Im a moron: fixing uneven polyurethane job on new table top?!

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Forum topic by 98102via57401 posted 05-25-2014 03:52 AM 10981 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 1258 days

05-25-2014 03:52 AM

Topic tags/keywords: polyurethane table finishing im and idiot

Long story short. I started putting full strength satin poly on a section of table top. Realized I need to stop to let the stain dry longer. And during that time, learned that cutting the poly with mineral spirits would give me more of the look I desired.

So when I went to put the new thinner coat of poly on the table, I sanded the section of thick poly I had already done, and proceeded to stain it all with the thinner stuff.

Now that one corner of the table looks funny of course. What is the best way to fix it? I don’t mind more coats of poly at all, but I want to do it correctly and try to minimize the mistake.

Can I just put several coats of the thin layer on everywhere except the thick coated area? Will it eventually build up and look similar and unnoticeable?


13 replies so far

View jbartle's profile


15 posts in 1828 days

#1 posted 05-25-2014 04:05 AM

IMO you have two options. Sand off the high areas or try to go full strength in the low area. I would try the sanding myself. Good luck with what ever you decide

View 98102via57401's profile


6 posts in 1258 days

#2 posted 05-25-2014 04:08 AM

I was leaning towards sanding the high area and trying my best to put a few coats down around it and finishing the table top off with a final thin coat over the full thing.

View woodman71's profile


162 posts in 3107 days

#3 posted 05-25-2014 04:13 AM

It sounds to me that your trying to put coats on to fast. If your spraying it you need to let that coat flash.Before you spray another coat. If your apply by brush you need to wait eight hours and sanded in between coats. Sanded with 000 steel wool or 220 or 320. Read the side of the can for instruction .

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6 posts in 1258 days

#4 posted 05-25-2014 04:19 AM

Hey woodman, I’m not sure I understand your reply.
To reiterate my situation:
- applied full strength poly to one corner of the table.
- let it dry for 48 hours
- learned that I wanted to cut the poly (1:4 spirits to poly)
- sanded lightly with 300+
- applied 1:4 ratio poly to entire table including dried full strength section (which will obviously make the thick section even thicker…I don’t know what I was thinking)
- and now have 2 very different looking sections.

I am brushing on with high end brush.
I let each coat dry for no less than 24 hours.

View Ted's profile


2808 posts in 1994 days

#5 posted 05-25-2014 05:10 AM

Is the difference in coloration? You mentioned that you realized the stain had to dry longer, so I’m reading into this the issue is with the stain, not the poly. If that’s the case, it can’t be fixed by adding more coats of poly. I would sand the entire finish off, right down to new wood, and start over. I just hope it’s not a thin veneer, such as plywood might have. If so, maybe use a liquid finish remover instead of sanding.

Whatever the case, you have a botched finish. Better to jut get rid of it and start over.

-- The first cordless tool was a stick. The first power tool was a rock.

View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 3167 days

#6 posted 05-25-2014 05:18 AM

I’m not sure from your post, but are you calling the polyurethane “stain” or did you actually put a colored stain on the table and then a polyurethane finish over that? The reason I’m asking is because if it’s only polyurethane and no coloring, I would recommend one thing, but if you have a colored stain, then poly, I would recommend another. If it’s just poly, I recommend sanding it down in the thicker area to try to get it as thin as the rest of the table as you could and then put on a couple more coats. However, if you have a stain on the table, I wouldn’t chance sanding through unless you want to sand it all to bare wood and start over. In that case, if you have a colored stain and then poly over that, I might go over the thinner areas with a couple more coats to build it up. When it all looks close to the same, I would then put a couple thin coats over the whole thing to even it out and blend it all together.
Do you have any pictures?

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

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6 posts in 1258 days

#7 posted 05-25-2014 06:36 AM

Ahhh…POLY! Replace the word stain in my initial post and replace it with poly

I just reread my first post and in my, ‘I should really just go to bed state’, I somehow said stain instead of poly. The wood is stained. This is just a run of the mill (no stain) satin Polyurethane. I swear I know the difference!

Thanks for the additional help Dale and Tedster! Having another close look at it, I think the difference is noticeable right now because a combination of both thicker layer and smoother surface (more wood grain imperfections are smoothed over) cause the refraction of light to make the wood in that area look richer and slightly more dark. At least that’s my going theory.

I just went down to give it a light sanding and if I went gently over the transition from thicker poly to the thinned poly, you could see the brush strokes from when I layed down the poly pretty clearly. That is, because it is a thicker material I was basically roughing up that coat and the thinner coat remained untouched. To give a visual example…if you put your hand palm down on the table and spread your fingers out…if you were to sand on top of your hand, youd have to sand for a little while before it was rubbed down far enough that you started sanding the table.

So taking some of the advice here and combining it with part of my own…here is my plan:
- sand in such a way that the difference between the new and old transition stands out.
- poly the thinner area up to the border of the thick poly material.
- let dry. repeat until the transition is less noticeable.
- sand it all to hopefully one thickness…or at least make it as gradual of a difference as possible.
- One last thin coat of poly.

If it works…I can document it and be happy about a learned lesson.
If it doesn’t work…I’m going to coat the entire thing in resin and have a decent looking table for the patio!

View woodman71's profile


162 posts in 3107 days

#8 posted 05-25-2014 01:57 PM

I’m sorry 98102 I thought you where putting ply over stain and after reread your post I got a better under standing of what your try to do. Now it sound to me your trying to get a table top as flat and smooth as possible. If I where do this from the begin I would put full strength coats of polyurethane I would not reduce.Let dry 24 hour and block sand with 220 or 320 . I forgot to say do not coat in section coat the hole top. this way when block sand your leveling your surface DO NOT sand threw the coat of polyurethane from before. One more thing is if your table top is not flat it has low spots trying to fill them with polyurethane is not a good idea.I know trying to explain this is little hard I learn from seeing . So the best way to see this go to you tube and look up woodworking for mere mortals then look for chess board that Steve is building I think it a 8 part build look for the finishing part of the board he using lacquer but you will see sand part of what I’m trying to say. Like I said he use lacquer so he does not need to sand in between coat but when sand the top to get flat and smooth you will begin to see what I’m saying with polyurethane your going to sand each coat of polyurethane to get it flat. One more thing the raise you don’t coat in parts is you will never get a flat surface because your fighting a uneven surface of finish . I hope this will help and if it was me doing this table top I start over by sanding off all the polyurethane that is on and coat with full strength polyurethane following the step I have given and what you will learn for Steve Good luck.

View Rick's profile


8287 posts in 2816 days

#9 posted 05-26-2014 04:15 AM

Seeing as how you’ve now cleared up the fact that… “There is NO Stain.” on The Table.

I would do as “woodman71” says he would if it was His Table. ”if it was me doing this table top I start over by sanding off all the polyurethane that is on and coat with full strength polyurethane”

Otherwise your going to fiddle around with the table, trying to fix the Mess that’s there now, for a Long Time and I can almost Guarantee You it still won’t look right.

Strip It, Sand It, Clean It, Full Strength Poly, The Entire Table At Once, Not Pieces. I also believe that Process will take less time than trying to “Fix” what’s there now.

I just noticed the word “Patio”. This is an OUTDOOR Table that’s going to be Exposed to the Elements? Made of what? Now it’s a different Ball Game Again.

-- Hope Everyone Is Doing Well! .... Best Regards: Rick

View Rick's profile


8287 posts in 2816 days

#10 posted 05-31-2014 12:38 AM

Get the feeling this is ANOTHER High, Bye, Post?

2 Posts In All.

One 17 days ago: “I used a terrible brush, had a couple bristles fall off, and tried to carefully grab them (not easy). Having never learned this lesson before…I tried to wipe off the messed up poly’ed area so I could rebrush it. MISTAKE. As you can see in the photo, there are 2 areas (middle left and right) that I wiped off noticeable amounts of stain. Stain? Again as here.

This Post 5 Days ago: “Long story short. I started putting full strength satin poly on a section of table top. Realized I need to stop to let the stain dry longer.” Of course that was a Mistake. He meant to say Poly.

SURE! He Hasn’t been on here since. ZIP in his Profile.

For Me? 5 in One Month. 4 Newbies. This is it for me. No Reasonable Number of Days and Posts!

NO REPLIES!! Unfortunate but Enough Is Enough!

-- Hope Everyone Is Doing Well! .... Best Regards: Rick

View 98102via57401's profile


6 posts in 1258 days

#11 posted 05-31-2014 12:57 AM

Get the feeling this is ANOTHER High, Bye, Post?

It might be now.

I was enjoying the conversation and was thankful for the interaction and answers.
But since being on vacation with my family, I placed lower priority on replying to this thread (as well as others).
I understand this happens all the time…I am part of forums in which it happens.
I get it, you spend time and energy giving an answer that you learned from your own mistakes and are frustrated when you don’t feel people give their proper due. For that, I apologize.

I have learnings from my table project, and I’ll share them when I can give the proper time to a reply.

Until that time, I apologize for not being on your schedule or alerting you to why I wouldn’t be replying sooner.

Hope you enjoy your weekend with your families and projects as I intend to do.

View mantwi's profile


312 posts in 1679 days

#12 posted 05-31-2014 01:29 AM

Even if you wiped the poly off in the process you pushed some into the wood. Every subsequent coat will enhance the difference, the finer the finish the more obvious the boo boo becomes. If this were shellac you could rub it out but since it’s poly the only fix is to go back to bare wood and apply uniform, even coats. Never stop on a partially finished table top or any surface for that matter. It would have been easier to finish the initial application, let the finish dry for a couple of days then wet sand it down to a dull sheen with 400 grit wet dry paper using water with dishwashing liquid in it as a lubricant. This would prevent burning the finish, Then you would have a sealed surface to apply the remaining coats to.

View bondogaposis's profile (online now)


4397 posts in 2134 days

#13 posted 05-31-2014 02:01 AM

Sand it off and start over. That is you the only real solution.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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