How to stop fisheye.

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Forum topic by Stormy posted 05-31-2013 08:14 PM 7272 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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162 posts in 1621 days

05-31-2013 08:14 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing

I’m refinishing a blanket chest top. Grandson scratched a heart and “I love Mamaw” on the top with ball point pen. All sanded out well. I applied Minwax Red Mahogany stain to restore color. After drying time I applied a coat of sanding sealer (Zinsser seal coat) followed by a coat of Zinsser shellac.

The finish fisheyed badly. So I stripped it all down again and redid the finish, except I sprayed Deft laquer this time. Same result….fisheye.

So after 3 strippings and tries I now have it stripped and a coat of Zar stain applied and wiped back. Color looks good and I will let it dry over the weekend.

What the shellac will do I have no clue.

Can anyone tell me a solution to my problem?

-- Stormy: Sometimes the wood just tells you what it wants to be.

27 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3850 posts in 1917 days

#1 posted 05-31-2013 08:26 PM

Shellac will prevent fisheye normally. I think your first attempt had the fisheye in the stain (just a guess). The second one had only the lacquer, which will fisheye. I would bet that if the Zar stain is intact after it dries, the shellac will cover it with no problem. I was puzzled by the use Zinnser Seal coat (dewaxed shellac) followed by a coat of Zinsser shellac (the waxed version?). Regardless, whatever contamination was/is causing the fisheye, shellac (Seal Coat, in your case) goes on first to seal it off from everything else. If the Zar dries intact, it may be that you finally stripped far enough down to eliminate the contaminant.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View RobertStix's profile


19 posts in 1259 days

#2 posted 05-31-2013 08:28 PM

amateur input here…it all looks good as far as compatibility goes. Humidity?

-- "I wear eye protection when using power tools because my blood stings my eyes and because I can't read braille."

View pintodeluxe's profile


4827 posts in 2237 days

#3 posted 05-31-2013 08:37 PM

Usually fisheye is not a problem with the product you are using, so much as a contaminant in the wood. A common culprit is furniture wax. Did you strip the top completely? I imagine you did.

Sometimes the drying time of stain will be 24-48 hours depending on temp. and humidity. The stain and topcoat will react adversely if the stain is not fully dry. Test the stain with a clean, dry rag. You shouldn’t be able to lift any color off if the stain is dry.

Good luck.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 3001 days

#4 posted 05-31-2013 08:43 PM

You probably have a contaminate in your shop like silicone it is in some product your using. Silicone is in products like Armorall and in some care waxes and many more products and can some times be impossible to get out of shops once introduced into your shop.
you can try wiping it down with naphtha a couple of times and then two coats of dewaxed shellac doing a light sanding in between coats and then refinish.

-- Custom furniture

View bold1's profile


259 posts in 1271 days

#5 posted 05-31-2013 09:16 PM

Certain hair care and deodorants contain silicone and if you have them on you will cause fisheye without your knowing. We have a list of products that the workers that finish are not allowed to wear, at the cabinet plant where I work.

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1295 posts in 1372 days

#6 posted 05-31-2013 09:29 PM

did you shake the Shellac. I was told by Sher-willams that shaking will cause fisheye’s. I also experienced this with polyshades.

View pintodeluxe's profile


4827 posts in 2237 days

#7 posted 05-31-2013 09:47 PM

Usually shaking a finish causes bubbles, but I don’t see how it would cause fisheyes.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Stormy's profile


162 posts in 1621 days

#8 posted 05-31-2013 10:26 PM

Thank you all for the good advice. Has anyone used a Martin-Senour product called “Squirt”? My woodworking buddy here at home uses it to stop fisheye, but he thinks it is a silicone additive.

I my former life (work before retirement) we added silicone to paint to achieve a hammered/fisheye look. The paint was baked in a walkin oven to dry. So, I don’t think silicone added would stop fisheye.

-- Stormy: Sometimes the wood just tells you what it wants to be.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4408 posts in 3384 days

#9 posted 05-31-2013 10:39 PM

Simple answer is to use a “fish-eye remover” (or whatever they might call the specific product).
Biggest cause of fish-eye is silicone from wax, polish, or (heaven forbid) Pledge and clones thereof.
The remover is a silicone additive to the finish that aids in flowing out the finish. Check it out.


View Elizabeth's profile


814 posts in 2567 days

#10 posted 05-31-2013 10:45 PM

Finish newbie question – what is fisheye in this context?

View bold1's profile


259 posts in 1271 days

#11 posted 05-31-2013 11:46 PM

Fisheye is a round flaw in the finish. It can come from not wiping down the surface to rid it of waxes or oils, which “reject the finish” at that spot. Or it can be in the finish itself. Silicone is one of the worst to combat, since if you contact it, the heat of your body can cause it to vaporize and condense on your finish surface, causing the wet finish to fisheye around the contact point.

View levan's profile


472 posts in 2403 days

#12 posted 05-31-2013 11:55 PM

Elizabeth fisheye. Almost always contaminent,
If you use the fish eye remover that has silcone in it you will probably have to use it forever, because your whole shop will be contaminated.

-- "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right". Henry Ford

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 1273 days

#13 posted 05-31-2013 11:59 PM


In this case, fisheye refers to the cater-like imperfections which can appear in a finish, often lacquer, after it’s been applied. The reason that this happens, as others have said, is because there is silicone contamination on the surface of the wood. I too am more than a little bit puzzled as to why the fisheyes persisted even after the shellac was applied. I often use shellac as a countermeasure against silicone contamination. The only thing that I would suggest is that you spray the shellac onto the surface, either from an aerosol can or with a spray gun, if you have access to one. If you use a brush to apply the shellac, you can sometimes drag the silicone into the shellac with your brush and cause the very problem that you’re trying to avoid. Beware of products like fisheye destroyer. They do work, but they also can contaminate your spray equipment or brush. Often, once you use these products once, you must continue to do so. The overspray from a finish that contains silicone can also contaminates other surfaces in your shop.

View riverguy's profile


110 posts in 1488 days

#14 posted 06-01-2013 01:03 AM

After painting cars for some 25 years, I’m no stranger to fisheyes. It is every painter’s curse, for sure. The only way I’ve found to stop it when nothing else has worked (this is for spraying) is to spray a super light coat and allow it to dry completely. I use Deft lacquers a lot and this works with them. After the first coat is dry, apply a second and a third, all very light. Then sand the surface with 220, being careful to not sand through. From there, you should be able to apply your finish coats, but don’t pour it on.

If you have no way of spraying your finish, how about the wipe-on finishes? No fisheyes that way.

In all my years of painting, I always try to avoid sealers or anything else that goes on under the final finish. Stain the project, let it dry, and start applying whatever finish you’re going to end up with. IMHO, avoiding dissimilar materials in a finish job is a good idea. Also remember that you’re not supposed to apply Deft Lacquer over red mahogany stain . . . for some mysterious reason.

I’ve also recently started using Minwax Polycrylic for a lot of furniture, cabinets and trim. It goes on easily, I’ve never has issues with fisheyes, it dries quickly, leaves no brushmarks (I also spray it on bigger projects), cleans up with water, and it’s a very durable finish. For a fine-furniture look, I use satin Polycrylic and a light wipe with 0000 steel wool after an overnight dry.

-- Skip, Forestville, CA,

View gfadvm's profile


14932 posts in 2114 days

#15 posted 06-01-2013 02:01 AM

My wife and I would have left that priceless inscription from the grandson!

I certainly would have thought that shellac would seal any contaminants. I have never seen fisheyes with shellac and I’ve put it over all kinds of contaminants.

I’ll be following this thread with interest. Keep us updated please.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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