Glossy finishing?

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Forum topic by Woodknack posted 10-24-2013 01:25 AM 1754 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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12401 posts in 2556 days

10-24-2013 01:25 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finish finishing turning lathe

Talking about shellac or lacquer from a can. I’m not having much success with getting a shiny finish without resorting to wax. Seems like it would be easy on the lathe. I’ve tried smoothing the finish with fine sandpaper then putting on a light coat and buffing with a paper towel but it still looks dull. I’m tempted to try buffing compound but am afraid it will embed in the finish. 0000 steel wool leaves a very smooth but flat finish. Automotive sandpaper loads up super fast and sometimes leaves dark streaks. Also thought about trying wood dust but am afraid that would get stuck in the finish.

I can get a glossy finish with spray lacquer but then have a hard time getting an even coat and sheen plus it inevitably gets dust nibs and has other minor imperfections that I can’t get out without losing the shine.


-- Rick M,

18 replies so far

View Don W's profile

Don W

18990 posts in 2743 days

#1 posted 10-24-2013 01:35 AM

what grit are you sanding to before you finish? And when smoothing the finish with either sand paper of wool, are you dry sanding?

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View JayCop's profile


37 posts in 2610 days

#2 posted 10-24-2013 01:47 AM

Depending on what you are turning a friction polish finish maybe just what you are looking for. What are you turning?

View oldnovice's profile


7273 posts in 3544 days

#3 posted 10-24-2013 02:26 AM

I have used Novus plastic polish to get a super gloss finish. IMO it’s a lot like rotten stone in liquid form. Since this stuff isn’t cheap I only use one small projects.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View doubleDD's profile


7777 posts in 2219 days

#4 posted 10-24-2013 02:47 AM

My first guess would be rpms to high when applying lacquer or shellac, or the coats are too thick. They dry too quickly on a lathe and don’t get a chance to stay even before drying. My old lathe had a 450 min rpm and I use to get that a lot. I solved my problem by switching to non woven sanding pads by Norton. This worked for me but I’m sure there are some great experienced turners out there who know more.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View jordanp's profile


1086 posts in 2116 days

#5 posted 10-24-2013 05:04 AM

Do t know much about turning but The only glossy finish I’ve done was with a light base coat of shellac then wipe on high gloss Poly in several thin layers with light sanding/ buffing in between. But this might not be what your looking for

-- J. Palmer Woodworks - Rockwall TX -I woke up this morning thinking “man, I really hope someone posted some soul scarring sh*t on LJs today.” -- - Billy

View bobasaurus's profile


3539 posts in 3360 days

#6 posted 10-24-2013 05:14 AM

I’ve never had much luck getting things shiny directly on the lathe either. I usually do the base coat on the lathe, then take it off and finish normally to get a decent gloss. As others have suggested, a friction polish might help too. Buffing wood finishes works very well, as cured finishes are similar to plastic (or actually are plastic in the case of polyurethane) and easy to abrade uniformly. I’ve had good luck with “fabulustre” compound on sewn cotton wheels, though I hear tripoli and white diamond works great. As a final touch after the main finishing, try buffing with a carnauba wax… this wax is super hard, buffs to a really good shine, stays durable, and is surprisingly fingerprint resistant in my tests.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View Woodknack's profile


12401 posts in 2556 days

#7 posted 10-24-2013 06:19 AM

Don, I sand to 400 then burnish with wood chips. I would sand higher but the automotive sandpaper I’ve tried leaves black streaks in the wood so I have to find some other brand.

JayCop, spindles and small bowls.

Hans, hadn’t thought to try plastic polish.

DD, my lathe goes down to about 240 but it’s still too fast I think for lacquer or shellac. I use Norton sandpaper but am not familiar with non-woven pads, I’ll check into it.

Jordan, I only use poly/varnish on tables or other surfaces that need maximum wear protection. I’m a big fan of lacquer because it’s color neutral and crystal clear, also dries fast and is easy to repair. Shellac too for many of the same reasons but also it doesn’t stink up the shop.

Bobasaurus, thanks for the tips. I’m looking into friction polishes.

-- Rick M,

View Wildwood's profile


2450 posts in 2310 days

#8 posted 10-24-2013 11:36 AM

To avoid dust nibs, clean up item and area with a shop vac, or spray outside.

Whatever directions on can says about drying/recoat times double that time or even longer.

Hardly ever spray item on the lathe, I use a cheap plastic lazy Susan so can rotate item while spraying whether inside/outside. I found spray can lacquer (Deft) took more coats even if used spray sanding sealer. Same with spray can shellac.

Have much less problems with brushing/dipping/wiping those finishes from quart cans. Get better build of finish from quart cans vice spray. Cannot buy Deft here anymore but no problem with shellac. I will lightly sand away any problems before re-coating with either 220 or 320 grit paper.

Have found it better to let whatever film finish using cure before trying to finish the finish. Then will wet sand and polish with micromesh. Do put a drop or two of dishwashing soap in the water to cut surface friction. I am still using the same micromesh & sponge bought in 2004 from Berea Hardwoods.


I picked up an extra set from this site without the sponge from Wood-N-Whimsies that have not used yet.

Most vendors catering to woodturners carry micromesh, comes in sheets or pads. Have never used pads, but they are as popular as sheets.

Some people sand dry wood with micromesh, I don’t and do not recommend you do. Would recommend staying with sandpaper.

Had the same problem with wet/dry sandpaper bought at auto body shops or parts store you experienced.

-- Bill

View Wildwood's profile


2450 posts in 2310 days

#9 posted 10-24-2013 11:48 AM

I cut back on using 0000 steel wool because some brands contain oil and affects finishing.

Cannot get higher grit sandpaper ifrom big box stores in my town. So buy on line from thes places that have reasonable shipping. Buying in bulk saves me time and money.

For power sanding buy a lot from this place.

I buy sandpaper sheets in bulk from this place they also have power sanding supplies too!

-- Bill

View oldnovice's profile


7273 posts in 3544 days

#10 posted 10-24-2013 04:42 PM

Rick, I apply the Novus to a small cotten cloth, work it in alittle, and then to the surface I want to polish. I can usually get by with the Novus #1 and rarely have to start with #2.

Another cheaper solution are some of the older high grit toothpaste which comes very close to Novus #1 but has a “fresh, minty smell”!
In either case, the surface will not only be glossy but noticeably slippery and water beads up on it as if it had a water repellant (hydrophobic)!

By the way, go to YouTube and search for “neverwet” and you will see some unbelievable videos on this new waterproofing material. A superhydrophobic coating that yummy can use to make piles of water.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View Woodknack's profile


12401 posts in 2556 days

#11 posted 10-24-2013 04:57 PM

Thanks Wildwood, a ton of great info.

Hans, I’ve seen videos of Neverwet, really cool stuff. Uber expensive from what I remember.

-- Rick M,

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2684 posts in 3098 days

#12 posted 10-25-2013 12:17 AM

I am not a turner but on my boxes I sand to 100 grit, apply shellac, sand to 180 and then spray a gloss acrylic finish, sand with brown paper from grocery bag and final coat of spray on acrylic.Gives me a gloss, even, finish.

-- No PHD just a DD214 Website>

View Woodknack's profile


12401 posts in 2556 days

#13 posted 10-25-2013 04:38 AM

Jim your comment reminds me of something I read in the past about polishing on the lathe with brown paper bags.

-- Rick M,

View oldnovice's profile


7273 posts in 3544 days

#14 posted 10-25-2013 05:39 AM

Rick, HorizontalMike and I (and probably others) use brown paper bags for sharpening … the Kraft paper bags.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View Ron Ford's profile

Ron Ford

209 posts in 1908 days

#15 posted 10-25-2013 07:24 PM

Have you tried Waterlox finish? It is a tung oil based product and comes in several different finishes (I have both the medium sheen and satin finishes) and I have successfully used it on a number of projects. I’ve always used it off the lathe but you may be able to apply it while the piece is still mounted. It isn’t cheap (about $40 a quart) but makes a wonderful finish and goes a long way.


-- Once in awhile I make something really great. Most days I just make sawdust.

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