Someone please check my knowledge

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Forum topic by jeffswildwood posted 10-11-2013 03:22 PM 1110 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View jeffswildwood's profile


3555 posts in 2153 days

10-11-2013 03:22 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hi all, I would like someone to check to see if I’m correct in finishing. My skills in woodworking has improved greatly. Trying new thing that are working well for me but my finishing skills are still stuck in neutral. I’ve posted forums like this before but I just need a knowledge check as I now have a dislike for minwax polyurethane.

1) from the can polyurethane is a little thicker, I use a foam brush but requires patients. 2 coats are usually enough. I can thin with mineral spirits if needed but that will shorten drying time. Tough to smooth.
2) Wipe on poly is more forgiving then (1) above. Thinner but smoother and easier to apply. May need several coats to get desired gloss. several brand available good and not so good.
3) shellack is also more forgiving then (1), wipe on or brush on. Good appearance but not as glossy as poly or as durable.
4) water base poly is easy to apply, need a brush. a little more runny so caution is needed. comes out white then dries clear.
5) BLO is a good finish but not durable. Really highlights the grain but not durable.

Could someone give me knowledge check?

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

9 replies so far

View vetwoodworker's profile


104 posts in 1882 days

#1 posted 10-11-2013 03:24 PM

Sounds about right. Or you could use a good danish or tung oil and wax the heck out of it (hand finish).. Not as durable but beautiful and puts you “in Touch” with the grain

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2866 days

#2 posted 10-11-2013 03:34 PM

Your newfound dislike of “that product” shows you are growing into a real finisher.
Stick to a brand – mixing different companies together can cause problems
Buy it from someone you can talk to – customer service, customer service, customer service
Don’t be afraid to try new things – finishing isn’t rocket science
Keep talking and asking questions of your friends here at LJ’s

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

View Woodknack's profile


12401 posts in 2555 days

#3 posted 10-11-2013 04:57 PM

A couple of additional positives about shellac, it cures relatively quickly, is easily repaired, doesn’t stink to high heaven, and can be polished to a very high shine. As for durability, it’s very durable and was long used on flooring. It just isn’t the best finish for tabletops due to hot plates or spilled alcohol.

You might also consider lacquer. Easier to apply than poly, perfectly clear, color neutral, cures relatively quickly with thin coats, can be brushed or sprayed, and is easily repaired. Downside is it stinks while curing.

-- Rick M,

View DS's profile


3024 posts in 2596 days

#4 posted 10-11-2013 06:54 PM

Rocket Science is a peice of cake….

Finishing isn’t that hard either, but CAN BE it you screw it up! ;-)
Find what works for you—stick to it.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View jeffswildwood's profile


3555 posts in 2153 days

#5 posted 10-11-2013 08:19 PM

Thanks for the check and advice. Nothing could be worse then to complete a project, have it come out just right and struggle at finishing time. So far minwax poly has worked great for me, but on occasion it decides it wants to give me a fight. Runs, bare spots, thickening, and drives me crazy! Even with a new can! Then its repair time. I guess to branch out I need to try all the above and see what I like and what works. Same way I did with my woodworking. I think first on the list is shellac, that is after I finish what I started on the two projects I’m working on.

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

View Bill White's profile (online now)

Bill White

5106 posts in 4136 days

#6 posted 10-11-2013 09:19 PM

I am not a fan of any MinWax poly, and many of the other products are , in my estimation, “handyman” grade.


View bigblockyeti's profile


5256 posts in 1896 days

#7 posted 10-11-2013 09:36 PM

Where would lacquer fall in the list from a durability standpoint? I’ve used canned spray lacquer with good results, but the durability hasn’t really been tested. I have a quart of Watco lacquer that I would like to try to spray.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View jumbojack's profile


1685 posts in 2799 days

#8 posted 10-11-2013 10:37 PM

i love lacquer, the ease of application (I spray), easy to repair, fast drying (I put 15 coats on a musical instrument yesterday) drys very hard, I spray gloss, so my final gloss options are wide open. I happen to LOVE the smell of lacquer.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View scott ernst's profile

scott ernst

41 posts in 2003 days

#9 posted 10-12-2013 01:55 AM

I started out my career doing the Maloof thing (varnish, mineral spirits and linseed oil mixed and wiped on and off) That worked great for a guy with limited skills, lots of time and no clean room to spray in. It gives a really silky and woody finish and is durable enough for most pieces. (more durable than an oil and wax finish) Not dining tables. The downside is that you can only put on one thin coat/day and it’s time consuming. I’ve never used them, but I imagine that wiping varnishes are just as easy to use and maybe build a finish faster.

Then I moved up to a simple compressor driven HVLP gun (about $90 from Woodworkers Supply) and a fast drying varnish from Sherwin Williams. Pros: Nice fast finish building, quick to apply and the fast drying varnish dried quickly enough that I didn’t get dust falling into the wet film. Cons: without a spray booth you can stink up the shop to the point that you have to go home for the rest of the day (unless you’re using water borne finishes), there is a distinct learning curve. Don’t practice on that set of chairs that you just finished. If you have a compressor it’s a great and reasonably inexpensive way to spray finish. You can squirt lacquers, shellac, poly/varnish, stains, water borne finishes, etc. It’s WAY easier than brushing on a nice finish.

After I had a finishing scare on an expensive custom dining table I realized that being a finisher was it’s own craft and that I had neither the skills, dedicated work space or interest necessary to master that craft. I am very fortunate that I have 2 great finishers nearby who can do anything from a distressed finish to a piano finish. Pros: drop it off and I know it’s going to be perfect, they can match any finish, sheen or color that a client or decorator can throw at them. Cons: if your finisher has taken the time to develop the skill set and has invested in the pricy equipment, it ain’t cheap. If you can afford it, it’s worth every penny.

Shellac: nice warm color, fast drying, relatively low toxicity, not so durable, lousy water barrier (remember those white rings on your grandmothers sideboard?) Beautiful finish if you’re good.

Varnish: warm color, dries slowly, flows on nicely, has to be scuffed between coats, tough and hard. Not repairable without a re-coat. It smells.

Lacquer: toxic as hell, strong smell, dries fast, warm color, repairable, beautiful to spray and look at, must be sprayed, tough.

Water borne finishes: can raise the grain, can be so clear that they look cold and blue (neither of these is as big of an issue as it used to be), super tough and durable, low VOC’s and no strong smell, easy to work.

-- Scott, NM

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