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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello, I am new to this forum and new to woodworking. I recently finished building a fireplace surround for a gas insert and it's made of all oak ply and solid oak trim. I plan to stain it with a light cherry stain, but wonder what's the best way to finish it off. I have used satin poly on all other projects but am just never really satisified with the final product. It's always very rough and gives it a look that kinda bothers me. Maybe I'm applying it wrong.... It's a fireplace and won't take too much abuse so I'm wondering how some of you would finish it. Any input is appreciated.
 

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Hello, I am new to this forum and new to woodworking. I recently finished building a fireplace surround for a gas insert and it's made of all oak ply and solid oak trim. I plan to stain it with a light cherry stain, but wonder what's the best way to finish it off. I have used satin poly on all other projects but am just never really satisified with the final product. It's always very rough and gives it a look that kinda bothers me. Maybe I'm applying it wrong.... It's a fireplace and won't take too much abuse so I'm wondering how some of you would finish it. Any input is appreciated.
If it is just rough, you may want to look at your process and see if you can improve on that before trying different products.

It sounds to me like you are probably just a few steps away from a good looking finish so I will give you a few pointers that I would try.

First is the sanding. In my business we generally sand all oak projects to 150 grit. Take care to eliminate all cross-grain scratches and be as consistent as possible.Then stain the wood per the manufacturers instructions.

After staining, allow the stain to dry for the time recommended on the can. All stains dry at different rates depending on their composition.

After the stain has cured you have 2 choices.

In this case I am going to suggest you use a sanding sealer as your first coat. this is basically a polyurethane that has been formulated to have a high build and to sand easy.Also make sure the sealer is compatible with the topcoat. There are water based and petroleum based poly's and sealers and you need to stick with the same family.

After the sealer has dried for the recommended time, then sand the sealer to remove any rough spots or raised grain. For this we use those 3M foam sanding sponges that you can find at any home center in the fine grit.

Once this is done, wipe everything down and make sure to get any dust and flakes off the wood that could cause rough spots in the next coat.

Lastly, do one or two coats(sand again between coats if you do two) of poly and you are done.

This should give you a very nice,simple finish that will last for many years.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the reply. I was thinking about trying to use a lacquer instead of a poly for the final coat. Would the process still be the same or would I have to do things different. I have a compressor, so I also thought baout buying a small spray gun to apply it, would this be the best way or do those wipe on lacquers work just as well.
 

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Thanks for the reply. I was thinking about trying to use a lacquer instead of a poly for the final coat. Would the process still be the same or would I have to do things different. I have a compressor, so I also thought baout buying a small spray gun to apply it, would this be the best way or do those wipe on lacquers work just as well.
You don't want to mix the two so if you are going to use lacquer, then use it for all coats.

Sanding is really the key. You will not get a smooth finish with lacquer unless you sand so my advise would be to use what you feel comfortable with. I have no experience with wipe on lacquers but my experience with products in general tells me that poly was designed to be applied by brush and it performs best that way while lacquer is best when it is sprayed. Now of course there are exceptions to that but I feel it is a solid guideline.

If you are going to spray lacquer, then make sure you do it in a well ventilated,dry environment with good ventilation and no open flames.


To be honest with you, in this case I would strongly consider staining, letting it dry for a few days, and then using a waterbased sanding sealer and waterbased topcoat. you can get a very nice finish with these products without the need for mineral spirits, lacquer thinner(Which you will need to reduce the lacquer in your spray gun) and Xylene to clean the gun after you are done. You can replace all of those chemicals with water. that is a good tradeoff.
 

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pore filler!!

I always had the same problem with oak until I used a pore filler, since oak is open pored the finish (poly) never wants to sit flat, I have a fairly large hard wood oak top for my desk that seemed to always look horrible until I stripped the old poly off the top and applied the pore filler (with a squeegee), then two new coats of poly., sanding with 220 in between coats, What a difference!! This technique might be overkill but it worked great for me.
 

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Why bother with clearcoats at all? Oak is at it's best rubbed in oil. Use Watco Danish oil, boiled linseed oil, tung oil or whatever and rub or sand it in. Then wax the thing every six months or so and it'll be beautiful.

If you just have to clearcoat it and you don't like the plastic look of poly or lacquer, go to Target Coatings and buy some conversion varnish. Spray two or three coats and rub it out to the gloss you want.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
After looking at some guns, their preperation and their prices I decided to just use a wipe on poly. I am very impressed with it's finish. TO me it looks 100% better then the normal Poly I've used that has been brushed on. SO far I've put on two coats, sanding with 320 inbetween the 1st and second. I might put on a 3rd coat, but either way should I sand it after that last coat is put on, and with what grit(600??). THanks for all the replies
 

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After looking at some guns, their preperation and their prices I decided to just use a wipe on poly. I am very impressed with it's finish. TO me it looks 100% better then the normal Poly I've used that has been brushed on. SO far I've put on two coats, sanding with 320 inbetween the 1st and second. I might put on a 3rd coat, but either way should I sand it after that last coat is put on, and with what grit(600??). THanks for all the replies
There are many techniques that people use. Some use steel wool, some use sandpaper etc. Personally, we use the 3m sanding sponge blocks in the fine grit and find they give the best finish for the buck. When they are brand new they are a little coarse so we only use them on the seal coat when they are new.


The reasons that you sand between coats are that you remove any blemishes from the previous coat and also that the scratches from the sandpaper give the next coat something to stick to.If you do not sand between coats there is a possibility that the top coat will not adhere properly to the coat under it and will be prone to flaking off.

Of course if you use shellac or NC lacquer you don't have to worry about it because they burn in and become one coat.
 
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