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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I would like to know the best method for applying water-based varathane to hard maple cabinets to achieve a natural finish. Should I just start with the poly or is there something that needs to go on the bare wood first? I have tried using a foam applicator, but the results seem to be uneven. The finish I get is perfectly clear, but the satin sheen is not uniform when viewed from a certain angle. There are some small areas that are less shiny than the rest of the surface. I am using Varathane Water-Base Satin finish, sanding with 320 in between coats.

Thanks,
Bob D.
 

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I would use a good brush not foam. I wouldn't sand with paper between coats just a scotch brite type pad to knock of the high points. Are you certain the wood was good and dry before the first coat? ow many coats have you applied? Uneven sheen is off if the wood was dry. The first and second coat will give a good seal. The third and forth will build up. Probably know this but tack it off well between coats.
 

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A good finish starts with a good brush. Expect to spend at least $20 and maybe as much as $30 for a good brush. I prefer synthetic bristles. They don't absorb as much finish as natural bristle which cause brushes, like hog hair, to become soft and limp. Try to find a good Chinex brush. You want a brush that will allow the finish to flow smoothly. When looking at brushes, pinch the bristles just above the ferrule, or below depending on how you look at it. Cheaper brushes use wood or plastic spacers to make the brush look like it is fuller and has more bristles that it really does. There will be some space, this is called the reservoir, but too much is a sign of a cheap brush. Also, take the brush out of its package and swipe your hands across it o make sure no bristle fall out.

You don't need to do anything to the wood, but it might help to raise the grain first. Just wet the wood with water and sand once it is dry. This will help cut down and the amount of sanding you have to do once you start finishing and leads to a nicer finish.

320 grit is a good choice.

When applying the finish, you want long, smooth strokes. Hence, why you want a good brush. Keep the foam brushes for......on second thought, see if you can sell them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Paul and Tippy:

Thanks for your advice. I will try using a better brush. I have applied three coats to the maple doors. They actually look pretty good in normal kitchen lighting, but maybe I haven't put enough coats on yet to get a really good finish. I intentionally used a satin finish instead of glossy, because I actually prefer a lower sheen.

Regards,
Bob D.
 

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A side note,
I generally use a gloss to build up a finish. It is much harder and stronger. I finish up the last one or two coats with satin to give the look needed. I did this mainly with lacquer but I'm sure it applies to poly also.
 
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