maple table top refinish

Old 05-15-01, 06:18 PM
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I am trying to make our solid maple dining table more user friendly by changing the finish from a laquer or varnish to a polyurethane. I first lightly cleaned it with denatured alcohol then lightly sanded it with 600 grit paper I however must have had to much oil on it and when I applied the poly it immediately "orange peeled" After it dried all pocked and pitted I wet sanded off the poly ther are some placed wher the stain is lighted now so I restained those and the surface is now shiney but also smeared from the stain. What now? How can I tell if the surface is clean enough to reapply the polyurethane so this does not happen again. THanks for any advice!! Joyce
Old 05-16-01, 04:21 PM
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Joyce -

When applying polyurethane (or standard varnish) on a table that has previously had a lacquer finish cleaning is not enough. The top needs to be completely stripped down to bare wood. That's the bad news. The good news is if you're willing to spend a little extra in elbow grease, you don't need a stripper. A 50:50 mix (a quart each) of lacquer thinner and denatured alcohol will provide you with a solution that cuts lacquer quickly and is much more economical than any decent stripper on the market. Apply with #2 steel wool, scrubbing the finish off, then clean up with the same solution using 0000 steel wool. I make the final pass in this process with paper towels doubled up and wet - just wiping the solution over the top as if I were polishing it.

Unfortunately, before you do this part, you need to sand the poly off - that's the only way (aside from a regular stripper) that's you'll get rid of it.

For everyone else that dropped by, some tips.

You can apply any finish over itself - prep work varies from finish to finish.

Generally speaking, you CAN NOT apply any finish over another, although there are exceptions, and here they are.

Lacquer and shellac can be applied over each other. Shellac can be used as a sealer under varnish (varnish can be applied over shellac) - that's STANDARD varnish - not poly.
Some polys can be applied over shellac - read the label. Neither Polyurethane or standard varnish can be applied over each other. Lacquer can not be applied over any other finish but shellac. In these tips, I include wiping varnish, tung oil, Danish oil, etc., in the standard varnish class. Wipe on polyurethane is still polyurethane and should be trated as such.

As a general rule, then, if you're changing the finish you must strip and start with bare wood.

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