Hand Tools Archive

Re: Hand finishing water-based poly.

Mark Salomon
I use both oil based and water based General Finishes as my primary finishes. I often apply finish when the temperature is 90 degrees or higher--in fact I welcome the higher temperatures because the finish dries more quickly. First in terms of application. I always use a foam brush for water based poly on the panels and also on the frame parts as well if I'm finishing them separately (I usually finish the panel, assemble the door and then finish the frame). What I'm after is to build the finish as quickly as possible and nothing works as quickly as a brush (same for oil based but with a bristle brush). The converse is also true. Keep in mind that both of these General Finishes sand amazingly well. This is not like the bad old days of poly finishes. If I'm looking for the lightest finish possible I'll skip the shellac seal coat and simply let the first coat of poly dry and then sand. For example, I brush a coat to the panel, sand the next day with 400, apply a second coat and sand with 600 and then wipe on a coat or two rubbing with a gray pad between. OK, if the wood is especially porous I may need another coat sanded with 400. It's easiest to get a perfect final topcoat with the GF oil finishes by using their wipe on gel topcoat, with a water based poly I finish with either steel wool or the gray pad for a nice slightly subdued satin. With respect to color, keep in mind that maple will darken naturally over time to a light tan no matter what finish you use unless you first use a bleach. I personally don't care for the look of honeyed maple and find it a bit blah, perhaps it's because of all of the 1950's American furniture that featured this look that i was subjected to! I have no direct experience with bleaching and have to wonder about how even the the appearance would be bleaching both a solid wood frame and a ply panel-- not to mention what might happen to the ply with an application of a two part bleach. There are pickling stains--general finishes sells both a water based and an oil based stain that mimics bleaching or pickling if you want to ensure that the cabinets will remain light over time.

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