Author Topic: How can I get less horrible at finishing?  (Read 1006 times)

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Offline squall_line

  • Posts: 776
How can I get less horrible at finishing?
« on: July 17, 2021, 09:45 PM »
Today's finishing nightmare saw me attempt to add a couple of coats of poly to one small section of our already finished kitchen.  The cabinets are plywood (no idea the species, they're original to the home from 1961) and we're preparing to hang a bottle drying rack on one of them next to the sink.  The wood felt somewhat dry and had evidence of prior moisture issues around an old nail hole, so I figured I would toss on a few coats of poly to seal it up and make it significantly more water resistant.

The first issue came with masking the wall and ceiling next to the cabinet.  I can't mask corners to save my life, even after 4 rolls of tape across my last two bathroom projects (one of which saw all of the ceiling paint peel when I removed the painters tape, but I digress).

Then I laid up my first coat of oil-modified water-based polyurethane.  Nothing special, just some Minwax.  I can't use oil based in the kitchen since we need to keep using the kitchen and my pregnant wife shouldn't be around heavy VOCs.

The first coat went up okay-ish, but as usual I have brush strokes in the finish.

Hit it with some 220 on the Festool hand pad with suction (per the can's directions), ended up taking some of the stain off of part of the wood in one small section, even though the suction was turned way down.

Second coat went up, and was beading in spots.  Tried to go over it with a slightly dried brush thinking it would adhere better if it was a little thicker and tackier.  When it finally dried, it was alligator'ed and flaked off when I hit it with the 220 grit.

Third coat went up and I was left with drips up high and more alligatoring down low.

This is the third-ish project other than interior wall paint that I've tried to finish.  First time was brushing some 1-2-3 Primer on hardboard backers for a shelf project that I wanted to paint.  That streaked something fierce (it was barely 40 degrees at the time, so I knew it wasn't ideal), never leveled out after sanding and adding a second coat, and the latex paint that went over the top only looks good because I'm almost never within 10 feet of it.

The next finishing I attempted was the same oil-modified poly over some reclaimed mahogany built-in bookshelves.  I had similar issues with getting down to bare wood in some spots, and definitely more beading of the water-based poly on top of what was likely an oil-based finish.  I didn't care as much about the look of that because of the extra holes and other aging that came from reclaiming the bookshelf and reconfiguring the width of the bays.  It was still an annoying task that also really only turned out looking or feeling good in very select places.

I'm pretty disappointed and dejected at this latest task.  It's not like I'm building a project for a client that needs to look perfect, but I also try to follow the Hippocratic Oath when it comes to working on my own house: first do no harm.  Not only does it look worse than when I started, but it's also the third (or fifth, if you count painting the bathrooms) project in a row that I've just done a completely poor job on. 

I was trying to start a side gig to turn into a full time gig building furniture and cabinetmaking, but this inability to figure out the final step of finishing is giving me hard doubts and second and third thoughts about even bothering to attempt the jump.

Any thoughts or suggestions?

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Offline tjbnwi

  • Posts: 6443
  • No longer in Cedar Tucky Indiana
Re: How can I get less horrible at finishing?
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2021, 09:55 PM »
I don’t see what process you used to clean the cabinets. Kurd Cutter is my go to.

What brush are you using?

The best way to learn finishing is practice. Finishing is very easy, until something goes wrong, then you need to rely on experience to get you out of a bad situation.

Tom

Offline kevinculle

  • Posts: 451
Re: How can I get less horrible at finishing?
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2021, 08:52 AM »
I think most of us start woodworking focused on working the wood, milling, cutting, drilling, sanding, assembling...by the time all that's done we're anxious to finish and so we rush through it without studying the finishing process like we do the woodworking process.  In truth for most projects I have done the finishing including surface prep, laying on the finish, between coat surfacing, etc. occupies about as much time as all of the woodworking combined.  The most useful resource I have found which helped me in this area is the Thomas Johnson Antique Furniture Restoration video series on YouTube.  He is a lifelong professional woodworker who specializes in restoration of period pieces and his videos are very well done.  Krud Kutter as a cleaner mentioned above is one of his go to solutions.  Check it out!

Offline Crazyraceguy

  • Posts: 695
Re: How can I get less horrible at finishing?
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2021, 06:39 PM »
I don’t see what process you used to clean the cabinets. Kurd Cutter is my go to.

What brush are you using?

The best way to learn finishing is practice. Finishing is very easy, until something goes wrong, then you need to rely on experience to get you out of a bad situation.

Tom

This was my first thought too. Kitchens are notoriously hard to refinish because of the grease in the air that settles on the surfaces. This gives you two different problems, adhesion and fisheyes.
Both of these will give you fits. It can go surprisingly deep, even into the wood fibers themselves if the original finish had failed. When it gets that bad, it can be a real nightmare. Sometimes shellac can fix that.
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Offline Packard

  • Posts: 642
Re: How can I get less horrible at finishing?
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2021, 08:48 AM »
When I refinished cabinets in the kitchen a few years back, I scrubbed the cabinets using Scotchbrite and mineral spirits and wiped it down.  Then I sanded the cabinets (scuffing the surface only), and then wiped it down with mineral spirits again.  Then onto 1-2-3 primer and paint (I used Advance, which levels nicely and looks excellent in satin whether brushed or sprayed.)

A word on the advance.  I sprayed with the doors flat.  It takes 24 hours to dry for the second coat and probably a week to dry before seeing regular use.  I never rushed the dry time, but people who did say that doing so was a mistake.

More experienced paints hang the doors and spray vertically.  I worry about runs and I shoot with the doors laying flat.