I hate sanding between finish coats

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Forum topic by jimbarstow posted 09-06-2013 01:48 AM 3110 views 2 times favorited 39 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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36 posts in 1845 days

09-06-2013 01:48 AM

I typically sand with 400 grit between finish coats but it is a long, boring process that I hate. (My favorite finish these days is minwax wipe-on poly diluted with a little mineral spirits and with a dash of tung oil added.) Does anyone have a magic finish recipe that provides a satin (NOT glossy) finish that doesn’t require the hours of sanding? Should I try using an HVLP spray? I’ve been doing this for 30 years but surely there is some new finishing technology that provides a perfectly smooth finish sanding free.

Sanding the Greene and Greene crib I’m making takes hours between coats

39 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3672 days

#1 posted 09-06-2013 02:23 AM

Dunno. I’d say you’re sanding too much at too fine a grit.

I sand between varnish coats at 220 or 320 using stearated
paper. It goes pretty quick. If you want a perfect finish at
the end, let it cure, then level and polish with rottenstone
or whatever you prefer.

View firefighterontheside's profile


18351 posts in 1881 days

#2 posted 09-06-2013 02:36 AM

I concur. I don’t own any 400 grit. I use 220 at the most between coats of minwax oil based poly. I have read about using the 5000 grit buffing pads for final finish. I think that was it. I want to try that. As far as the hvlp goes, I love mine. Earlex 5500. You can lay down a real nice finish in just 2 coats. You just have to get the viscosity right and the right tip. The learning curve is pretty short though.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2601 days

#3 posted 09-06-2013 06:28 AM

I use 320 between coats and it goes fast. I spray my finishes with a turbine hvlp.
I typically spray two light coats, light sanding with 320, spray two more, done.

Regarding a “magic recipe” for satin, just plain satin poly. I prefer waterbornes for their quick drying times and low voc. Why the tung oil with the poly?

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View kdc68's profile (online now)


2657 posts in 2301 days

#4 posted 09-06-2013 10:37 AM

Who really likes sanding ?.....But with finish sanding, you are rounding third base and are about to reach home base. To me, knowing I’m at that stage of the project is enough incentive to get it finished (pun intended).

Here’s an article from Popular Woodworking by Bob Flexner that’s bound to stir up a little controversy.

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2715 days

#5 posted 09-06-2013 01:10 PM

You only need to sand if you have rough spots (raised grain). If you raise your grain before the first sanding, using water, you should only have to sand again after the first coat. Possibly after the second coat should any grain raise occur.
Nobody loves sanding.
Keep in mind the first thing that happens when someone approaches a peice you just built. They reach out and touch it. That right there is why we sand.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

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Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2386 days

#6 posted 09-07-2013 01:21 PM

Sanding between coats is unnecessary.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3601 days

#7 posted 09-07-2013 01:39 PM

Many top coat’s instructions include sanding between coats but this should be a light scuffing of the surface for adhesion purposes not hours of sanding, if your finish is so rough that you need to sand that long ,then you have a problem with how your applying it or with the finish or both.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View rrww's profile


263 posts in 2138 days

#8 posted 09-07-2013 02:50 PM

I usually do a fast scuff with 320 works great – even complicated finishing projects go fast this way.

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 1874 days

#9 posted 09-07-2013 02:51 PM

If you have the ability to spray, then I’d switch to shellac, lacquer or waterborne finishes. These are easier to spray and much easier to sand. Clint’s right, at least in the case of shellac and lacquer. These finishes burn in and you don’t have to scuff sand between coats. If you do, though, you’ll produce a much better finish. Varnish is infamous for collecting dust. If you switch to a faster drying finish, you’ll eliminate a lot of these problems.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4999 posts in 2518 days

#10 posted 09-07-2013 03:15 PM

There area several reasons to sand between coats, but there is only one I’m careful to follow: scuff sanding is needed for any urethane products, since the urethane (or polyurethane) resins inhibit adhesion. All the others others are optional (at least between every coat). I’ll usually knock down dust nibs about every 2nd coat, I sand grain raised whiskers off (with water borne finishes) after the first coat, then only finish sand after the last one. If I want a satin finish, i make the last coat one from a can of satin finish (the preceding ones are gloss). Except for shellac, if it’s the finish you have to work the sheen you want with an abrasive.

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

View firefighterontheside's profile


18351 posts in 1881 days

#11 posted 09-07-2013 03:54 PM

What us a good readily available clear lacquer? I can go to Lowes, HD, and Sherwin Williams. I do have a turbine hvlp.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3172 posts in 3255 days

#12 posted 09-07-2013 04:24 PM

I usually spray Deft Clear finish and sand lightly before the last coat.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4999 posts in 2518 days

#13 posted 09-07-2013 04:28 PM

I’ve bought SW lacquer before and really like it. I think it’s considered a “pro” item, since it’s hidden in the back. I also like the Watco product, but I can only get it at Menard’s…not sure they are down in your neck of the woods yet. Both of them were about $20/gallon the last time I bought some.

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

View pintodeluxe's profile


5704 posts in 2838 days

#14 posted 09-07-2013 05:10 PM

When spraying lacquer I sand between coats with a 1000-1500 grit sanding sponge. It takes 15-20 minutes to scuff the finish smooth on a medium sized case good or table. I say use the finest grit that will get the job done. Once you switch to spraying, your off-the-gun finish will be smooth already. You just need to remove any dust nibs or overspray that may be present.

I use a two coat + wax finish. After the first coat of lacquer, I sand with the fine sponges. After the second coat of lacquer cures, I wax with #0000 steel wool. It leaves a nice satin finish.

Good luck!

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

View firefighterontheside's profile


18351 posts in 1881 days

#15 posted 09-07-2013 05:56 PM

I’ll look at menards. They have opened 2 stores in the vicinity and will open another this fall. Thanks, I’ll try it.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

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