Hello Everyone, I'm brand new here and I hope I'm not doing this wrong....
My latest project is a first for me, and I will say that maybe I jumped into the deep end without my Norm Abram Floaty properly attached. I've done several successful paint grade products in the past, but this is my first stained project, and the learning curve is starting to feel like a Rally Car race in the snow!
To start with, it's made with solid American cherry and cherry plywood. The wood actually aged for years in a conditioned area covered with sheets, blankets and anything else I could find to keep it in the dark. I've ran into snafu's all along the way that has caused this to drag on for quite some time. I built this Archway as a "Thank You" for my late wife's oncology nurse who had been very unhappy with a previous attempt by another carpenter who tried using Brazilian Cherry Hardwood flooring to make up something as a "fancy" transition into the new sunroom they had just built for my customer. I say she's a customer because I did get paid a little to cover materials and some other expenses.
Because it's taken such a long time for me to get this finished and installed, along with it being very important to me that it exceeds her expectations, I am trying to do the best I can to produce a good quality job. Well, the best a non shop build one could do with job site tools and environments.
I originally had made a stain/finish sample that she absolutely loved (and frankly one that surprised myself as well). It started off with a sanding of 60 - 120 - 180 grit, oil based wood conditioner, an oil based gel stain by Minwax (I picked a gel stain, because I was worried about stain running off the edges or down the verticals causing great headaches of drip/run lines), a coat of Minwax oil based sand and seal, sanded with 180 after 24hrs, 3 coats of Minwax FastDry Satin oil based Poly, sanded with 220 after first and second coats (again allowing 24hrs between each coat), then 0000 Steel Wool and some final waxing/polishing to finish it all off.
Sample was approved and the build began (or shall I say, reality came in a quick hurry!)
The problem with that sample (and my bigger issue now), was that it was REALLY EASY to get a nice even smooth furniture quality finish on a 10" 1x4 flat on a workbench, instead of a huge EXPENSIVE piece(s) of an assembled cherry Archway, using finish guns, pocket screws and a ton of TitebondII in many different places and times eventually ending up in her dining/sun room entryway.
- The gel stain turned out to be a bad deal in that I couldn't get it wiped off quick enough as the project as broken into 3 carcasses and a huge pile of 10 - 16 foot trim. After literally having to scrub off the excess with a terry cloth towel, I had "wonderful amounts of peachy PEACH FUZZ" covering the majority of the project. Therefore I then had to scuff off all that fuzz with old heavily used foam sanding blocks as painter friend of mine had suggested. I then followed more of his advise and got some ZAR stain which worked beautifully.
- The sand & sealer went on well enough along with a really LONG sanding process(s), excluding all of the later applied moldings.
- The final assembling of the three main carcasses in place went better than expected.
- Then came all the base, 3-piece crown and hide moldings not as easy as hoped or expected.
- Filling of nail holes with ColorPutty oil putty blended up to match.
- Sanding of sand and sealer on moldings after putty.
- First coat of Minwax FastDry oil based Satin poly applied with a good brush on a low (40%) humidity 65deg day (also given to me by previously mentioned painter, who also turned me toward the ColorPutty brand as well as teaching me his very impressive color blending techniques).
- Using a "nifty" 3M scuff pad made for sanding between coats of finish after 48hrs of drying, didn't take off the brush marks or all the air bubble spots (that showed themselves as little white dots). I got them as best as I could without wanting to scrub through. One little spot where I dug in a little ended up transferring the charcoal color of the pad into the edges of the poly coat. Not happy about that one...
Yesterday (Wednesday 3/8/17), I applied the second coat of poly with another matched weather day as the first coat. Today, it's the same weather again here in PA. I was originally going to head back there tomorrow to sand, but after the 3M pad burn through from last Monday, I'm going to let it sit until this coming Monday or perhaps longer, as we're expecting strong cold front and possible wintery mix over the weekend.
Ok... So, now that you can understand what's happened to this point, here is my question: What do I use to knock down the brush marks and air bubbles? Also, some of the nail holes that I puttied are still showing in places that have a good deal of light reflection. My hope is that each coat (a few more needed I believe) with fill in those dimples enough that a "leveling" sanding will flush it out.
So what am I not seeing, that some of you all are seeing that will help me finish this without ruining my attempt as a decent carpenter? Your input is GREATLY APPRECIATED!