Polyurethane disaster

Old 06-08-02, 10:16 PM
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Polyurethane disaster

I have been attempting to refinish a dining room table. I think it may be maple but I'm not sure. Since this is going to be used as a work table and receive heavy usage, I wanted as strong a finish as possible. I was advised to use an oil based polyurethane. All of the other refinishing projects I have done were with an oil finish or (many years ago) regular varnish. The polyurethane I purchased was satin finish but came out very glossy. I could have lived with that but, even though I purchased a very high quality brush, every brush stroke showed. The table is large enough that at some places on the table I was unable to make one swipe across the table without having to lift up the brush and start the stroke again. You can see every spot where I did this. I sanded between each coat and wiped with a tack cloth. Each time I sanded (with 400 or 600 grit sandpaper), the finish would feel smooth to the touch but would look very splotchy--some shiny spots and some dull spots. It is obvious the final coat would need to be sanded. How do you get a consistent sheen to the final finish?

On top of all of this, after not being able to work on the table for several days, I opened the polyurethane (which had been TIGHTLY sealed) only to find that it had started to set up with a thick coat of hardened finish on the top of the polyurethane. I removed this hardened finish, thoroughly stirred the rest and tried applying another coat. The high gloss is gone but now the finish is VERY streaky with some parts shiny and some dull. Also, the finish seems to pool at each edge of the table no matter how careful I am to try to put it on evenly.

I have already decided my only course of action now is to strip it all off and start over with something OTHER than polyurethane. What can I use that will give me a strong, durable finish and be easier to apply than the polyurethane? Also, since this project has been in the works for several weeks now, it needs to be something that is quick drying so that this table can be finished THIS WEEK. I will not be redoing the table base and guess I can live with it if the base has a high gloss finish and the table top doesn't.

Any help will be greatly appreciated. I've refinished several pieces of furniture and have never run into this much trouble. I simply don't know where to turn at this point.
Old 06-09-02, 01:10 PM
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Location: South Hill, Va. USA
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My sympathies.

Thinning oil based poly helps in two ways; it flows out better (levels itself more quickly) and helps eliminate the bubbles that are a trademark.

A new can of poly needs to be stirred constantly for at least 5 minutes (use your watch) before application - and restirred every 15 minutes.

Lay it on - smooth it out - tip it off - leave it alone - the more you fuss with it the worse it gets.

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