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Discussion Starter #1
I am refinishing a dining table. I started with 2 coats of primer, 4 coats of Benjamin Moore Advance paint in black and then followed up with 6 coats of Varathane water based poly on the tabletop. I applied the coats of poly over the course of 4 days and then let it cure for 7 after the final coat. I did sand after every 2 coats. I purchased the Micro Mesh system to rub the finish. I started tonight and sanded first with 400 grit regular sandpaper (as per Micro Mesh's instructions) and then I only made it up to 2400 Micro Mesh wet sanded with water and dish soap and now I have what appears to be rubbed away the poly in some areas. If I rub in some of those areas, I get black on my cloth which I am assuming is the black paint. Is it possible that my poly wasn't fully cured and I rubbed away the poly? I tested it out and rolled on a little poly over one of the areas that looks gray and not black and even with the wet poly on it, it still looked gray. Help. I am about to cry because I don't even know what to do to fix this. I have worked so hard on this project and I'm afraid I ruined it.
 

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If it still has the look you want and you believe you have rubbed through the poly just add another coat or two to build it up.
 

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It sounds like you did alright applying the finish. I don't personally care for clear coating paint but there is no reason it can't be done. The problem sounds more like you got too agresive rubbing out the finish. I suspect the finish was smooth to begin with so there was no reason to start with a paper as course as 400 grit. I probably would have started with 1500 grit paper. Anyway you sanded the clear poly completely off in spots so if you haven't taken the color off you just need to apply some more clear. The gray is probably is probably from scuffing the black with sandpaper. If it's black with water on it then clear is all you need. Six coats sounds like a lot however water based poly is a lot thinner than oil based poly so it wouldn't take a lot to sand through it.
 

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Before you sand the whole thing down, just touch up the gray areas with paint, and after that apply couple of poly coats, and if the defect doesn't show up you are done.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I wet the table to check and see if the grayish spots showed up and just 2 of them do. I am going to try and touch up the 2 spots with the black paint and then do 2 more coats of poly. I have another question - the part of the table that looks good and feels super smooth looks a little more dark, dark gray than black. It looked nice and glossy black before I used the Micro Mesh. The Micro Mesh has made the finish smooth and it still has some sheen, but it doesn't look as pure black. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to make it look true black again? Should I be applying the automotive rubbing compound I've read about?
 

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I wet the table to check and see if the grayish spots showed up and just 2 of them do. I am going to try and touch up the 2 spots with the black paint and then do 2 more coats of poly. I have another question - the part of the table that looks good and feels super smooth looks a little more dark, dark gray than black. It looked nice and glossy black before I used the Micro Mesh. The Micro Mesh has made the finish smooth and it still has some sheen, but it doesn't look as pure black. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to make it look true black again? Should I be applying the automotive rubbing compound I've read about?
When you touch up the spots, I would mix the paint 50/50 with the water based poly even if you need to put several coats to get it to cover. You may have some adhesion problems putting latex paint over poly and that's what you would be doing in spots. Mixing poly will help with the adhesion.

When you start hand rubbing a clear coat it clouds the finish unless it is polished to a high gloss. The cloudiness would make the black appear a little gray. If you have the finish rubbed out fine enough then automotive rubbing compound would clear the finish however it will bring the sheen to a high gloss. If you have a buffer for a car with a lambswool bonnet, it will make the job easier. Just make sure the finish is cured before using a machine on it. This is why I don't care for a clear coat over paint. I prefer to use a paint that finishes to the sheen I want. Even painting a car the only time I use a clear coat is when I use a metalic basecoat/clearcoat finish.
 

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Rick Mosher
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What is the final look you are trying to accomplish? Are you going for a high gloss buffed out finish, a hand rubbed satin or are you going to spray a final off the gun finish?

I think where you went wrong was not getting everything as flat as possible in the primer stage. If the primer coat is very flat then everything else will be easier and you won't sand through the high spots.

When I know exactly what you are trying to get I will be able to help you with more ideas on how to proceed from this point.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I would like a nice gloss finish. I already finished the apron and legs with gloss black spray paint and gloss poly which I'm not planning on rubbing out. This is my first big diy. I decided to rub it out when I struggled with getting a perfectly smooth finish with the poly. I sanded throughout this process, but I'm guessing I didn't do as good a job as I should have. I do not have a sprayer to spray a final coat of poly. Any advice you can give is greatly appreciated.
 

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Spraying a table top with a aerosol can is difficult but I think it could be done. The important thing to do is work fast and keep a wet edge. Think of spraying a finish as laying roofing shingles. You let one row overlap the previous row. I would imagine it would take more than one can to finish a table top so it would be a good idea to have helper standing by with another can ready. The less you stop and start the better. Even though, I think there would be a few lap marks but I don't think it would take agressive sanding to polish it out.

As cheap as spray equipment is at harbor freight is I think you could get a compressor, hose and siphon sprayer for not much more than $100.00. This would be something you could use for years.
 

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The trick to a rubbed out gloss is to have a sufficient build of the top coats (that are to be rubbed out), so it can be flattened and polished without being perforated.

If you wanted a rubbed out black finish, you could have started with a black oil base paint. Get a build of sufficient layers that each one has cured. Wet sand with wet-or-dry up to 1500x to 1800x with the sandpaper wrapped on a block of wood, and water. By the time you get it surfaced, it will take very little rubbing with a compound to get a shine.

If you are using a waterbase poly, that topcoat has to be built so you don't sand through. Each application of what you add has to be absolutely dry. You can't apply heavy coats to get that build. Take Rick's advice and get the first applications flat, and your final one will be much better.





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Discussion Starter #11
When you touch up the spots, I would mix the paint 50/50 with the water based poly even if you need to put several coats to get it to cover. You may have some adhesion problems putting latex paint over poly and that's what you would be doing in spots. Mixing poly will help with the adhesion.

When you start hand rubbing a clear coat it clouds the finish unless it is polished to a high gloss. The cloudiness would make the black appear a little gray. If you have the finish rubbed out fine enough then automotive rubbing compound would clear the finish however it will bring the sheen to a high gloss. If you have a buffer for a car with a lambswool bonnet, it will make the job easier. Just make sure the finish is cured before using a machine on it. This is why I don't care for a clear coat over paint. I prefer to use a paint that finishes to the sheen I want. Even painting a car the only time I use a clear coat is when I use a metalic basecoat/clearcoat finish.
Once I touch up the spots with the 50/50 mix of paint and poly, do I give it another light sanding to smooth it all out? If so, what grit should I use?

Thanks for all the help!
 

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As thin as that brew will be I would put 2 or 3 coats on before sanding. The only sanding that is needed is to make it smooth. Just a light scuff with 220 or finer paper should be good.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I had another question - I filled in the gray spots, but around one of them is spots were the poly was rubbed through but still look black. The are like little divets in the poly. Will they fill in when I put on the 2 additional coats of poly or do I need to do something else to them?
 

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I had another question - I filled in the gray spots, but around one of them is spots were the poly was rubbed through but still look black. The are like little divets in the poly. Will they fill in when I put on the 2 additional coats of poly or do I need to do something else to them?
If you can wet the piece down and the black is consistant all across then the poly can be fixed with more coats of poly. I'm not sure what you mean by divets. If you can look across it and it looks like dents then I would put several coats on just those spots before coating the entire top. If it's pin holes you might just dab more poly in the spots applying it with a small artist paint brush or toothpick.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
If you can wet the piece down and the black is consistant all across then the poly can be fixed with more coats of poly. I'm not sure what you mean by divets. If you can look across it and it looks like dents then I would put several coats on just those spots before coating the entire top. If it's pin holes you might just dab more poly in the spots applying it with a small artist paint brush or toothpick.
I think the divets are areas where I started sanding through the poly - they just look like a grouping of small dots/spots into or through the finish. If I start by just brushing poly over these, should I lightly sand after each coat? What grit would you use? Will I be able to just build up the poly finish?

Thanks to Steve for helping me out so much - I really appreciate all the advice.
 

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I think the divets are areas where I started sanding through the poly - they just look like a grouping of small dots/spots into or through the finish. If I start by just brushing poly over these, should I lightly sand after each coat? What grit would you use? Will I be able to just build up the poly finish?

Thanks to Steve for helping me out so much - I really appreciate all the advice.
Your description sounds like bubbles that popped leaving a hole. I used to try to ignore spots like that and just finish over it but then I ususally ended up sanding a little extra on those areas and first thing you know I was down to bare wood. Now I normally take the finish and dip a toothpick in it and just put a spot of finish on the hole with as many coats as it takes to make the finish level with the rest of it. Then I proceed with the finish. There is usually a small bump where you dripped the finish but it will sand out with normal between the coats sanding. The important thing is to not sand through the finish. It's better to go a little thick with the finish than sand through it.

When sanding between coats I normally use 220 grit paper.
 

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I think the divets are areas where I started sanding through the poly - they just look like a grouping of small dots/spots into or through the finish. If I start by just brushing poly over these, should I lightly sand after each coat? What grit would you use? Will I be able to just build up the poly finish?
When you are doing the repair by sanding out, and filling holes or low spots with adding poly for a buildup, it's important for those repairs to be completely dry, before sanding/rubbing out. You may notice a visual edge indicating the repaired area.





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Discussion Starter #18
Update & more questions - I have repaired the poly and have used the micro mesh to rub the finish. Right now I have a nice sheen, but I can still see the paint strokes in my finish. I am using the micro mesh sheets (starting with 3200 working up to 12000) with the foam block and have been sanding with the grain which is also with the paint strokes. It feels amazing but the sheen doesn't look perfect across the tabletop. Also, if I put water on it, the color looks true black when wet which is what I want, but don't have right now. What can I do? If I use automotive products like polishing cream will that help? Any advice and tips would be greatly appreciated.
 

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Update & more questions - I have repaired the poly and have used the micro mesh to rub the finish. Right now I have a nice sheen, but I can still see the paint strokes in my finish. I am using the micro mesh sheets (starting with 3200 working up to 12000) with the foam block and have been sanding with the grain which is also with the paint strokes. It feels amazing but the sheen doesn't look perfect across the tabletop. Also, if I put water on it, the color looks true black when wet which is what I want, but don't have right now. What can I do? If I use automotive products like polishing cream will that help? Any advice and tips would be greatly appreciated.
You can just sand with wet-or-dry and water to 1500x - 1800x. Then use an automotive rubbing compound. If a higher gloss is desired then use a polishing compound. You can get these at any auto parts stores.





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To do what you are trying to do putting a high gloss on a table top by hand you really need to put several extra layers of clear coat on. It takes a lot of wet sanding to get rid of the brush marks so you need to have enough emulsion to do this. If you intend to continue making and finishing projects I would recommend you purchase the equipment to spray the finish. You would be able to apply the finish smooth and level without all the hand work hand rubbing the texture the brush makes. If you have a harbor freight near you, you can get a compressor, sprayer and hose for probably 150 bucks, maybe less if you have a 20% off coupon.
 
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