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Clear coating

I'm new to homeownership, rented most our life. I'm replacing some trim and doors in a bedroom. I have solid oak doors, stained pecan oak along with some window trim. I wanted to protect them with poly, but so far am very unhappy with the finish. (I am working with test piece, did not want to fubar the doors and trim) The staining looks good, but when using poly the end results have not been satisfying. I got a good brush, not helping. After it dries, I see lots of bubbles and imperfections. It is also semi gloss, but dried it shines like a freaking coat of wax has been applied.

What would be a better way to protect it? Would clear coat be a better choice, or?


Re: Clear coating

A better grade of Poly is probably what is needed. I prefer OldMaster's brand. Very good self leveling and a hard finish. Apply first coat let dry and sand with 220 or 300 grit sand paper to remove any raised grain or fuzz. Re coat and let dry, then buff with 0000 steel wool to create the semi gloss finish.


A. Spruce
Re: Clear coating

I agree, it's probably the poly that you're trying to use. If it's MinWax, put the lid on it and return it to the store, it's absolute garbage! MinWax makes good stains, but their polys are absolutely horrendous.

I'm a McKloskie's fan. I've used their satin, semi-gloss, and gloss polys and always got a great finish. Most of the time I use a foam brush. The first coat tends to bubble a bit, partly because of the brush, partly because of the dry wood. I never have to worry about over-working McKloskie's, though you should try to minimize your strokes if you can which helps to minimize the bubbles.

You always buff the surface with fine sand paper, brass wool, or a scrubby sponge between coats. This not only knocks the tops off the bubbles, it roughens the surface slightly for better adhesion of the subsequent coat.

Re: Clear coating

OK, I went shopping and got a bunch of finishes. I made up 8 oak sticks bout 12 inches long and prepared/finished each one differently. What I ended up likeing was a 50/50 mix of top coat and denatured alc, pecan stain, then top coated with shellac. Sanding/buffing between 3 coats of shellac with 0000 steel wool. I could not find any brass or synthetic wool in town, gonna have to order some. I have what I guess is a semi-gloss (mat?) finish. Not real shinny, but not dull. Looks good, but would like to have a tiny bit more gloss. Would what I'm doing be the end product, or is there a wax to buff this out some? Not wanting real shiny, just a little more than what I have. Will this process I'm doing have a long life in the house?

I also did up a couple sticks with different pre-preps. Stained, one finished with wipe-on polly and the other brushed on poly. 2 coats with 0000 between, came out looking good, but not fond of the *plastic* look.

Thanks for the replies guys!

Re: Clear coating


One of the most common complaints against urethanes is that they impart a somewhat plastic look. You can't beat urethanes for toughness, especially against water and alcohol. If I were top coating a bar, it is the only way to go. However, woodwork is not subjected to standing water and alcoholic drinks.

It sounds like you are thinking about using shellac and wax as your finish coat. Shellac does give a warm luster that urethane does not. However, shellac is not the most durable finish, although it was commonly used as such in years past. I don't like using wax on furniture or woodwork. First, it just about precludes you ever going back to a varnished or shellaced finish unless you first totally remove it - lots of work! Secondly, on woodwork, dirt from hands tends to get imbedded into the wax and then must be removed and re-waxed.

As a compromise, try using de-waxed shellac, such as Zinsser's Seal Coat as the sealer on the wood, followed by a coat of traditional, non-urethane varnish. Traditional varnishes tend to work easier and don't have that plastic look. The shellac underneath will enhance the patina of the wood.

Traditional varnishes are available from dead flat up to high gloss. Be sure to stir them well, as they have agents added to control the amount of sheen and these agents settle out. You will often find a cloudy looking substance on the bottom of the can. If you don't stir it, the clear varnish on top will be high gloss and the bottom dull - not good! Also, you can mix them to adjust the sheen to your liking.

Even if you decide on urethane, the shellac will enhance the patina. Also, the de-waxed shellac is compatible with urethanes, the regular shellac is not, because of the wax inherent in it.

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