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Thread: English Elm dining table with Waterlox Urethane finish

  1. #1

    English Elm dining table with Waterlox Urethane finish

    Iím finishing an English Elm dining table with Waterlox urethane. I used the high gloss urethane, and it came out great, other than some small brush strokes. Since my wife thought it was actually too glossy, I decided to sand out the brush strokes, starting with 1000 grit. I waited for almost 2 weeks for the urethane to fully cure (Waterlox says you only have to wait 2 days) before I sanded. Once every brush stroke was gone using 1000 grit, I wet sanded, starting with 1500 grit and going all the way to 12000 grit.
    The table is incredibly smooth, but it has a cloudiness to it that it didnít have after the final gloss coat was put on.
    Is there a way to get rid of the cloudiness? Iíve spoken with the folks at Waterlox, and while they say that their urethane can be sanded to achieve the desired finish, they donít make any claims or recommendations about doing so.
    Iíve read about using automotive paste waxes over polyurethane, but not sure if that would make it even cloudier.
    Any advice would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Going up to 12000, there should be pretty much a gleaming, near full gloss surface that can only be improved with polishing.

    Do keep in mind that Urethanes, especially polyurethane, were originally designed to be abrasion resistant for floors so they are a little more difficult to rub out than many other finishes.

    As always, you should test anything before committing it to your project. I don't believe you'll have any issue with using automotive polishes such as MaGuires, but confirm it first.

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  3. #3

    Jim, the first photo is after sanding. The second photo is what it originally was after putting the finish coat of gloss on. The color has dulled considerably after sanding. The gloss level isn't really the issue - it's just a general cloudiness that I'm having a problem with. However, as I've wet sanded I've noticed that the second the surface is wetted, it gets perfectly clear. Just not sure what to do.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    If it gets perfectly clear when you put water on it, that's telling you that the cloudiness is a surface issue. The sanding you did is leaving fine scratches in the finish and that's scattering light and making it look cloudy. I think you would have to polish it as Jim suggested to make it clear again, or wipe or spray on another coat or two of finish.


  5. #5
    If you are trying to remove the cloudiness, you can try an automotive polish as Jim suggests.
    I've had luck with 3m ultrafine machine polish to remove swirls and cloudiness. IMHO, it really needs the right foam pad and polishing speed as applied by a proper buffer. You can get good results with a random orbital sander and sometimes even by hand. But for me it's hit or miss. The buffer is best. Whenever I've done it by hand I've regretted it; it dries too quickly and leaves swirls that are hard to rub out by hand. The buffer moves quickly and is just the right amount of aggressive.

    Also, make sure your finish is really cured as hard as it's going to get. This can take a long time. I've rubbed our waterlox phenolic varnish after 30 days. That's a product that theoretically gets harder than the urethane, and it still clouded after trying to bring up the gloss even with the automotive polish. I waited another 30 days, and it was easier - still not perfect, but better.

    Other polishing compounds that get good reviews are Mirka Polarshine and Menzerna - but I haven't tried these. The good ones all appear to be expensive...

    John and Jim can comment about how they'd recommend applying the polish if not with a buffer.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    N.E. Ohio
    Won't polish bring back the gloss that your wife doesn't care for?

    I'm surprised Waterlox didn't mention using semi gloss or satin over the gloss.
    My granddad always said, :As one door closes, another opens".
    Wonderful man, terrible cabinet maker...

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Engelhardt View Post
    Won't polish bring back the gloss that your wife doesn't care for?

    I'm surprised Waterlox didn't mention using semi gloss or satin over the gloss.

    Unfortunately, Waterlox is backordered on all of their Urethane products, so I can't get the satin variety. I had high gloss, and figured that I'd simply be able to sand it to both remove any brush strokes and get the level of gloss that I wanted. The cloudiness has surprised me. It's kind of strange - as I've now sanded to 12,000 grit, there is definitely a shine on the surface, but the cloudiness is still there. However, if the surface gets wet at all, the cloudiness completely disappears and it's crystal clear.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2007
    I did the same thing and had the same result. It was on a walnut table and looked great after several coats of gloss. I did try and use the satin on top, but it just would not dry perfectly flat. I tried sanding it and polishing, but it just clouded up like yours. I stripped that table 5 times and finished it 6 times. By the time I was done sanding off that last finish, it was so flat I vowed to quadruple my sanding efforts from then on. Anyway, I decided it was too big to finish at once and achieve a perfect finish with an oil varnish. I ended up tinting some satin MLC conversion varnish with some red mahogany Trans Tint dye to match the rest of the table that I used Waterlox on. I built a makeshift spray booth and laid down two very nice coats and called it done. This is the only pic I have handy. It is right before I stripped the gloss off the last time.


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