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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I am refinishing a formal dining table, new at this, took advice from Anna White and used Minwax stain followed with Helmsman Spar Urethane. I tried natural bristle and foam brushes, the natural bristle kept leaving bristles behind, the foam still left streaks. I sanded down in between coats with 220. And then sanded down the brush strokes and tried again with same results and flies sticking to the poly before it dried in my garage. I just stripped it back down last night for one last try. Not much of the stain came out, but that is fine, I just added one more coat of stain to even it out. I am waiting for the stain to dry before I attempt the poly one more time. After reading lots of threads, it is recommended to thin the helmsman to 50/50 or 10-20%, and others said they don't use spar because it is so thick and it is hard to get a smooth finish. I am totally ok with scrapping the Helmsman if there is a better and easier poly I could use to finish this off. I am also in FL, super hot and humid, so I brought the table inside to do this last poly coat and help with drying. I don't have a China brush and didn't see any at Lowes or Home Depot. I saw someone recommend using a cotton rag but all the stain rags (supposedly lint free) from the hardware store left lint specs in my stain but luckily rubbed off after. I just don't want those sticking in my poly coats. :/. Also as you can see from the pic, my grains are diagonal joining in the center and then they also have a border around that, so I'm going in all different directions with lots of overlapping. i did try a spray can poly which eliminated the brush strokes but left a spray can look without the nice glossy sheen i get from brushing on. So I sanded that off too. Any advice on my final poly coat and if I need a seal coat on top of my Minwax stain before I put a poly? As well as best way to apply the poly would be greatly appreciated! :)
 

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Walburg Tx
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The only time I got a good poly finish is using a spray gun to apply. I prefer Geminii lacquer sprayed on for a finish but poly is in the long run more durable. Benjamin Moore has a poly that can be sprayed. Can poly is not the same as brush on or full flavor.
 

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I have something for you to try that won't cost a lot of money....bear in mind I don't use Helmsman on anything, my experience is limited to other (mostly non-poly) varnish formulas. But try thinning it 50/50 or so with MS, then try wiping it on with one of those blue paper towels, the kind sold in Walmart's auto dept., most auto parts stores, and a lot of other places. These blue towels are lint free, cheap, disposable, and they've worked very well for me with wiping varnish. Fold them into a pad of sorts, and dip and wipe. I would also recommend you skip the spar varnishes, try a higher quality varnish like one from one of the paint companies (Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Old Masters, etc.). Having said all that, I would have chosenb a non-poly varnish, but they are hard to find. Pratt and Lambert 38 is my favorite (an alkyd resin/soya oil formula) but the Sherwin Williams Fast Dry Oil Varnish (an alkyd resin/linseed oil formula) is also a very good one. But just try the wiping technique I described, all it will cost is the roll of towels. BTW, when doing this, a rule of thumb is that 3 coats of wiped on varnish equals about 1 coats of brushed (very roughly)....so you do apply more coats.
 

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The way the grain looks in the picture I would be inclined to strip it off and start over. There is something wrong where as best as I can tell from the picture there are adhesion problems. I'm wondering how the table top was stripped and if you used a chemical remover if you got all the residue off.

Helmsman spar varnish is a very poor finish for a dining room table. The finish is intended to be used on exterior wood like a front door. It's formulated to be softer so it can expand and contract with the weather extreames of exterior wood. When you do use Helmsman don't thin it anymore than you have to. Unless I'm spraying it I don't thin it at all. The more you thin it, it screws with the sheen and makes it more prone to run.

A table top is something that shows any defects and brush marks. It would be better if you got the equipment to spray the finish. You don't have to buy the top of the line sprayers for wood finishes. I use a sprayer from harbor freight which costs about 25 bucks.

Anyway if you are going to brush the finish you could use Sherwin Williams interior oil based polyurethane. Use as soft a paint brush as you can find and brush each coat on as thin as possible with as few strokes as possible. If you overbrush it, it introduces more air in the finish and sets up faster and shows the brush marks more. Just brush it on and keep moving with it. It should flow out and level on it's own. If you miss a spot don't go back, catch it on the next coat. If you can find a supplier, Behlen Rock Hard Table Top Finish would be a better choice. It is formulated just for a table top.
 

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Log dog
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Hi Sheri.
Yea I'm no fan of helmsman spar urethane (aka) marine varnish.
If I were you I would use a wipe on poly. It's fool proof and you just wipe it on with a lint free terry cloth (white) after the finish is dry, you can lightly sand with 220 and then wipe off sanding dust.
Remember to lightly sand. Your just scuffing the top so the next coat will adhere to it and remove dust nibs. If your sanding between coats and its gumming up your sandpaper, than the finish isn't dry enough.

I've had pretty good results using those foam brushes, but you have to get the good ones.
Not the cheap ones. You can tell.

I've also used a bristle brush with very good results. Use a china bristle brush. Their pricy, but worth it.

If your having streaks, it's probably from brushing on to fast. Try slowing down a bit.
Light coats is best. It'll dry faster and you can add a couple of coats per day. Depending on the whether.
Hope this helps and let us know how it goes.
Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Restrip?

Thank you guys so much for all of the great advice! I really appreciate it! Steve Neul, I stripped it with Klean strip stripper and let it sit for 30 min, scraped it off, did it again which removed all the poly but the stain didn't come out much. I brought it inside and did a layer of citrus stripper but no more stain came out so I figured most of it was set in there for good so I then applied the Klean strip after wash with a rag and more stain came out with that but I figured it was not going to get it all since there was so much in there that I just washed the stripper residue off with the after wash, let it dry overnight and applied 1 coat of stain this morning. It was still wet in the picture so I have added a couple more pictures now that it is dry. This has nothing over the stain and I did not add conditioner before the stain, I did that the first time when it was bare wood, but didn't know if it would work since there was already stain in there. Do you still think I need to restrip? And if so what should I use to get all of the stain out? Dominick - I do have some blue towels so that will work, and I can get a china bristle brush online too if you think that will work better. I'm also not opposed to getting a spray gun if that is the best option, I just have a knack for over spraying everything in a 20 ft radius and since I am only refinishing the top I don't want to get anything on the rest of the table. :)
 

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Log dog
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You can get a china bristle brush at most hardware stores.
I'd go with the wipe on if it were my first time finishing. Not those blue shop cloths.
Terry cloth.
 

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Perhaps it's just in the photography but these white places concern me. Normally a place like that appears when a finish doesn't adhere right. You see removers like Kleen Strip have paraffin in them to keep the methylene chloride from evaporating so fast. If this wax isn't thoroughly cleaned off the wax can prevent the new finish from adhering. I use Kleen Strip and it is intended to be a water wash remover. I normally use a 1500 psi power washer to remove the residue off. You can also use lacquer thinner frequently changing rags to get this residue off. If there is any doubt that there is some stripper left under the finish it might be worth your time to go ahead and take it off now while you are working on it.

If there is nothing wrong with the finish you have applied and don't have more than a coat of the Helmsman on you could coat over it with a oil based poly or the Behlen varnish. If you have a couple of coats of the Helmsman on I believe I would continue with that. It just won't wear as well as the other finishes. I know an elderly couple that have had Helmsman on their kitchen table since 2009 and it looks fine. Probably if they had young children they would have had to take it off by now. It just scratches easier.
 

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Try terry cloth if you want, but I've found that it can leave streaks in the finish, much like a brush...due to the fabric's nap. That's why those blue shop towels work so well, they are smooth. Cotton fabric would be as well, and would be great but for the occasional lint problem. Using something like a very old, well washed tee shirt usually solves the lint.
 
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Finished!

Just wanted to give an update on the finished product and another thank you to you all for the advice and help! I decided to sand the top back down to insure all of the stripper was off before applying the top coat. I went through more of the sand grits this time, used 60, then 80, then 100, then 120 and then 150 and stopped, the previous time I sanded to 220 before applying stain and read a thread that said if it's too fine it won't absorb the stain as well. I then applied 2 coats of stain, wiped off with the blue shop towels which I loved! The stain absorbed so much better this time around. Waited for it to dry a full day in between coats. Then decided to go with the Minwax gloss wipe-on poly. I started using the blue shop towels which were great for no lint, but they didn't hold as much poly so the coat was really thin and drying in some areas too fast. The next coats I used an old sock and that put on a great thicker even coat. I did 5 coats total. Very lightly sanded with 400 in between coats after they dried. I am happy with the end result. I think if I did it again, I'd probably go semi-gloss as it is really mirrored, but I'm done playing with it for now. Without having a gun, I'd definitely do the wipe-on from now on as it leveled out beautifully. Thanks again for all the help!
 

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Old School
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A wipe on oil finish is an easy application finish. I've found the best applicator is a lint free "T" shirt type material, folded in a neat square applicator pad. It has the smoothest texture of most anything readily available.

After stripping as far as it will go, using lacquer thinner should remove most of what's left. I would not use a power washer. If you have to use a brush to apply, a real badger hair is about the best you could use.






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Just one more question:

did you stick with using the minwax stain that you originally used???

Which one was it?

BTW: The end result looks very good.
 

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Looks good but I think I would wait a month before leaving those candle stands on the table. It could make indentations in the finish.
 

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Thanks Steve, yah the candles were for the pic, they are on a table runner now :) Thanks so much!
It takes a month for poly to fully harden. You have come through so much to get that finish on the table. I'm not sure the runners would give you enough protection. I've seen a heavy object sitting on a finish on a runner leave an imprint of the fabric texture in a finish. You may be alright. It just makes me nervous. I normally work with lacquer an even though it cures faster I normally tell my customers to baby the finish for a couple of weeks.
 
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