Technique for Applying Wipe-On Poly?

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Forum topic by juniorjock posted 11-17-2008 10:44 PM 6098 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1930 posts in 3765 days

11-17-2008 10:44 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wipe-on polly technique finishing

I just recently started using wipe-on poly on a few projects and I have to say that I really like the results. The instructions on the can say wipe on with a rag or clean cloth. I was wondering what type of cloth (material) some of you LJs use and what technique you use to apply the poly ?

22 replies so far

View SteveKorz's profile


2134 posts in 3713 days

#1 posted 11-17-2008 10:55 PM

You might want to look thru this link, you may find what you're looking for in there.

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View juniorjock's profile


1930 posts in 3765 days

#2 posted 11-17-2008 11:05 PM

Thanks for the link Steve, but I meant for this to be a sort of survey to see if everyone applied the poly pretty much the same way or if anyone had any tricks or tips they’d like to share.

View Grumpy's profile


23928 posts in 3851 days

#3 posted 11-17-2008 11:50 PM

For pens I use cotton balls, easily disposed of but you need to be careful with the stray bits of cotton.

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

View juniorjock's profile


1930 posts in 3765 days

#4 posted 11-17-2008 11:54 PM

Thanks Grumpy. I’ve used different fabrics. Trying to find what may be best and not leave those bits and pieces.

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3767 days

#5 posted 11-18-2008 12:38 AM

I use old t shirts, 100% cotton.

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

View scott shangraw's profile

scott shangraw

513 posts in 4069 days

#6 posted 11-18-2008 01:18 AM

Most of the time I have just used lint free 100% white cotton.On large flat tops I have used lamb’s wool and that works well(it holds more poly so you don’t have to “reload”as often)

-- Scott NM,

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3962 days

#7 posted 11-18-2008 01:37 AM

I follow Flexner’s technique of mixing high gloss poly with mineral spirits and wiping it on with a clean cotton rag. I buy the rags at the store. They look like tee-shirt material. Be sure to sand with 220 paper before reapplying.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View juniorjock's profile


1930 posts in 3765 days

#8 posted 11-18-2008 01:59 AM

That’s one thing I learned pretty quick Thos. If the stock isn’t smooth, it picks the material really bad. So far, I’ve had pretty good luck with cotton. But I’ve noticed that the material soaks up the poly like a wick. Wondering how much I’m wasting….. Thought about putting a tight rubber band over part of the fabric and see if it keeps it from doing that.

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1285 posts in 3736 days

#9 posted 11-18-2008 03:45 AM

If you really want the wood to pop out with wipe-on poly sand it to at least 600 grit or higher. Wipe-on poly is is very thin and will readily soak into wood that is almost sanded to a polish. I sand to a minimum 600 grit when using oils. Many times I will go to 1500 grit after some coats. I have a sample in the shop that I show to clients that has a super wipe-on finish. They usually go nuts when they rub their hands on the sample. It feels like silk. I just use old socks to apply the material. I go to a high quality lint free cotton when applying the final finish.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4218 days

#10 posted 11-18-2008 03:53 AM

Cotton t-shirt material is probably best. But for intermediate coats, disposable blue shop towels (the kind that are essentially just heavy-duty paper towels) work just fine.

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

View juniorjock's profile


1930 posts in 3765 days

#11 posted 11-18-2008 04:04 AM

John and Charlie, that’s what I’m looking for. Thanks.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3821 days

#12 posted 11-18-2008 04:19 AM

I am with CharlieM. I use cotton cloths and/or paper towels, sanding lightly between coats.

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

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3787 days

#13 posted 11-19-2008 02:46 AM

600 thread count cotton sheets work better than T-shirt material IMHO, as there is not such radical absorption.


-- Go

View DonFaulk0517's profile


131 posts in 3486 days

#14 posted 11-19-2008 03:16 AM

I have found that using a standard Staining Pad (Terry Cloth Staining Pad for applying stains to all surfaces) soaks up the wipe-on Poy or Tung Oil and allows me to apply the wipe-on with less trips back to the bucket of wipe-on poly or Tung Oil. I then use cotton T-Shirts to wipe off access.. The Staining Pad is available at any Home Center (i.e., Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc…).


View Slacker's profile


178 posts in 3701 days

#15 posted 11-19-2008 04:42 AM

Tee shirt material is great; they sell bags of the stuff at Woodcraft.

-- Adapt, improvise, overcome

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