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how to buff varathane

I have a cabinetshop (25 years) and only do inside building. Times are tough so I took on a 100 year old front door that the veneer had come off. I put new oak veneer on, stained it, and put 2 coats of Semi Gloss varathane. There is dust in the finish...hey, it's in a cabinet shop! I have rubbed out the dust (result: totally matt finish) and tried to reclaim the semi gloss finish with wet sanding with 1000 grit. Didn't work. so I tried 4-0 steel with just about every type of wax I have and all I get is dull sheen...not a good day.

So, is there a way to buff out Varathane? I have had this problem once before and somehow knew it would happen...it seems every buffing compound is white in color and will end up in the pore of the oak.

Also, for future reference, since Varathane dries so slow, how does one keep the dust off short of a sealed room? I guess I should have done the door vert instead of flat but was afraid of runs.


Re: how to buff varathane


Rather than go through all the buffing, I would apply one more coat of Varathane. 2 coats is actually a minimal number to get it looking good. A third coat would give it much more protection.

To control dust, I would improvise a sealed off area using heavy gauge sheet plastic (6 mil) stretched between a few temporary studs. There are also temporary barriers on the market which are designed to aid in dust control during projects.http://dustdoor1.com/http://www.stmanco.com/quikwall.htm

Don't forget to varnish the bottom and top edges of that door. The bottom and top of that door have end grain which will wick moisture up into the door!

A. Spruce
Re: how to buff varathane

I'd have to agree with applying another coat rather than trying to buff out what you've got. As long as you've removed the surface dust that was trapped on the original layer, you should end up with a decent semi-gloss finish.

Will also agree with the temporary spray booth. I've got a set of Zip Walls that I use for holding temporary sheeting and tarps in place, just make sure you put the poles outside the enclosure so you don't fubar them with overspray. Considering that you're spraying in a confined area I'd also recommend the use of a vapor mask and it would be a good idea to rig up some ventilation, such as a box fan with a pleated furnace filter on the inlet side to blow out of the enclosure as well as filtered air inlet into the enclosure, otherwise the airborne mist is going to settle out on the door and you'll have the same problem that you had with the dust particles.

Re: how to buff varathane

Thanks for the responses. I did try to buff it out. There is a guy in the same complex that builds drag boats from scratcha and he gave me some 1000 grit and 3000 grit thin-foam backed sanding pads...well, after lots of rubbing in one spot I did get it to shine out like semigloss, and it looked like a laquer and not decoupage, like varathane often looks like no matter how many coats you put on. BUT it was way too much effort so I have decided to do a third coat. But FYI, it is possible and comes out looking VERY Nice. USing a power buffer would of course be faster but then there is the possibility of going through the finish at the edges. I used water as the lubricant. I found it better than paint thinner.

Not sure about building a tent...that would be VERY tedious in my shop with 16' ceilings, so I will do it at the end of the day after all the dust in the shop has settled. And I will do the door vert so that whatever dust might be in the air won't fall directly on the surface and pray that I have no runs or sags.

I also called Varathane and regardless of what the can says, it can be thinned up to 20% or even more and can be sprayed but can't imagine having all that uncured varathane floating around my shop and sticking to everything in sight before it dries. So I will brush...
Thanks again.

A. Spruce
Re: how to buff varathane
woodsmith352 wrote:

Not sure about building a tent...that would be VERY tedious in my shop with 16' ceilings, so I will do it at the end of the day after all the dust in the shop has settled. And I will do the door vert so that whatever dust might be in the air won't fall directly on the surface and pray that I have no runs or sags.

The problem with that is even though you may not see or smell it, there will still be plenty of dust floating around the shop if you've been using the equipment. Since you're going to brush it out, you don't need to build a large elaborate tent, just attach some clear painters plastic to the wall and then tie it and build a simple wooden frame that is a little larger than the door. Brush out the door, the pull the plastic tarp down over it, leaving a little breathing room at the bottom and/or sides. This will keep the dust off the door while it cures.

Hope that helps, good luck. :cool:

Re: how to buff varathane

You said building a tent might not work with your 16 foot ceilings, but when my grandfather refinished stuff, he stapled damp bed sheets from the basement rafters and enclosed himself during the finishing process. He would mist them with water from the outside periodically if they dried out too much.

Re: how to buff varathane

Thin the last oat 50% and apply with a piece of rolled up cheese cloth. Rub on seems to clean as you apply and you have much less problems with dust and grit plus it dries a little faster.

Re: how to buff varathane

so here is what I did:
I sanded the whole door.
I cut the varathane 10%.
I stood up the door and brushed the varathane on.
I then leaned a 1/4 sheet of plywood against the door and leaned narrower pieces on the ends to keep the dust out.
It worked.

I will never, I repeat, never work with varathane again. I have sprayed probably 50 gal. of laquer and will only work with it to finish interior stuff. It's not worth it to me to have a finish go bad that can't be repaired. It's just not worth it. At least with laquer, if it doesn't work out, it can be repaired easily.
I should have never taken the finishing part of this job.

Note to self: Don't do it again.

I have lost probably 3/4 of the money in this job wasted trying to do this. NEVER AGAIN....
And if I do, you have permission to bonk me real hard on the noggin for being so stupid.

And I KNEW it would go bad, that's the worst part. I'll stick to interior furniture....

A. Spruce
Re: how to buff varathane

Don't beat yourself up too badly, we've all been there and done that. The important thing is that you've learned from the experience. Also, never say never because now that you know what to do, the next project like it will be a breeze.

Glad things turned out well for ya, even if you didn't make as much as you'd hoped.

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