Wipe on Poly

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Forum topic by Grumpy posted 2301 days ago 25968 views 7 times favorited 33 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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19393 posts in 2484 days

2301 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: finish lacquer wipe on poly

I bought some wipe on poly yesterday for the first time, I usually use the standard brush on type. I am after clues on how to get that near perfect finish. I believe this product is good. Has anybody any tips on how best to apply it ?.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

33 replies so far

View TomFran's profile


2942 posts in 2628 days

#1 posted 2301 days ago


Wipe on poly is regular poly that is thinned 50/50 with mineral spirits.

It can be applied with a wad of lintless cotton cloth or even a paper towel. I like to seal the wood first with shellac, and then follow it up with at least (3) coats of the wipe on poly. You can scuff sand between coats to get the dust nibs off, and then blow or tack rag it off and apply the next coat.

Then let it sit a week or so and give it a final sanding with 400 (lightly), and follow it up with some wax. You can tell when it’s ready for the final sanding by smelling it. If you can still smell the finish, it’s still drying. When it’s sufficiently dry, it will turn to powder when you hit it with the 400 grit.

I hope that helps.

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 2378 days

#2 posted 2301 days ago

Depending on the weather where you are, the Minwax brand wipe on poly, dries fairly fast. I don’t normally use it, but a customer requested it for a ham radio desk that I built. I was able to put a coat a day on, sanding with 400 grit on my ROS. Like Tom said, when the smell is gone, you can sand, which in the my Texas low humidity, high heat climate, I was able to do everyday. After 4 coats, and a final sanding, I let it sit for 3 days, then applied a coat of Carnuba wax. Smooooth.

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

3963 posts in 2697 days

#3 posted 2301 days ago

You can add a little VM&P (Varnish Makers and Painters) Naptha if you wish to speed the drying time.

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

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 2402 days

#4 posted 2301 days ago

i saw a cool tip for that in a magazine but i forget which one. essentials take a 3” paint roller, wrap it in plastic wrap so it doesn’t absorb the finish, and then wrap it in a cotton cloth using your hands to tension it so you get a smooth surface with no pressure marks. if you need anything else to help visualiz it i can go through my magazines and try to find it.

View trifern's profile


8132 posts in 2401 days

#5 posted 2301 days ago

I usually sand through 220 grit and then apply thin coats of wipe-on poly with a lint free or micro-fiber cloth. I then rub the dried finish with 0000 steel wool and clean off the residue with mineral spirits. I repeat the process 3-5 times depending on the absorption rate of the various species of wood. I have scuffed between coats with sand paper, but I feel that it is too aggressive and not as easy to control as the steel wool. Depending on the final desired gloss, I either leave it for a high gloss, or I buff it with 0000 steel wool and wax for a satin sheen. Check out my projects, they all have wipe-on poly. It is like most finishes, multiple thin coats are better than fewer thick coats. Good luck and report back on your results and level of satisfaction.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Grumpy's profile


19393 posts in 2484 days

#6 posted 2301 days ago

Thanks for all that expert advice jocks, very much appreciated.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6647 posts in 2613 days

#7 posted 2298 days ago

Well I learned a few things here. Good question Grumpy.



-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View CharlieM1958's profile


15691 posts in 2852 days

#8 posted 2298 days ago

Grumpy, my method is similar to Trifern’s, but with a bit of a twist. I’ll wipe on about 4-5 coats first, just scuffing between coats with a 320 sanding sponge. Then I sand with 220 followed by 400. This will take off a fair amount of the poly you already wiped on, but it will leave you with a glass-smooth surface. Then apply your last 2 coats as described above.

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

View Grumpy's profile


19393 posts in 2484 days

#9 posted 2297 days ago

Thanks Charlie, much appreciated.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Matt (Upper Cut)'s profile

Matt (Upper Cut)

264 posts in 2447 days

#10 posted 2297 days ago

I use wipe on poly a lot, FWW thought the minwax stuff was pretty good, and so do I. If it is good enough for Maloof, it’s good enough for me.

Maloof Oil/Poly at Rockler

-- Matt Gradwohl, Upper Cut Woodworks,

View Walnut_Weasel's profile


360 posts in 1856 days

#11 posted 1818 days ago

I have a small bandsaw box that I am currently finishing with glossy wipe-on poly using the techniques discussed here. On the end grain where there is a sharp curve cut, the poly is very dull. Should I continue to add coats of poly or will I never get a glossy finish over end grain?

-- James -

View Grumpy's profile


19393 posts in 2484 days

#12 posted 1816 days ago

James, the end grain will soak up the finish more than the long grain will. Thats why you have that dull finish. If you give all the job a light sand and apply more coats between light sanding you should end up with a good finish. For future jobs you could use a sealer first, lilke sanding sealer, then apply the poly.
After 2 or 3 coats of poly I tend not to sand between coats but you can give it a buff with soft cloth.
Let me know how it works out.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Walnut_Weasel's profile


360 posts in 1856 days

#13 posted 1816 days ago

Ahh good recommendation regarding the sealer. Now that you mention it I remember reading that before. I will be sure to give that a shot next time I put poly on a box. Thanks.

-- James -

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1279 posts in 2370 days

#14 posted 1816 days ago

I usually sand to 600 or more for the final finishes with wipe on. You can see the results on my site. Look under Portfolio. Most of the projects have wipe on poly for durability. The tiger maple entertainment center is all poly. I saw it the other day and after 8 years looks better than ever.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View dstenzel's profile


5 posts in 1607 days

#15 posted 1607 days ago

What type of microfiber applicator would you use to apply a wipe-on poly or varnish? Is it a hand-held microfiber cloth of some sort? Is it a pad or sponge type product? How much texture does the surface have?

Thank you!

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