Wipe on poly vs brush on? Query

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Forum topic by Don46 posted 08-24-2009 08:37 PM 26543 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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44 posts in 3808 days

08-24-2009 08:37 PM

I’m about to finish a large amount of cabinets and wine bins all in red oak. This is about 22 linear feet of cabinets (face side only) and wine bins, storage shelving (shelves and back), all of it 7 feet high! Lots of stain and finish in other words.

I want to stain to darken and then apply clear finish.
First, any advice on the most efficient way to stain and finish is welcome.
I’m considering gel stain, which a previous poster is asking about also.

As for clear finish, I’m wondering if the wipe on polyurethane is something I should try?
I read a favorable article on the MinWax wipe on poly at the Finewoodworking site and it sounds like it might be easier to work with that brushing all that wood.


-- --Don, Folly Beach, SC

10 replies so far

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2658 posts in 3732 days

#1 posted 08-24-2009 08:40 PM

A wipe on finish is a lot easier to apply. You might want to give General finishes a try…

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3854 days

#2 posted 08-24-2009 08:48 PM

a wipe-on poly, is merely a poly finish diluted with mineral-spirits, which makes it thiner so you can apply it with a cloth (as opposed to a brush) which is easier, and also does not leave brush strokes on the finish. it also dries faster (since it’s diluted) BUT that also means it’s thinner – so you’ll need to apply more coats to compare with brushing poly.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View a1Jim's profile


117342 posts in 3782 days

#3 posted 08-24-2009 08:48 PM

If you can spraying gets quicker and even coverage I agree with the General finishes Idea

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 4144 days

#4 posted 08-24-2009 09:03 PM

I regularly use the MinWax wipe-on poly and have nothing bad to say about the results. Like PurpLev says, it goes on easier and cleaner, but requires more coats. But, again, since it’s thinned, you can accomplish that quicker. Once I started using a wipe-on, I haven’t used anything other method.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Don46's profile


44 posts in 3808 days

#5 posted 08-24-2009 09:22 PM

I’m looking at the General Finishes web site and see a product billed as “gel stain & topcoat” Do I understand this to mean I would have only to apply this gel stain (perhaps more than one coat I realize) and that I would not have to apply a separate topcoat?

I found that my favorite woodworker’s store, Woodzone, also sells this product and I’m sure they will be able to advise me.

-- --Don, Folly Beach, SC

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4424 days

#6 posted 08-24-2009 09:46 PM

I’ve never used this particular product, but generally speaking, all-in-one finishes yield less than spectacular results. It might be worth a try, but I’d do a sample piece first to make sure you like the result.

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

View lew's profile (online now)


12446 posts in 3961 days

#7 posted 08-24-2009 10:50 PM

I recently tried wipe on poly for the first time. While it worked as advertised on solid wood, it took forever to dry on plywood. It left the surface even after 24 hours. This was all on the same piece so I know it wasn’t the location or drying conditions.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View geneo1's profile


8 posts in 3419 days

#8 posted 08-27-2009 12:03 AM

I usually apply 2 coats of brush on poly and than sand flat with 320 paper , and then apply 2 caots of wipe on poly.Fills the grain and makes a flawless finish.

-- God Bless America

View Domer's profile


252 posts in 3572 days

#9 posted 08-27-2009 04:45 AM

I also use the General Armor Seal combination poly and oil finish. It is very easy to use and brings out the depth of the wood and almost no drips. I have never been able to do that with a brush. You do need to put an additional coat or two but the results are worth it.

I don’t sand until after the second coat. Then I lightly sand with 320 grit and then after that 400 or 600 and buff the last coat.

I use the satin finish.

That said, there are lots of ways to skin the cat.


View gerrym526's profile


275 posts in 4014 days

#10 posted 08-28-2009 10:11 PM

I’ve used Bartley’s gel varnish as a wipe on finish, and had great results. It applies easily, and dries almost immediately, so you can even work in a dusty workshop and get great results. Because it is a “build type” film finish, the cabinets will usually need 3 light coats.
Bartley’s also makes gel stains, which I’ve had great results with as well.

-- Gerry

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