Four Common Finishing Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

by Eric Meier

1. Not enough sanding

In my very earliest days of woodworking, I used to think that sanding through all the different grits of sandpaper was for anal-retentive chumps. “Nonsense,” I thought, “I’ll just use some 60 grit to get out the larger defects, and then some 220 to smooth things out.” As it turned out, I was the chump.

Can you spot the cross-grain sanding scratches? I see this every night because this is my own nightstand made 10+ years ago.

Differing grits of sandpaper are meant to save you time, not waste it.

If you’re just starting out, and you’re put off by the apparent large price of all those different grits of sandpaper, I’d highly recommend buying a variety pack that has a few sheets of each grit included. Then you’ll realize, especially if you value your time, that getting the right sandpaper definitely isn’t too expensive: it’s well worth it.

Basically, you are putting successively smaller and smaller scratches in the wood until, ultimately, the scratches become so small that they are “invisible” to the naked eye. So when you make coarse scratches in a wood surface—say, for instance, 60 or 80 grit—the fastest way to remove those scratches is with a medium grit: too large a grit (only slightly finer than the paper in your previous step), and you’ll be adding needless work; but too fine a grit, and you could sand for hours and still not remove the deep scratches.

Insufficient or poor sanding is a classic mistake common to a lot of beginning woodworkers. The wood is either given a quick, insufficient sanding; or else, if it is sanded to a finer grit, it is done haphazardly, and while skipping grits. The resulting surface my feel smooth to the touch, and may even look good from a distance with casual examination, but the proof is in the pudding, as they say.

Once a finish (and especially if a stain is applied) the sanding scratches will become all that much more noticeable and pronounced. You want to fix sanding mistakes before they’re embedded (and accented) under a few thousandths of an inch of pigments, dyes, and resins.

Learn how to inspect your sanding job between each grit

It’s not enough to just feel the wood or take a casual look and think “that’s probably good enough.” Sure, pros can sometimes get away with  this lackadaisical approach because they have years of experience. But when you’re first starting out, anything that possibly can go wrong probably will go wrong: and nowhere is this more apparent than in the sanding.

Nothing’s worse than going through all the grits only to find that you still have some 60 grit scratches left in the wood from the very first step. To check, wipe all the sanding dust from the surface of the wood—I like to use a microfiber towel that can “grab” the dust right out of the pores and scratches of the wood. A can of compressed air or an air compressor can also blow the dust out, but it also creates a cloud of dust in the air. Once the dust is out, hold the piece up to a light (or bring a light to the work-piece if it’s something larger), and view the surface at a very low angle—almost parallel with the surface—to try and spot any serious/errant scratches.

Use alternating sanding techniques to find where (and at what grit) you’re having problems

While it’s not always the best (or most efficient) method in all circumstances, using varying sanding techniques can be invaluable if it seems like you’re running into repetitive sanding flaws in your work, and you’re just not sure where they’re coming from. For example you could sand the first grit by hand, parallel to the wood grain, and then the second grit could be with a random orbit sander, and so forth. Just take care that sanding directly perpendicular to the grain by hand puts some serious scratches in the wood that will be very hard to get out with a finer grit—a better solution would be to sand at a slight left-hand or right-hand angle from the grain, and not to cut directly across the grain.

The success in using this trick is rooted in the simple premise that you should hopefully know the direction and shape of the scratches that you’re putting in the wood. Sanding by hand with a stiff backing block? You should see deep, straight scratches. Sanding with random orbit sander? You should see little tiny circular squiggles all over the surface. Sanding with a pneumatic/rotary sander? You should see broad, circular/arc patterns in the wood. By changing the pattern with each successive step, you’ll be able to tell by the direction and shape of the scratches where you went wrong. When you finish sanding and find a flaw, you’ll be able to say something like this: “Okay, I see there’s still some swirl marks in the wood, which are 100 grit scratches made with my random orbit sander; I followed that up with some 180 grit hand sanding that apparently didn’t get all of the previous sandpaper’s scratches out. I need to spend more time at 180 grit to ensure I remove all the 100 grit scratches.”

2. Using incompatible products

Oily tropical hardwoods can cause a lot of problems; essentially, the finish seems to stay wet and tacky indefinitely. This is due to the antioxidants present in the heartwood, which prevent the finish from properly curing (through oxidation). This article explains the problem as well as possible solutions in more detail.

Even if you are using a finish-friendly wood species, you may still have trouble when using a combination of two or more products that are incompatible with each other. In short, oil and water don’t mix! Try to use finish products that all use the same base solvent. If you absolutely must use some specialty product somewhere in the finishing process, a good rule of thumb is to try to use shellac as a peacemaker between two incompatible coats. The adage goes “shellac sticks to everything, and everything sticks to shellac.”

Lastly, in rare instances, steel wool can cause problems when used under water based finishes. Namely, the tiny particles of steel will rust when in contact with water. (Use bronze wool instead.)

3. Not enough coats of finish

Most people are looking for the fastest, easiest wood finish. This is a perfectly understandable impulse, but if you’ve put all that work into a project, it makes sense to finish strong.

The temptation is to only apply one coat and call it good enough. However, the quality and protection of most film building finishes (such as polyurethane, lacquer, and shellac) goes up exponentially on the first few coats (e.g., there’s a huge improvement in durability and moisture excluding effectiveness from coat #1 to coat #2, and another big jump from coat #2 up to coat #3.) After maybe 3-4 coats, the benefits of increasing film thickness diminish somewhat. See this article on wood finishes for more info on what finishes work best in certain situations.

One last tip that will increase the clarity of your wood finishes: when building up wood finish film thickness, use a glossy finish. Even if you want your final sheen to be satin or low-gloss, I recommend using high gloss on the initial coats whenever possible. This is because most satin finishes contain a flattening agent that dulls the surface of the finish, and can appear cloudy when built up in several layers. Instead, simply rub out your final finish layer (see tip #4) or apply a satin or low-gloss finish as the final coat of your finish.

4. No rubbing out

Most of the time, when advocates of only using a single thin finish film complain that thicker finishes look “plasticky,” it is usually because the finish was slopped on in several thick, drippy, gobbledy-gook coats (polyurethane is chief in this trespass). I would agree, such finishes do look like cheap plastic, but that isn’t solely due to the number of coats of the finish, but simply that the number of errors, defects, and unevenness in each coat accumulated without correction until you are left with one thick, bumpy, coat of clear plastic.

Consider this: many guitars are finished with ten or more coats of spray lacquer. Most of us would not say that the mirror-polish on guitars is plasticky at all. What’s the difference? After all those coats, the guitar’s finish was sanded level and then rubbed out.

The art of rubbing out is perhaps too long to go into detail in an overview article like this. In a nutshell, a sufficiently thick film is applied to the wood surface and allowed to thoroughly harden over several weeks. Then, the finish is sanded flat and level (the thickness of the finish helps create a buffer so that the sandpaper will not actually cut through down to bare wood during this process).

Next, with a perfectly flat and uniform surface, the finish can be buffed up to whatever sheen is desired for the piece. (One additional mistake that can sometimes get overlooked is when no pore filler used, which means that on many porous woods, even with ten or more coats of finish, the pores still leave an uneven surface after leveling.)

Honduran rosewood psaltery back rubbed out with #0000 steel wool
Psaltery back rubbed out with #0000 steel wool and then polished to a high sheen

For most beginning woodworkers, an easy way to get familiar with the process of rubbing out is to simply apply a few extra coats of wood finish to your project, and then sand it lightly with 400 grit sandpaper to remove all surface dust and irregularities. Then use #0000 very fine steel wool and rub the entire surface of the piece, this will leave a very pleasant and uniform satin finish that softly diffuses light.

Are you an aspiring wood nerd?

The poster, Worldwide Woods, Ranked by Hardness, should be required reading for anyone enrolled in the school of wood nerdery. I have amassed over 500 wood species on a single poster, arranged into eight major geographic regions, with each wood sorted and ranked according to its Janka hardness. Each wood has been meticulously documented and photographed, listed with its Janka hardness value (in lbf) and geographic and global hardness rankings. Consider this: the venerable Red Oak (Quercus rubra) sits at only #33 in North America and #278 worldwide for hardness! Aspiring wood nerds be advised: your syllabus may be calling for Worldwide Woods as part of your next assignment!

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
386 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cathy Behrens

HI Eric.

I used Citristrip on a pine wood closet doors so that I could re-stain the a different color. However, after scrapping the stripper with a meal scrapper the pine turned black. Can the original color be restored? I’m afraid I will make it worse with sanding or bleaching.

deb

you could try oxalic acid which restores the original natural colour of wood and takes out water staining.
a mild amount of Oxalic acid is in barkeepers friend, which i’ve used on small projects

Last edited 7 months ago by deb
Michael Hall

Hi Eric

I have an old G Plan dining table. In teak I think?! I have sanded down a few times now as it was very dark initially. Last year when sanding and then applying a varnish it dried tacky. I have finally gotten back round to sanding down again. What should I apply to the top as I’m guessing I need something on there? Thanks in advance for any advice!

Katherine

Hi Eric,
I have an antique table that I am refinishing. The table was heavily used, but the two leaves were not. I stripped the wood, then I did my initial sanding, but the leaves look like a very different color. If I sand with a finer grit, then condition before staining, will it look more uniform? I’m afraid to do all that work and have it still look so different. I am considering painting it instead. What do you think?

71390734562__7D5D333B-5F08-4E6B-BA0F-4D5E13DD47A2.jpeg
Cheryl

Hello Eric! Thank you for this very helpful article!! I’m trying to learn to identify different markings on vintage/antique furniture pieces, as well as how to repair them. I have a 1920s octagonal table with a quartered burl wood veneer top. Looking from a distance one can see water stains, but up close you can see many short, very narrow “slits” in the wood. Is that considered “checking” or something else? And is it beyond repair? thank you for reading!

A0B08A0B-30F7-4AC5-8D83-192245E0B889_1_105_c.jpeg
Dave

Hello Eric, great article and I’ve gotten a lot out of reading through these comments as well. I just finished my first restore project. It was a record player that belonged to my wife’s grandpa. After stripping the old finish, sanding down the wood veneer and wiping it down with a tack cloth, I stained with an oil based stain, waited 2 days then finished with 4 coats of water based Varathane Diamond Wood finish. After staining, the project looked outstanding but after the finish was done I could see blotches in a few places. Can you tell what caused… Read more »

PXL_20230726_143306971.jpg
PXL_20230726_143321758.jpg
Dave

Sounds like I should have done more reading beforehand…

I didn’t know about using a solvent to clean the wood before staining but it makes sense that sanding and a tack cloth wouldn’t get rid of residue left behind in the wood fibers. I’ll definitely remember this for the next time.

Thank you for getting back to me!

Cheryl

I bought a coolibah bowl and tried light sanding what I thought was some glue – it removed the shine – it’s not resin on the bowl as its not a glass shine – I don’t think….would some wax and a good polish help? Lemon oil didn’t do the trick.

Klint

Hi! I am re finishing a door that has been weathered a bit. I started sanding and there were a few areas where I sanded deeper than others where you start to see the seems of the wood put together. These are solid wood doors. Have I sanded to much or not enough? Thanks

IMG_9620.jpeg
IMG_9621.jpeg
Klint

Thanks for the response! Is there a way to fix this or add a top layer of veneer or stain to hide the seems a bit? It was inevitable to sand down to the base on some parts of the door do to weathering and dog scratches.

IMG_9674.jpeg
Klint

Would it be possible to glue Veneer strips then stain?

Klint

Okay. That makes sense. But would it be possible to instead of trying to fix the problem spot, add veneer strips around each door with the windows. Meaning to cover the full exterior doors with veneer strips?

IMG_9679.jpeg
Muba

Hi,
After 6 months, dark sots appeard on the oak veneer. The veneer was glued to the fireproof MDF and on the back side is paper. Finished with fireproof varnish.
What could What could have caused the color change. There are no natural light in the room.


Seinapaneel.JPG
Andrew

Really informative article! I wish I read it before starting. I have attempted to strip a thick stain on newly exposed timber beams. Hand sanding was too weak and I was too weak to hold an orbital sander that high to remove ll the thick glue/stain on the wood. I settled on an angle grinder with a 40-grit flap disk. It has really helped reduce/remove the stain and glue but I have noticed heaps of what look like little finger marks everywhere. I can’t seem to remove them no matter what I change (sander type or grit). So whilst I… Read more »

beams1.jpg
beams2.jpg
Maria

Hello! I need help. I’m working on a table project using black walnut slab. After sanding, I am now in the process of tinting it. Howevet, whenever I tint, the strokes is getting highlighted and is becoming obvious. The tint also enphasized darker shade on the strokes and it looks ugly. I had to re-sand it again, and it is still the same after tint application. Without the tint, the wood looks so smooth and nice but whenever I apply the tint, a darker shade of stroke is show. What should I do? Thank you

16889362282314555479237460569381.jpg
Maria

Thank you so much! I will do what you said. Appreciate your help!

Ruth

Thanks for the tips, Eric! I’m a newbie with sanding and am restoring some cedar benches. I’m trying to use gentle, long strokes with my palm sander but still get these horizontal marks. Any advice???

IMG_3863.jpeg
image.jpg
Ruth

Thank you so much!!! I’ll keep at it!

Ashley

Hi Eric, I attempted reviving my acacia patio table. The seal was pealing and there were some concerns of water damage. I sanded off the original poly with stain, starting with 80 grit on a sheet sander then hand sanded with 180 grit. I was left with all these white patches. I have put on one later of Varathane natural oil finish in semi gloss.I am wondering what exactly these patches are from? Should I have spent more time sanding these white areas before finishing? Or did I butcher it and sand too much? I don’t mind the very weathered… Read more »

PXL_20230605_023805351.jpg
PXL_20230605_023751372.jpg
Ashley

Thanks for the info. I wiped twice – each time after sanding. So I wonder if I didn’t sand far enough to bare wood as you said. May give it another go then. Thanks again. I appreciate the feedback. All a part of the learning process for me. :)

Beverley Burgess

Hi Eric , my joiner used an orbital sander on my lovely white oak front door then coated it with polyurethane finish . It came up very patchy . So he sanded it back again and applied one coat of Danish oil . I am still not happy with the squiggles in the wood . He says it’s the grain but I don’t think it is . What can I do to fix it please ? Is Danish oil the best thing on a a North facing door . Thank you ??

IMG_3669.jpeg
IMG_3689.png
IMG_3669.jpeg
Ed in NY

Hi Eric. I’ve probably got nearly 10 light coats of lacquer spray on this piece. (the drop front of an antique secretary) After several coats applied, I have begun sanding between coats with a micro-fine sanding pad. It seems to be getting better with each coat, but not nearly as smooth as the original surface. Still lots of grain coming up as each coat dries. I assumed that as I applied multiple coats of lacquer that the grain inconsistencies would fill in and disappear. But as the lacquer dries, it still seems to follow the roughness of the grain. Yes,… Read more »

IMG_0132.jpeg
IMG_0133.jpeg
Ed in NY

It was suggested to me that considering that I have sprayed so many coats of lacquer that at this point I should be able to carefully do some sanding, a bit more than “light” to get the surface more even.
I also read separately that aerosol lacquer is notorious for drying too quickly. There is a specific product called Deft which seems to be a better choice for a slower drying time that will allow the finish to flatten rather than “orange peeling”. Apparently with an actual spray gun, you could thin the lacquer with.. wait for it… lacquer thinner!

Elizabeth

Hi there! I’m in the middle of my first refinishing project. I had to use citristrip and scraped a lot to get all of the varnish off. Tonight I sanded everything once through. 80 grit was the roughest I had, but I think I will need to try 60 grit tomorrow. Anyway, the table is stamped underneath with “Ligo, made in Thailand”. It is definitely real wood, but not sure it’s the nicest species…someone said maybe “fruitwood”? The original varnish on it was very dark and I’ve made significant progress, but it does look like the wood is very porous.… Read more »

IMG-7917.jpg
70509107570--39AAB821-FA2D-4DED-A8BB-229846C18928.jpg
6C802DF4-9629-492B-A06B-03BE93D78DEB.JPG
Elizabeth

Thank you! After I submitted my comment, I was doing research trying to figure out what the wood is and came to the same conclusion; definitely solid rubberwood! I will do as you suggest and skip the stain. I was worried it would come out too dark anyway. Is it a top coat of clear satin polyurethane what I would want to try or do you suggest a different product? Again thanks so much for your help!

Therese Laaird

Hi Eric, I have a complete disaster with my front door! Its cheap wood & I was trying to stain it. I did sand with an electric sander first. Can you please tell me what I should do next? I really have no idea. I am a single parent so thanks in advance.

varnish.jpg
Therese Laaird

Thank you for your reply Eric. It has been wood stained before and despite the look, it doesn’t have many coats on it. Its not that old maybe 4 years. I think the problem is it was varnished before & then I stained it. Is there any type of varnish or wood stain primer I could use?

Daniela

Hello,
We bought this knotty pine doors. Once we stained them we noticed that they have this strip line going across them. I have tried sanding and it’s not working. Do you know what it could be or how to fix it? Thank you!

IMG_1135.jpeg
Donna

Hi, I just came across your blog while googling pretty much how to fix my mistake, I’m a very small woodworker, one of my favorite things to do is sand believe it or not, well I got some free poplar wood and made 3×3 in squares, glued them all together going in different directions and made a decorative tray out of them, 99.5% of the time I use matte paint and or matte clear coat but for this I wanted a little bit of a glossy finish, I did that and then it felt a little gritty even though it… Read more »

Mary

Our handyman stained and applied poly to these treads a few months ago. Water based. We weren’t happy with the uneven application of the stain and some scratches against the grain. Yesterday he used a stripper on only 6 of the worse treads and we have very rough looking raised grain. He is intending on switching to an oil based stain.
Can these treads get smooth? Will the treads that are stained with oil match or existing water based?
I don’t want to let this guy get too far if the results will not be good.
Thanks!

20230304_070447.jpg
20230304_070433.jpg
Mary

Thank you. He is only refinishing 6 of the 18 stairs , and wants to switch to oil base stain. Will the color match the other 12 that were stained with water based?

Ash

Hiya, i don’t have pics yet. But I’m getting these pale untreated seasoned pinewood pallets from a dealer – they look really white n in need of sanding. Someone’s recommended a mesh something cuz it has less grits to go down I’m planning to do 1-2 layers of Tung oil (any recommendation?) n 2 layers of beeswax finish cuz imma use it as a low table like surface – snacks, forks, soda. I want it to look smooth but matt, like in those Airbnb rooms, the pale light yellow non-glossy pallets(i really don’t like glossy). Would u recommend those mesh… Read more »

Janet Lafferty

Refinishing a cedar bench. I sanded off the polyurethane (oil based), wiped it down well and applied a fresh coat of oil based poly. You can see there are areas that are not absorbing the poly, how can I fix this problem? (The bright white spot is from an overhead light)

5809A507-C15D-4E63-A978-281BCDA0736E.jpeg
Janet

It appears to be beading up and rolling off of those areas,. I put a second coat of poly on it (after this picture was taken) and it did the same thing. Should I try stripping/sanding it down to wood level again and starting over? I appreciate any advice you can share!!

Janet

To give some background info, the bench was in a garage and had been basically used as a “work space” for other projects. It had blobs of thick paint and puddles of dried polyurethane sitting on it. There were also pieces of fabric that had stuck in spots. I don’t mind putting in the work to restore it, just not sure how to go about doing so. Thanks for any/all suggestions!

Jessica

Hi Eric, do you have any advice on how to improve this finish? I love everything about color, I just think the the pores look prominent. It’s white oak with two coats of “smoke” colored hardwax oil.

20230212_004149.jpg
Garrett

Iv been working on this for about 2-3 days now and I got nothing. Oak door, pretty sure it’s white oak but can be wrong. The owner I’m doing it for, him or someone he knew had very little if any experience at all had either just pained it black or put layers and layers of black stain on it. So I couldn’t tell which oak it was.

20230209_225525.jpg
20230209_224506.jpg
Henry

Hi Eric,
mum sanding some oak cabinet doors and have started to lose the grain.
is there a solution to bring it back ?
thanks !

image.jpg
image.jpg
Teri Browne

Hey Eric, it s Teri Browne again. I was using my orbital sander after the citrus stripper and this started happening. Thoughts?? Thank you so much!

FC6117BA-D369-48D1-B7D8-7AA37E2D2B06.jpeg
4349F574-5F59-46B5-97EF-5C24A167B630.jpeg
E1A81B92-A2D1-4733-9124-FF2B0EEF0608.jpeg
Adam

Eric, Great article. I need help. I’m refinishing door sills on my boat. They’ve become dull and scratched over the last 15 years. I sanded with 180 then 400 just to remove the light varnish already there. When I applied new marine spar varnish, all of a sudden I have uneven color on the flats and also the wood plugs just jump out now! The first picture is a door sill that hasn’t been touched and the second and third pics are after sanding and a first coat of varnish. This is teak. Do I need to resand and use… Read more »

IMG_20230127_120920.jpg
IMG_20230127_121001.jpg
IMG_20230127_121013.jpg
Adam

Thanks for replying. I actually figured it out. The lighter colors appeared that way because I hadn’t sanded all the way through the old varnish. Once I sanded to bare wood and revarnished, the shade came out darker and much better. Thanks again!

Teri Browne

Hi Eric, my husband and I are refinishing an old hatchcover table top from a Liberty Ship. I am sure you are familiar with them. It was previously redone and now has been in a storage shed for many, many years. We used the citrus stain stripper which worked pretty well with a few coats. Then I began sanding with an orbital sander, higher grit, and it doesn’t seem to be too coarse, but it is pulling up white wood where I have sanded. I have stopped sanding to research. Any thoughts? Thank you so much. Teri

Lori

Hi Eric, I sanded my stair treads with an orbital sander and a 80 grit, they were nice an smooth. My husband tried to do under the lip of the tread and now I have these marks. How do I get them out? I tried sanding with orbital sander and 80 grit and they never came out. Thank you

5F530C35-402A-47E9-81DB-FEB576F3A27B.jpeg
42D9AEC9-1279-49AE-94A9-D99F3799A9EA.jpeg
Candice

Hello!, I have this wooden bench that was in my ex’s family for a long time. I have no idea re- the age, history of how it was treated or stained, etc. One photo is the unfinished edge of the bench – it appears very porous… does this mean it’s not “real” wood? The other pic shows where I sanded compared to where I have not. I feel like there’s no woodgrain ???? I don’t know if I should just sand the rest and slap on some coats of regular paint, or if I should stain it. Please help???

20221026_094257.jpg
20221026_094240.jpg
Keith

Hi, Eric. I stained this plywood and I get what looks like drip marks. I’m trying to sand it out but to no avail as the grain is not showing.

IMG_0152.jpg
IMG_0151.jpg
IMG_0137.jpg
Ruth

Help! I’m sanding an oak door that likely has 4 or 5 layers of spar urethane. I used stripper first and then sanded for hours. It looked like bare wood but when ai applied stain I could see that there were areas that didn’t accept the stain. I applied another coat of stripper and then sanded for more hours. How do I know the poly is really off before I stain again? I so appreciate any advise as I can’t bare the idea of sanding this for another 5 hours.

Karen Bartlett

You say you can’t over sand, but I think I have… This is a solid wood chest with two issues. The top spots, can they be fixed? And I can’t get all the stain off on the sides. I started with Citrustrip, didn’t work great for me. Then
sanded with 80, 120 then 220. Help!!

3B926A52-6CE2-41DD-9EA3-EE1121B5629B.jpeg
97336448-A1FE-4209-916F-2EBC62B649E2.jpeg
0DC44206-86E5-4BDD-A5C7-307BC0A6F84A.jpeg
Anna

Thank you for this informative article! I have an old coffee table that I painted 25 years ago because there were water stains/marks on it. The paint was looking really bad so I decided to strip it and sand it. To my surprise, when I initially removed the paint (with Citristrip) the water stains weren’t visible. I started sanding and decided to stain it rather than re-paint. But I fear I have over sanded because now the dark water stains are visible. Is there any way to fix my mistake? If I choose a dark stain will it cover up… Read more »

5FB5BBAD-F087-49B5-94B4-FD0F9FAF86E3.jpeg
EB9959BE-C523-4E6F-A750-CDDF555EDFE5.jpeg
Anna

Thank you for responding! I can’t tell if it’s veneer or solid wood either. I’ve had the table for about 25 years. It had been my grandmothers and is about 50 -80 years old, but that doesn’t mean it’s solid wood. She used it as a plant table, thus the water stains. I am pretty sure she stained the table herself, it was a very dark color before I painted it. I think I will stop sanding and use a pre-stain and then stain it a dark color to try to cover up the dark water marks. Do you have… Read more »

Michael

Hi Eric, First of all, many thanks for writing such a helpful article – its very much appreciated. I’m hoping for your help and advice with regard to sealers and protection for our recently sanded beech floor. I’ve attached an image of the floor as it is today. The property itself is a Victorian semi and the plan was initially to stain is a very dark brown, but the sample didn’t work out, so we would now like to ensure we preserve the shade we have now without it going yellowy. It’s a professional sander that’s carried out the job… Read more »

F7ED9906-DEF5-41FE-8E44-2B36D88073DB.jpeg
44343103-D4D1-40E6-899D-8B94696EF7FE.jpeg
Jeff

Hi I am working on refinishing a wood door. I a staining it with a oil based dark walnut stain . I have a spot on the door where the stain will not take . I have sanded and reds fed multiple times and it I am just making the problem area larger . In the attached pick the problem area is the yellow line around the door handle hole. Do you have any thoughts on how I can fix this issue. I have tried treating the door with a pre stain . I have tried a shallac and polystain… Read more »

24F159B3-0011-4CFF-9131-5C78AEC2F6F6.jpeg
4ED0C82C-43B2-4906-BE17-C6D68F1C65D7.jpeg
88E21543-2BEB-491B-A426-68C38077E1EC.jpeg
Cathy

Hi – I’ve learned a lot from reading the questions and answers below. Thank you. My question – hand me down beautiful old varnished table from my parents. Not solid wood top. There was a crazy thick varnish finish that I’ve finally managed to strip and sand away – although it isn’t all one shade – I will use a solvent to be sure it’s thoroughly cleaned, and hopefully I’ve sanded it evenly enough. My question – I’ve made a few gouges into the veneer that I need to fill. I am planning on finishing the top with oil. With… Read more »

Suze

I’m a novice, so take this with a grain of salt. I have a similar issue with a veneer on a 40-year-old chest. All the wood except that veneer is in great shape now that I finally got it all stripped (and cleaned). I saw a YouTube video of a guy who does a lot of mid century and garage sake finds. He used an oil based paint, like the kind you’d find in the arts department at a store like Michael’s, to fill in a few spots on a veneer. That’s what I’m hoping to try on my veneer.… Read more »

TJM

What a great blog, thank you for writing it! Ive been battling with a new oak floor (which had an awful plastic finish on it) making every mistake under the sun as the finish was impossible to get off. Even resorted to an angle grinder for sanding. . Ive now started again with a makita belt sander and am examining each board with the light shining across it, marking the mistakes. Plus hand sanding with the grain on patches. Starting with 24 grit on the belt sander to remove the new finish (osmo wood wax finish). Do i need to… Read more »

Emma

Just moved into a new house. Wood kitchen worktops not looked after so i bought a kit and sanded them down. After second coat of oil, I still have patches that look dry/flakey – see attached. Any recommendations:?

20220414_074747.jpg
Emma

Hoping this shows it better – where the wood looks scuffed/ white rather than brown.
I used Danish wood oil from a company I found on amazon??
Thanks

Emma

hopefully this one works – apologies

20220414_181557.jpg
Emma

Well its kind of both. Its those whiter patches on the wood you can see in the picture. when you look closer, the look is scuffed (as if its the sandpaper look still because its also not smooth to the touch AKA dry….). i dont really know how else to describe it…

Emma

Amazing thank you!

Mary

Hi there – will primer before painting hide swirl/pigtail marks left from sanding? If not, should I resend with a 220+? Thanks!

Laurie

Hi we recently had oak stair treads put in. My husband is staining them, first time. Our contractor said to sand with 220. After sanding and staining we noticed these marks, what can we do? Help!! Thanks!

D320663C-8B4E-4456-870F-063D2A0246DA.jpeg
Lee White

the finish is like fish scales

Lee White

the wood came up like fish scales after i applied varnish

Lee White

ive sanded down twice and waited a full day ,with that i used a high gloss varathane , and when i look at it ,,see this is it the wood?

erik rider

Forgot to add the second pic. You can see it more on this one. Thanks for your help.

20211219_164753.jpg
erik rider

Hello! I am finishing a parota cookie and need someone to let me know if this is okay or not.

I have a festool orbital sander with every grit of sand paper.

I want to oil the piece at 220 grit but I’ve noticed that I’m getting shiny lines where I sand. I’m scared that if I put the finish on, that you will see it. I don’t have this problem with regular tables, only this end grain cookie.

My question is: is there something I’m doing wrong or will it disappear when I oil it.

20211219_164757.jpg
Emer

Hi, my husband took a belt sander & hand sander to a modern oak table & then applied 2 coats of Osmo polyx white tint oil. The result- so many sanding swirls with the paint from the tint making them more pronounced. I started again using a Mekita RO sander, working through good quality pads – 80,120 & 180, twice with each grit (using the pencil mark method to assess when to go up a grit). I worked slowly, following the line of grain & cleaning dust off between sanding. Took hours! The result is no better! Still lots of… Read more »

5118928F-2003-4942-8EC6-7283B5B88F33.jpeg
F441F9BE-B33B-4867-90EF-53BD1D7B7557.jpeg
7F8E28D4-C8AD-4C64-9BB4-C5D878A6B3C6.jpeg
Emer

Many thanks for your response. The wood is solid oak and when wiped with solvent, the swirls pop, as they did when oiled before I re-sanded again. The swirls seem to be from the belt sander as they weren’t there before that. I know they will pop again if I oil again now and am wondering how to get rid of them?

Daniel Campbell

Ur problem is definitely the belt sander it has dug into the timber. I can clearly see this as I’ve used a belt sander for years. Only way till try and fix this is go back with belt sander on a 80grit and work up till 120 with belt sander then till 220 by hand (with the grain). But u must sand with the grain and always keep the belt sander moving and don’t be tempted till put pressure on the sander let the machine do the work, if u apply pressure u will end up with the very same… Read more »

Emer

Very many thanks Eric and Daniel for your replies and suggestions. So kind of you to take the time. In the end, I asked a friend whose a carpenter to do it and now it’s perfect! He used a large rotary sander with netting pads & and extractor. He worked through the grits and did a fabulous job.
?

4AF7B548-369C-4D44-8979-E54226D84DF8.jpeg
Amanda

I love the color of your tabletop!! What stain did you use? That’s what I was aiming for but I didn’t grab the right color

Emer

Hi Amanda, I used Osmo White Tint 3040. Hope it works well for you

Holly

Help needed! My kids used kinetic sand and made a ton of scratches in our beautiful kitchen table. I quickly tried Tibet almond oil and murphys oil and it only made deep water stains in the grain. My husband came home hours later and sanded away the scratches and oil stains and applied 2 layers of polyurethane. Then he did some more light sanding and put on another layer of polyurethane. Thought the problem was fixed. The table looked different but still good. However it has been almost a month and now we are seeing new darker spots and some… Read more »

39852CB1-3AC3-4A89-8869-FA7B03B20BBE.jpeg
E224966A-160C-4C24-BAEF-E4584362240C.jpeg
390BFE79-FB0B-4EE5-B9E3-F4ACC101FC33.jpeg
Nick

Hi, we just finished our floor and these white discolourations have appeared… help pls! what is it and how do we fix it?

13.jpg
3.jpg
8.jpg
Kayla

If you skipped a few grits, say from 36 straight to 80, should you go back over it with a 60 grit ?

Malisa Thomas

I’m trying to strip my lacquered table In order to re-stain and finish. I think I’ve sanded too much! There’s soft spots (light/white) in some of the grain. I tried using a stripping agent which seemed unsuccessful. Now I’ve done the first layer of sanding with 100 grit paper. Will this sand out as I get finer paper? Or do I keep sanding till it’s all very light (I think it’s maple)? Or how can I fix this! Help!?

image.jpg
image.jpg
Malisa Thomas

Ok. Thank you!

Maren

Hello, I wondered what to do about these shiny patches that appeared after I treated our oak kitchen top with Liberos Pure Tung Oil. Sanded it with electric sander and by hand right back to bare wood; then started to apply coats but have shiny patches in places. The wood has absorbed and is a matt finish in other places as I intended. I wondered if it is some build up resin from the drying process? Maybe I did not wipe off the excess oil enough after application? What can I do to get an even finish? Can I wipe… Read more »

A47B5D46-31DC-4673-BE7A-47C11EA1D1CD.jpeg
8C2B0886-A311-4AC9-A177-CF4A70EF35E3.jpeg
84128498-FCC0-416A-9A0D-6F2117F95E05.jpeg
Jason

Hi,

I am installing “repurposed” hardwood flooring and sanded the floor from 60, 80 and 100. I stanned a small sample and it does not look good. Any idea, what is going on? Also, the poors on this red oak are big, should I have prefilled it? Or should this be done when doing flooring?

16834119669916638422441382086189.jpg
1683412036704581984218490362229.jpg
16834120730782279740850592529615.jpg
Jack

Hi Eric,

Thanks for the quick reply, I am just concerned as it is the first time doing it. Is there a reason why the sealer is not going into the grain area? Should I have applied a thicker top coat or is the grain supposed to have highs and lows?

Using Loba as a finishing top coat.