WOOD FINISHING: Glass-Smooth Results With Polyurethane

WOOD FINISHING: Glass-Smooth Results With Polyurethane


one of the biggest challenges of woodworking is finishing if Sometimes a lot easier to do a good project until you get to the finishing part And that’s where disappointment often sets in. This is especially true If you’re working in a home shop And you’re applying a finish with a brush so I want to show you a technique here that will allow you to produce glass Smooth finishes without spray equipment Just using an ordinary brush and urethane finish and you need to start with a finish of sufficient thickness, so that would be at least three coats of your thing and Preferably four The problem at this stage is that your surface is probably going to have little bumps on it from dust particles and settled up from the year there may be some brush marks [too] and These are the things that would make the finish ugly and these are the things that I’m going to show you how to remove after The fact it all comes down to the right kind of abrasion. So what you want to begin with is A piece of fine Sandpaper This is 320 grit and it’s wrapped around a piece of foam this could be styrofoam this is a little squishier than styrofoam if you don’t want to wrap it around a wooden block you want something with a little bit of resilience, but you don’t want to use the sandpaper by hand now this sample here has four coats of water-based urethane and The first step involves knocking off the dust bumps. So you’re just drawing this back and Forth across the surface Okay You’re not trying to make a significant amount This is just enough of those little high spots you want to knock off the mountain And you’re going to know if you’ve done that sufficiently with your fingertips a little bit of Movement of this sanding block paper on it is Going to yield a much smoother finish, you’ll seal you’ll feel them the difference immediately it’s going to be smooth [but] [it’s] not going to have any machine We’re more abrasion happens It’s going to be dull, [and] we’re less abrasion happened. It’s going to be shinier so further refining The surface is what happens next and that’s where Something like this comes in this is a 3M rubbing Pad, so it’s nonwoven this is the fine grit and You want to use this? believe it or not in conjunction with a random orbit Sander With no no abrasive disc on it so the sanding the sander causes the rubbing Pad to move and Polishes the surface now if you want a matte finish or something with just a little bit of gloss to it Then all you need to use is this fine Pad It’ll smooth them things out and give you just [the] tiniest little bit of sheen if you want something shinier, you’d follow this up with a superfine pad used in the same way So this is what it looks like it’s really pretty simple you one Can turn the speed of your stAndard down a little bit at least at the beginning until you get the hang of it So we’ll just switch on and start the buffing Now this is a very flat scene So you’re not going to see some reflections off, but but it is extremely smooth it just feels like a piece of glass and It didn’t start off that way Now if you want it a little bit shinier You can continue with the power blocking using this Ultra fine now it feels about the same, but you can see some some shiny reflections there it can get [even] shinier if you Buff more so you have some quite a bit of control over the level of sheen That you can achieve Now not every woodworking situation is as nice and flat and open as this sample piece I’m showing you here now But the same process can be used on any kind of shape or profile you can start with the Knocking off of the dust bumps and the only difference is that you don’t use the random orbit Sander you [just] do [all] the work by hand and these are flexible enough that they can go around contours and Along the Edges of panels where they meet stiles and rails so you can get this kind of result on any surface [you] might be dealing with

100 Comments

  • Tex Granny says:

    During the polishing step, are you using a vintage green scotch-brite that it typically used for cleaning? If not, please give details. Tks.

  • 78zackery says:

    just a quick question does this technique work on oil based poly as well?

  • Inhalin1514 says:

    Cheers Steve! This has changed everything for me

  • G Sillard says:

    The technique works fantastically! I had just completed six coats of poly on a new 36×72 rustic dining room table. Not only did the procedure work for the poly, but I also used it in removing finishing paste wax. What a super idea, thank you.

  • dine youssef says:

    Top tips. Many thanks.

  • Thomas Weiss says:

    Thank you, I will try this method, wondering though, after 5 coats of poly how long should I wait for the sanding/buffing? Should I wait for a full cure..several days?

  • Thomas Weiss says:

    Hi Steve, so I bought the 3M ultra fine hand sanding pad, which I will use on the satin poly (4th coat) to buff it out and give it more shine…is that right?

  • Sean McAleavy says:

    Hi Steve, I am just about to try your technique on the restoration of 21 mahogany benches that were salvaged from a retired Glass Bottom Boat over here on Catalina Island. They were donated to the museum I work for and we are installing them permanently in our outdoor amphitheater. The reason I am writing to you is that I am a little confused about the title of the video. It says polyurethane in the title, yet you clearly say urethane throughout the video. Please allow me to explain my particular situation, I will keep it as brief as possible. The Glass Bottom Boat was dry docked and the benches were re-varnished every year before the summer season for the last 50 or so years, except for the last five. They fell into disrepair with some instances of rot here and there. When the museum received them the board of directors contracted a guy to do the restoration on them. The board of directors really doesn't have a clue about refinishing or things of that nature and they approved the sample bench that was returned. It was among some of the worse work I have ever seen. Bumps and ridges going in all directions and it was clearly visible that it had not been sanded down and for some reason it had been stained with Minwax Ipswich Pine stain. I brought this to the attention of the Executive Director/Curator and she called a meeting with the guy and she wanted me there at the meeting also. One of the first things that were brought up was that we couldn't use an oil-based varnish for future maintanence of the benches because of the huge amount of dirt, dust and leaves that accumulates on a daily basis. It really is a shocking amount of dirt and debris that blows through each and every day because we are situated right next to a large dirt lot. The benches are going to be bolted down permanetly and the long cure time of varnish would bring disasterous results. I suggested spraying a water based spar urethane which could be pretty much tack free in an hour or two if done on the right day. At my suggestion the guy replied that spraying put down too thin a coat and how he liked to do it was with one real thick coat brushed on. That told me where all the bumps and ridges came from and it also told me all I needed to know about this guys knowledge on the subject. After the meeting I ask my boss if she would let me take one home and, on my own time, finish one of the benches so we could show it too the board of directors as a comparison to the approved botched job. This is the process I did: I sanded it all down to bare wood, but not so far as to take out the age and character of the bench. I wanted to leave the scars it had accumulated and occasional carved names and whatnot, as they tell a story and make each bench unique. So I just removed the varnish and any rot. As you know, the water based products dry crystal clear with no ambering, and that definately would not look right. So after sanding down to 180 grit and removing all dust, I rubbed on a coat of boiled linseed oil and gave that time to dry. Over that I sprayed on a thin coat of un-waxed shellac to seal the linseed oil and lightly sanded it and removed all dust with a tack cloth. Then I applied six coats of water based Varathane Spar Urethane. Sanding and tacking between each coat. They look good, and the color is perfect. The linseed oil and possibly the shellac give it the warm ambered look of varnish. Now I just want to finish it off with the process you explained in the video. I know polyurethane dries real hard, and urethane is softer and flexible and the appropriate thing for a piece that is out in the weather. My question is this, is urethane hard enough to be power buffed? Sorry about the length of my comment. I would be very grateful for any advice that you could give me. Thank you! I

  • Supporters for Travis says:

    FANTASTIC result, thank you so much. Please do more videos!

  • Justin Keely says:

    Do you use any polish or wax when buffing?

  • Thomas Archibold says:

    Thanks for the video Steve. I had some trouble though. I used Minwax Polycrylic in clear satin (4 coats). I also used these pads from Lee Valley:

    54K0503 Fine Silicon Carbide Rubbing Pad
    54K0701 Superfine Rubbing Pad

    When using the Fine pad with my random orbit sander, I noticed right away the the sheen was entirely removed on the test area I buffed. I then switched to the Superfine pad on my orbital and buffed the same spot. A bit of the sheen came back, but not very much.

    I had better results just using the superfine pad. I wonder if the reason it dulled so much at first with the Fine pad is that I used Polycrylic rather than regular Wipe-On Polyurethane?

    Also, the superfine pad stuck to the Velcro bottom of my sander. I needed to tear it away, then nitpick all the fuzz off ; ~ |

    Any Suggestions?

  • josue tinoco says:

    Does this work on water based polycrylic?

  • shonuffisthemaster says:

    great simple solution to a verry frustrating problem, thanks!

  • Bill Coleman says:

    Is the pad for the matte finish the 3M 10144?

  • Rich says:

    I just want to know who the people are that give videos like this a thumbs down. Are they forced to watch them? I doubt it, so why not just turn it off and move on?

  • David Halterman says:

    Hi Steve, great video. I'm having a hard time finding the superfine pad here in the States; would these pads be the same? They are 3M Synthetic Steel Wool (replacement for OOOO steel wool) https://www.homedepot.com/p/3M-2-in-x-4-in-0000-Super-Fine-Synthetic-Steel-Wool-Pads-6-Pack-10119/203783555

  • My Harley says:

    my thumbs down is because you should have demonstrated on a darker color stained wood, that way we can all see exactly what you're taking about flat and shinny peaks and valleys, also your sheen differences would be even more visible. Other than that good video.

  • Dallas Andrews says:

    ok on a flat piece is ok. show me on a chair, not so easy

  • Eleni Derez says:

    Should i use 400 grit or is 320 the best?

  • E Caff says:

    Than you for s sharing

  • E Caff says:

    Great ideas. Excellent process

  • akaredcrossbow says:

    This technique worked really great on my 5 workbench/miter station tabletops stained with classic gray and finished with polyurethane. Leaves a high end furniture piece finish. Now it’s time to beat them up a bit!
    Thank You for the video, helped me out a lot. 👍🏻👍🏻

  • crunch_enhancer says:

    What sander is that

  • Bakthavathsal Kadambi says:

    Brilliant Tip to take the fjnishing to a much higher level.

  • crunch_enhancer says:

    Can you please help with where to find the white ultra fine pad

  • Paul Smith says:

    I did this exact process but there is a bit of a problem. After using the sander with the rubbing pad the surface does look good and smooth but it's just way to sentisitive to scratches and marks, like it's enough i touch the surface slightly with my nail and a very visible line remains on the surface…what should i do?

  • Chris Roche says:

    Thanks for Posting, sir. I used Minwax one coat polyurethane (3 coats), let it dry 3 days during good weather, but when attempting to buff I am always left with a white finish, not glossy at all. Am I doing something wrong, or is this the wrong product for buffing? I'm frustrated, and am hoping not to have to strip/refinish again.

  • Tamaiti Albert says:

    Like it

  • phuturephunk says:

    I'm going to be trying the buff with the 7441 white pads next week, thank you for the tip! Also, I gotta add..since I spend my days with wiring, your service panel in the shop is immaculately done.

  • Heidi Breslow says:

    I sprayed poly on my cabinets and its dried in tiny little specs… can i lightly sand and poly with a brush over it? will you still be able to see the spots?

  • Armantonio72 says:

    Hi there, very interesting video. Do you know if this method works on fir plywood? I tried it on cabinet grade vertical grain three-quarter inch plywood and had literally spotty results. I applied three good coats of oil based Varathane, ensuring to sand with 220 grit sand paper between coats and then cleaning the residue off with mineral spirits. From the side, the wood seems to be in shiny, but when you look at it face on, it appears blotchy. Any feedback would be helpful. Best regards.

  • Marc _ says:

    Just finished refinishing my old family dining table and was so disappointed in the end result! You just saved my project! Thanks SO much for this video! SO HELPFUL!

  • shamus jubenal says:

    Thank you for the video and info friend! For areas on a piece that you cannot reach with an orbital sander can they be done by hand with the 3m pad? Also, if you used the fine grey pad over a satin finish, would it then turn it more into a matte sheen? I like the satin look and am trying to keep it. I'm afraid the white very fine pad might make it too shiny. Thanks!

  • Jon Blake says:

    i tried this technique and it leaves the finish very dull. what am i doing wrong??

  • Jared says:

    Great work, thanks Steve

  • Jeffrey Burns says:

    I am looking at the 3M 7415NA wood finishing pad and the 3M 10144 Between Coats Finishing Pads. Which is closer to the pad used in the video?

  • vikram khaira says:

    Thanx for the tip plus u got a new subscriber

  • stewok 1980 says:

    How do I make a sprayed unit look like thick glass without losing the design underneath

  • phantomcreamer says:

    I've watched several of these rubbing out the finish videos. They all require some sort of buffing power tool. Can't I just work my way up the different sandpaper grits to, sag, 3000 grit? Of course using a felt backing or other material with some give.

  • James Armstrong says:

    Nice video! On my polyurethane finish it feels uniform and glossy but in certain light there's a dull patch to the shine? Anyway to try and buff this out without sanding again? Thanks!!

  • BloxygenBoy says:

    Storing oil-based finishes and varnish can be a problem. The leftovers skin over or thicken and become useless. Bloxygen is the fix! Use this inert gas and you can store leftovers for years. See www.bloxygen.com for more. Also see Bloxygen Videos at http://youtu.be/2eNP5QtrKO4

  • FreeItM86 says:

    So, this worked great by making everything smooth and from an angle, everything is very shiny with good color. However, when viewing top down, it looks foggy like there is a loss of color and not reflective. Strange, but is there something I did wrong or do I need to follow up with wax?

  • Sunil Kolekar says:

    Good

  • RM Hutchins says:

    I enjoyed your video. It was very helpful. Thank you!

  • Vince Baker says:

    great tip what kind of pad is the ultra pad you used & where did you get it more details on both please. Do I need to sand between the 4 coats of poly or just the last coat?

  • James Siniawski says:

    Try finish using an abralon pad if you want to be truly amazed

  • Toby Wise says:

    Steve, great video. What poly are you using on these pieces? Is it the same minwax wipe-on as in a previous video?

  • jesus chris says:

    does this technique works with paint?

  • Joshua Smith says:

    If I wiped on coats, will each coat be too thin and thus too much chance of going through a coat when using this method?

  • David Morataya says:

    Loved your video! Thank you

  • Ben B says:

    Cool stuff. I don't have a ro sander so I'm just buffing by hand with ultra fine pads. I'm using them between coats, buffing until the surface is white and smooth, and then wiping the dust off with a very lightly damp paper towel–seems to be working quite nicely.

  • Pasquale Ferro says:

    Can you use the same technique with a solvet based alkyd resins varnish?

  • Chris Perry says:

    Good tip, will need to give this a try. Thank you!

  • Lauren Comstock says:

    I can’t wait to try that on my next project. Thank you for the
    Information. I have never had a dust free environment to apply finishes so I had to live with a less than professional finish. Great video! Thanks again.

  • Moisaro1 says:

    That looks like a great technique. Very well produced video full of useful information presented really well, thank you! I will be giving this a try.

  • David Januszewski says:

    I agree whole-hardheartedly, I have been doing this procedure for years, with very satisfying results.

  • Clayton Yates says:

    Great for a flat surface but for a door this is going to be a real challenge therefore you have to get it on smoothly and without dust.

  • Soy Nobody says:

    hello… great video, i using this video as my guidance to finish my tabletop (first time i ever did anything with wood, im new at all this)… im about to get to the finishing process, i went to go buy the products but was confused. i ask the store helper for 3m rubbing pad, and was like why, i explained for what and hes like you dont need that… anyways, i also saw that theres different grits? (0-0000)… was the one u used 00 or 0000.. i think i found the white one, product been 7445? can you please verify of link the items u used, greatly appreciated, if you cant, i also understand… thank you

  • stub mandrel says:

    I just want to say I am fed up with 30-minute videos that are full of irrelevant rubbish and hardly tell you anything. This is the opposite, its brief, practical and well explained – tells me just waht I need to know and demonstrates it. Thanks!

  • Gil Zr says:

    Wow, thank you so much for making this very helpful video, just finished my kitchen cabinets and I didn't quite liked the results on the polyurethane part, after watching watching your video I now know exactly what to do finish the job right,so glad I found your videos thanks. 😊👍👍

  • John Fidler says:

    Working on 2 pine slabs for bar tops. Had six coats of Varathane Ipswich Pine and then used the technique below. Maybe I did something incorrectly, because it not only smoothed it, but dulled it. I applied very light pressure using the orbital sander with the 3M very fine pad and then with the ultra fine pad. Thought the ultra fine would give it shine, but that never happened. Right now, am putting on another coat of the poly and looking to try again tomorrow. Any suggestions for the issue?

  • glbernini0 says:

    Was the volume reduced on the Porter Cable? Mines alot louder even on lowest speed?

  • BloxygenBoy says:

    Storing oil-based finishes and varnish can be a problem.  The leftovers skin over or thicken and become useless. Bloxygen is the fix!  Use this inert gas and you can store leftovers for years.  See www.bloxygen.com for more.  Also see Bloxygen Videos at http://youtu.be/2eNP5QtrKO4

  • marbleman52 says:

    I'm a little late to this discussion, but…I have been using the Scotch pads, and particularly the grey ones and sometimes the green ones, for several years now, on my random orbit sander to get whatever degree of shine that I want for that particular piece of wood. But what I do is cut the Scotch pad to fit the sanding disc and this helps the sander from wanting to sling the Scotch pad off the sander. I also like it because I can get a shine but still have the wood look more or less natural and not have it look like a piece of plastic.

  • Hussain Ali says:

    Thank you

  • skippy the townie says:

    Awesome tutorial. Thank you!

  • Michelle says:

    Thank you Steve!

  • doc hall says:

    You can also use automotive polishing pads and waxes and polishing compound

  • S Singh says:

    I have a question. You mentioned polyurethane, but what was the original gloss of the product? Example I'm using a semi gloss polyurethane to finish a table top.

  • Goofy Dog says:

    thats great if I only had a flat board for the project…what about a piece of furniture

  • Diana Kraemer says:

    Wow!! So helpful!

  • peanut 367 says:

    Does the black pad remove brush streaks?

  • Bob Abooey says:

    Thanks Randy Quade:)

  • 803brando says:

    Step one to getting an actual "glass like surface" stop using single component finishes. Go buy a 65$ quart of 2 part acryilc urathane. It cures, and hardens up so you can sand and buff it like the paint on a car.

  • Dale Robinson says:

    Kills me so bad seeing you guys using that crap sandpaper. Get some Norton 3X or 3M cubitron. Your paper makes all the difference in the world.

  • Tyler Power says:

    What types of pads are these?

  • Golden VinylSpin says:

    Thanks for the advice

  • Михаил Фильченков says:

    Спасибо!

  • Angie Albury says:

    Very straight forward in your explanation, thank you for the information

  • Hiranga Goonawardena says:

    Brilliant tip! I'm in awe.

  • Johan Rynjah says:

    Mirror, mirror on the wall, my wood's so shiny I don't need you at all.

  • Rick Bailey says:

    nice tips thanks

  • Wallace Grommet says:

    Use a rubber sanding block! Perfect, simple, and unsurpassed

  • Fred Bach says:

    Ok video but I didn't learn anything. You didn't deal with how the water-based products raise the grain. I talked to Flecto about their urethane and found out how to put their oil product down as the first coat and use the water-based product for the finish coats. Works great when done right. Yes Scotchbright is something that should be used to smooth each coat. I like to spray on the last coat making sue there is no wind to blow dust around. Convenient for it intricate pieces like hand rails or fancy moldings.

  • jacesaces15 says:

    my god, i love when a video gets right to the point. this is everything i needed to know and then some. thank you

  • 03DM M240 says:

    AHH thank you so much! I have been making fine furniture for years. I can get to the mirror look, but it takes me so long. This is a much more efficient method. I love YouTube, insofar as learning woodworking, etc, I learn so much that makes my products better and better.

  • john Frederickson says:

    What is the name of the 3M rubbing pad you used? Where can I find them? A link would be greatly appreciated.

  • William Denham says:

    Good video. I just put urethane on my counter top (not wood) and the Minwax sputted out material from the can nozzle. Won't do that again and will bring out my HPLV sprayer. I shaked it very well. At least now I have a plan to knock it down. Thank you so much and God bless.

  • Dave Patrick says:

    Oil based polyurethane is such crap. No true finisher ever uses it.

  • Buttered Lumps says:

    Can i still use my water based varathane polyurethane varnish? I bought and used some of it in 2017 but had to stop my project and want to start it again in 2019, can i still use the leftovers? There's still allot of it leftover and it would be a waste to toss them. I have both a matte and gloss varnish. They both still look new and they're both in airtight jars with twist lids and cling wraps to keep air out, they're still pretty liquid free moving and they don't have that skin that floats on top of old varnishes.

  • Jon Matlock says:

    This ended up being very helpful for me. Thanks so much!

  • Hugh G. Rekshin says:

    AWESOME!!

  • coachflanny says:

    Thanks for getting to the point. Quickly moving to each step and showing a brief demonstration. ❤️

  • Business Outside The Lines - w/Chuck Peavey says:

    I've been doing wood working as a hobby most of my life. When I got my cordless sander, it came with pads like you have here. I never knew what they were for until now… Thanks! I learned something new.

  • AUS10 says:

    3 coats of wipe-on-poly or 3 coats of brushed on poly? Asking this because wipe-on-poly is much thinner.

  • Krazy Polak says:

    Just stop f talking and show how is done man. What else you can talk about man. F this video. I'm going home

  • Metal says:

    I learned this technique from one of your other vids. It's great. I'm waiting for more 3m pads as we speak so I can finish my latest project. Thanks

  • LaserFalcon says:

    Nice job, we did similiar techniques when we refinished hard wood floors for 20 yrs

  • Alex Fournier says:

    I was told that buffing/polishing satin/matte sheen would result in glossy patches. How do I maintain a satin sheen? I have a 13 foot long tabletop to finish.

  • Luciana Gonzales says:

    I have been looking for this topic video forever – thank you!
    Question – do you suggest to go over these steps before putting drawers together – I find so hard to sand and polish drawers – specially the small ones – any tips?

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