smooth finish on rough wood? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 34 Old 11-14-2017, 05:48 PM Thread Starter
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smooth finish on rough wood?

Finishing rough cut oak with the saw marks intact. Not rough enough to snag terry cloth, but there is noticeable texture remaining. Sanded to 120.

Would I be better of putting down multiple coats of shellac to fill in some of the roughess, then top with poly, or the other way around? Or do I just live with the texture?

It's a dining table and I just want it to be more easily cleanable, not mirror smooth or anything like that. The table is stained with oil-based stain so I'm already using shellac as a barrier under the water-based poly....just wondering if I should lay down a couple extra layers or not.
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post #2 of 34 Old 11-14-2017, 07:05 PM
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First of all you need to be careful what you use around shellac. It isn't compatible with everything. Shellac has a natural wax in it that will prevent the proper adhesion of waterborne finishes as well as polyurethane. They make a de-waxed shellac that would work in that application.

If it were me I would use a sanding sealer which is compatible with what ever finish you are going to use and sand between coats and keep applying sealer until the wood is close to the smooth you require. Then topcoat it with the final finish.
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post #3 of 34 Old 11-14-2017, 07:23 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Steve. I am using SealCoat which I believe is dewaxed.

So I can just go and add multiple coats and not worry (too much) about having the shellac be quite thick (say 1mm) in places?
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post #4 of 34 Old 11-14-2017, 07:38 PM
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Thanks Steve. I am using SealCoat which I believe is dewaxed.

So I can just go and add multiple coats and not worry (too much) about having the shellac be quite thick (say 1mm) in places?
While shellac dries to touch very quickly if you are going to build that much thickness you need to allow more drying time with each consecutive coat. What ever amount of time you normally use for drying time double that with each coat. Like if you normally let a coat dry an hour use two hours with the second coat, four hours with the third coat and so on. The finish may dry to touch and you can handle it and sand it but it's not fully dry. If you keep adding coats it will refresh the previous coats and eventually with a thick coat when it fully dries can crack. If you have ever seen tempered glass which is also laminated break the finish ends up looking like that.
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post #5 of 34 Old 11-14-2017, 07:42 PM
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you are I hope aware that shellac and water/steam pots/pans/dishes/chafers/ etc are not a good mix?

past that, yes you can do a "thick" coat - via various approaches depending on your tolerance for "gosh what a mess I made"

I use a rubber 'squeegee' so I brush it on thick, squeegee off the high spots. the low spots will fill in much much faster than a brush on - wipe off routine. but - and this is really important - you must allow time for the thicker coats to dry to a crisp. failure to do so makes for really ugly finishes that there is really no 'fix / rescue' for.

the squeegee technique makes a big mess - the excess gets squeezed out on the floor, dribbles down the sides, you hands get sticky / gooped up to no end . . . but 2-3 coats is typically sufficient to fill in fairly deep 'character markings.' you want to medium-fine lightly sand off the 'itty bitty bumps' between coats.
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post #6 of 34 Old 11-14-2017, 08:39 PM
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I think it's going to take a long time to build any serious thickness with SealCoat. Steve's idea of using the appropriate sanding sealer may build faster.

Another might be to use TomCT's squeegee method using epoxy, then topcoat it with a good varnish.
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post #7 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 01:15 AM Thread Starter
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Love this place - for every question every answer is an excuse for a new project!

Come to think of it, I don?t think I?ve ever used sanding sealer. Is that the stuff with soap particles to lubricate the sandpaper? How does that impact the clarify of the finish? About as much as regular flatterers would, like for a satin or semi-gloss poly? Sounds like something I need to try.

Unfortunately, as always I?m down to the wire time wise. I?m actually having a guy pick it up on Saturday to move it to my in-laws where we will spend thanksgiving. I don?t know why I never learn my lesson about promising things by certain dates and then putting off important details like finishing! Waterbased poly to the rescue...and a space heater. I?ve done it before and it am not worried but it means I?m stuck with the products I have at home and don?t have time to buy new stuff or learn to use it. Again, more projects!

Anyways, I just hit it with a spray coat of dewaxed shellac from a can, and WOW the colors sure do pop! Tomorrow morning I?m Probably going to brush on a coat of diluted SealCoat, then two or three layers of waterbased poly for protection (throughout the day with sufficient time between). It sounds risky to build up thickness in such a short timeframe so hopefully those few layers are enough to mask the surface roughness.. Suspect they will be but I?ll report back either way.

Thanks again for the quick feedback so I can continue the project!
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post #8 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 01:21 AM Thread Starter
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After gel stain and one coat of shellac. Very happy so far.
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post #9 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 05:19 AM
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If I wanted to keep the look of the rough-cut wood on a dining table, I'd go with a heavy coat of pour-on epoxy. You preserve the look, but it wouldn't be nearly as much a bloody nightmare to clean.

The rough-hewn look is great right up until the first time someone spills something

I need cheaper hobby
etsy.com/shop/projectepicfail
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post #10 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 10:44 AM Thread Starter
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If I wanted to keep the look of the rough-cut wood on a dining table, I'd go with a heavy coat of pour-on epoxy. You preserve the look, but it wouldn't be nearly as much a bloody nightmare to clean.

The rough-hewn look is great right up until the first time someone spills something
Epoxy was actually the original idea but I thought it might be too plastic looking. Didn't want to purchase a kit just to decide I didn't like it and then have it expire before another project comes up.

[EDIT] It sounds like it's possible to pour epoxy over polyurethane. So that'll be my contingency plan if the shellac and poly leave too rough of a final surface.

http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f8/ep...rethane-56103/

Last edited by desertsp; 11-15-2017 at 12:44 PM.
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post #11 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 01:51 PM
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Epoxy was actually the original idea but I thought it might be too plastic looking. Didn't want to purchase a kit just to decide I didn't like it and then have it expire before another project comes up.

[EDIT] It sounds like it's possible to pour epoxy over polyurethane. So that'll be my contingency plan if the shellac and poly leave too rough of a final surface.

http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f8/ep...rethane-56103/
No, don't do that. Poly will dry on the surface and stay wet underneath for months. It's different with epoxy. Once mixed with hardener you could pour it into a jar to the top and put a lid on it and put it in a vacuum chamber completely free of air and it would harden all the way to the bottom in a matter of hours.

I believe I misunderstood the objective with the finish. I though you were trying to get the surface just smooth enough to be able to keep it clean. If you are trying to completely level the surface then epoxy is the only answer. It may have a plastic look to it but so would polyurethane. You could brush a few hundred coats of poly on letting it dry completely between coats but poly isn't elastic enough to deal with wood movement. The first time the wood expands or contracts poly would crack. It's just too hard for that application.
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post #12 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 03:12 PM Thread Starter
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No, don't do that. Poly will dry on the surface and stay wet underneath for months. It's different with epoxy. Once mixed with hardener you could pour it into a jar to the top and put a lid on it and put it in a vacuum chamber completely free of air and it would harden all the way to the bottom in a matter of hours.

I believe I misunderstood the objective with the finish. I though you were trying to get the surface just smooth enough to be able to keep it clean. If you are trying to completely level the surface then epoxy is the only answer. It may have a plastic look to it but so would polyurethane. You could brush a few hundred coats of poly on letting it dry completely between coats but poly isn't elastic enough to deal with wood movement. The first time the wood expands or contracts poly would crack. It's just too hard for that application.
No you were right - I'm just aiming for a surface smooth enough to be able to easily clean.

Now that I have two coats of shellac and two poly, the roughness from the saw kerfs actually DID fill in, but now it's the porous oak grain (dark areas) which is remaining rough. The poly doesn't seem to level itself over the grain and almost seems to accentuate it. I have not tried spreading it on thicker.

Any tips on resolving the rough grain texture at this point, in the next two days? I'm doing a light scuff sand between coats, but am afraid to go hard and possibly expose bare wood. Is that what I need to do though? I'm not expecting perfection anymore but hope I can get it a bit smoother by the time it's done.

I'm using this polyurethane (semi-gloss, the final layer will be satin)
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post #13 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 03:32 PM Thread Starter
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Would something like this be of use?

https://aquacoat.com/collections/wat...r-grain-filler

I can run to Woodcraft this evening (other side of town during rush hour...1:30 round trip) if it's likely to help and not make things worse!
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post #14 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 03:35 PM
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Would something like this be of use?

https://aquacoat.com/collections/wat...r-grain-filler

I can run to Woodcraft this evening (other side of town during rush hour...1:30 round trip) if it's likely to help and not make things worse!
I used that on oak coasters and it DID work. However, it took a LOT of applications. I would just keep the coasters by my desk and reapply whenever it was dry to the touch, and it probably took 5 applications or so before the pores filled. So with a whole table, that would be a LOT of filler. (Then again, maybe others have had easier, more consistent results?)

But at the same time, I wonder whether it's worth the trouble? The pores shouldn't mess with cleaning that much. I'd say ask any other person if they think the pores make it look worse: My guess is they wouldn't even notice until you pointed it out.
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post #15 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 03:37 PM Thread Starter
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I used that on oak coasters and it DID work. However, it took a LOT of applications. I would just keep the coasters by my desk and reapply whenever it was dry to the touch, and it probably took 5 applications or so before the pores filled. So with a whole table, that would be a LOT of filler. (Then again, maybe others have had easier, more consistent results?)

Do you remember if it was applied over polyurethane though?
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post #16 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 03:50 PM Thread Starter
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But at the same time, I wonder whether it's worth the trouble? The pores shouldn't mess with cleaning that much. I'd say ask any other person if they think the pores make it look worse: My guess is they wouldn't even notice until you pointed it out.
You're probably right. But it's the principal - *I* will always notice!
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post #17 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 03:55 PM
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Do you remember if it was applied over polyurethane though?
I had to apply it over poly: Applying it before poly messed with the way the poly was absorbed and resulted in an uneven look. But applied after poly, with another coat or two on top, worked just fine.
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post #18 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 04:34 PM
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No you were right - I'm just aiming for a surface smooth enough to be able to easily clean.

Now that I have two coats of shellac and two poly, the roughness from the saw kerfs actually DID fill in, but now it's the porous oak grain (dark areas) which is remaining rough. The poly doesn't seem to level itself over the grain and almost seems to accentuate it. I have not tried spreading it on thicker.

Any tips on resolving the rough grain texture at this point, in the next two days? I'm doing a light scuff sand between coats, but am afraid to go hard and possibly expose bare wood. Is that what I need to do though? I'm not expecting perfection anymore but hope I can get it a bit smoother by the time it's done.

I'm using this polyurethane (semi-gloss, the final layer will be satin)
Polyurethane will fill the grain if you sand it well between coats. Ordinarily when it is desired to fill the grain you use a grain filler but in this case where you have the texture of the rough sawn wood you would be filling that instead of the grain. Usually it's only on woods like walnut and mahogany grain is filled. It's pretty much expected and common place to see grain on oak. I have an oak table in my house which the top is smooth. My wife wanted a glass like finish on the top of it so the first time I refinished it I grain filled it and put a high gloss finish on the top of it. Even she admitted the table looked terrible with that finish on it. I have since put it back like it should be.
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post #19 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 04:35 PM Thread Starter
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I had to apply it over poly: Applying it before poly messed with the way the poly was absorbed and resulted in an uneven look. But applied after poly, with another coat or two on top, worked just fine.
Hmm...I think I'll try this out unless someone else chimes in within the next few hours.
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post #20 of 34 Old 11-15-2017, 04:49 PM Thread Starter
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Polyurethane will fill the grain if you sand it well between coats. Ordinarily when it is desired to fill the grain you use a grain filler but in this case where you have the texture of the rough sawn wood you would be filling that instead of the grain. Usually it's only on woods like walnut and mahogany grain is filled. It's pretty much expected and common place to see grain on oak. I have an oak table in my house which the top is smooth. My wife wanted a glass like finish on the top of it so the first time I refinished it I grain filled it and put a high gloss finish on the top of it. Even she admitted the table looked terrible with that finish on it. I have since put it back like it should be.
Thanks Steve. It's great to be able to get such quick feedback!

That's a good point that oak usually has a grain texture and it might look strange without. I just had my wife go and look at the table and she thinks it's fine as-is...but I'm so tempted to try the AquaCoat clear filler!

Do you think there's any significant benefit (or risk) to the AquaCoat filler versus just more coats of poly sanded back between coats, in terms of achieving a smoother surface within the next two days? (the final coat of poly has to go on by Friday evening)
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