever's profile

rustfever

619 posts in 1895 days


#12 posted 932 days ago

I, too, had problems. I started with 1 qt of Poly and added 1/2 qt of mineral spirits, then wiped on with an old T-shirt. I tried and tried, always getting either no coverage or runs and sags. Of course, I sanded using #OOOO steel wool, tried over.

I desperation, I picked up a foam brush. ‘Viola’................I got a great coat. Several coats later, I had the desired depth of finish and had no sag or runs.

Once, I use Spar Varnish straight out of the can. Using that was the most work I had ever done. Swear I will never use full strength Spar Varnish again. If I am forced to use it, I will cut it as described above, and use the foam [disposable] brush.
Ira

-- Rustfever, Central California

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15623 posts in 2804 days


#13 posted 932 days ago

Rustfever, good point. I forgot to mention that I sometimes use a foam brush myself.

Don, I should have asked up front to be clear… Are you in fact trying to get a glass-like finish, like on this box:

Because that is a pretty different ball game than just wiping on a satin finish like this one:

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

View JSilverman's profile

JSilverman

87 posts in 1199 days


#14 posted 932 days ago

I use wipe on/off finishes all the time- sometimes Minwax’s version sometimes home made (1/3 varnish, 1/3 oil/ 1/3 mineral spirits). I have found that the first coat gets wiped off so the wood is pretty “dry”, then sand with 600 wet/dry sandpaper the next day with a little finish as lubricant. The following coat is also mostly wiped off, subsequent coats are left a bit wetter (mostly saturated rag used to wipe off). On the horizontal surfaces like a table-top I use the fairly wet wiping rag with a light touch, then walk away to avoid temptation of trying to smooth out the finish- it will flatten itself over time (it is important to leave enough finish on the surface to allow this). The wetness of the rag is important- it should be wet but not enough to wring any finish out of it.

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15623 posts in 2804 days


#15 posted 932 days ago

+1 for JSilverman’s thecnique.

Also, if I’m dealing with a somewhat porous wood, I’ll wipe the first few coats on thick and sloppy, then sand it smooth before adding the finish coats. In effect, this is using the finish itself as a grain filler.

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

showing 1 through 15 of 32 replies

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