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How to finish red oak after sanding to 220 grit

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  • How to finish red oak after sanding to 220 grit

    Hi All.
    I just finished a Teddy Bear Rocking Chair for my son (the rockler plans) made primarily from red oak. Everything went well on construction, I sanded it at 120, 150, and 220 because that is the sandpaper I had on hand. I was researching on how I should finish this, and several posts online/this site suggest not sanding past 180 grit.

    In terms of how I finish it, I am flexible. I would like to finish it with some sort of protective coating that will withstand a beating (from my son) preferably without a glossy finish. So my questions to the group are (1) if I stain it, will I run into an uneven finish because of my sanding to 220? if so, what should I do? and (2) is there a protective finishing product such as polyurethane that is not very glossy?

    Any suggestions and comments are greatly appreciated.
    Thanks and have a nice day.

  • #2
    I would go over the chair with 180x. Do you have the ability to spray a finish?


    • #3
      No I dont. Do you think if I resanded it to 180 I should be fine? Any finish recomendations? Thanks


      • #4
        I suggested sanding with 180x. Your easiest finish would be a wipe on oil base stain and a wipe on oil base polyurethane.


        • #5
          What was the reason given for not sanding past 180 grit?


          • #6
            From what I remember reading (it could be wrong), but it seems like I read somewhere that going past 180 fills in the pores in the wood with sawdust, and the finish wont go on evenly. I am just a little concerned, I could probably go ahead and finish it but I don't won't to screw it up finishing it because I sanded it to 220 instead of 180. In the grand scheme of things, it will probably look fine, I just wanted to get a little feedback before I began finishing this project.


            • #7
              It is red oak guys, sanding past 180 won't make a significant difference.

              In terms of accepting stain oak in general and red oak in particular is the champ, it is almost impossible to get any blotchy spots, which is generally the reason for not going past 180, closing off grain can result in blotch.

              Few different options depending on how much time you want to spend.

              Finish with 100% Tung Oil, once a day for a week, once a week for a month and once a year for life. Tung is very durable and preserves a nice "wet wood" look. The color shift will be a bit more to yellow brown, very warm. If you want to even out the grain you can always apply wax over it.

              Oil based stain, wipe off excess. Finish with wipe on poly. If you want a smooth surface put some dewaxed shellac (sanding sealer) between the stain and the poly. Build up the wipe on poly layers to about 8 and you'll have a piece of furniture with a 20 year finish


              • #8
                Ditto Natausch... I was just going to post the basic same thing. First Chris.. take a deep breath and relax. As stated.. sanding beyond 180 on open pored oak is not going to affect the stain or finish. It is just an extra step that is not necessary in most cases as oak will take about any stain easily. White oak especially but red oak is similar.

                Now... with that said.. you will notice a difference in the shade of the stain to some degree if.. if.. you use the higher grit and spend too much time with it on the wood. The higher the grit the more chance you have of burnishing the pores from heat build up which will close them slightly and accept less stain down in the pore. In most cases gel stain will eliminate that but there is only one way to know for sure.

                What I suggest is you use two pieces of scrap. Sand one to 180 and one to 220. Then apply your stain to see if you have a variance and more importantly... to know how that stain will "shade" on your red oak. You should always test on scrap.. always IMO as you cannot guess the true results until you do it. Scrap is cheap and tells the real story. And you must follow the same procedure on the scrap as you will use. Stain on low grit sanding will definitely look darker than if you proceed to higher grits so if you want a true comparison follow the exact procedure you will use on the "real deal".

                I won't touch the actual finish as it has been covered but.. I will add to be sure you let the stain throughly dry which takes about 24 hours normally before you apply any finish.. and once you do apply finish... let it dry throughly between coats and very light scuff sanding to take off any nibs that might develope. If you do use oil based poly which is excellent you should cut it with naptha or mineral spirits and wipe it on IMO.

                I would (and do) use Satin poly and once all coats are applied.. I wait a week for it to completely harden then buff on wax with 0000 steel wool to take the satin lustre down even farther.

                Good luck...


                • #9
                  One thing I've noticed with red oak is that if sanded down to the finer grits a darker stain won't penetrate well in the smoother grains. It is especially evident on flatsawn boards. It doesn't matter as much when going for a more natural shaded finish.

                  You probably want to use some penetrating oil based products first. Once those are really dry and the pores aren't weeping anymore you might put a poly over it for better protection.

                  I need to re-refinish a red oak coffee table I refinished a few years ago. I used just a wipe on poly, several coats. It held up pretty well for a while, but being just a film finish it couldn't withstand the abuse the people in my house have given it. In the areas where the poly was scratched or dented I am getting some weathering like water damage. The wood is getting a little gray in those areas. It probably wouldn't be that bad if the people understood the concept of coasters and wiping up spills...


                  • #10
                    Doing samples is your best bet. Just remember what you've done, or mark them on the back. Beyond 180x the grain doesn't accept as much stain. Pigmented oil base stains work the best IMO. The wood should be cleaned, by vacuuming, or blown off in some distant place, to remove all loose dust (to include whatever is in the pores).

                    I wouldn't use shellac as it isn't that durable of a coating. Using that under an oil base poly won't provide a very hard base. Your first application of the wipe on polyurethane can be thinned 50% with naptha, which will penetrate well, and dry relatively fast. You may only need two applications of that mixture to get a good base coat.

                    Thereafter, thin about 25%, and sand in between all applications with 320x. In checking your finish, the stained finish will look different with the clear topcoat. So, do the finish schedule to the last coat to see what your samples will really look like. Just being stained won't tell.


                    • #11
                      I am feeling much better now about this. I will post picts after I have finalized my gameplan and finish the chair.


                      • #12
                        A few thoughts to add to Sarge's suggestions. It is sometimes recommeded to use gloss poly to "build" a few coats. Gloss poly does not have an particulates to dull the finish, as satin would have, meaning it creates a sort depth to the finish. Then you finish with the satin and wax to get your desired look.

                        I saw an article recently in Fine Woodworking which rated the Minwax water-based wipe-on poly as best product and best value. It's inexpensive, has a quick setup time, and comes in gloss and satin (at my local HD). I have not used it yet, so YMMV.



                        • #13
                          glass smooth

                          I agree not to worry about the 220. And if you sense that the varnish is not as smooth as you want, you can lightly sand in between coats with a piece of 400 wet/dry (gray) sandpaper moistened with a little paint thinner -- just enough to smooth out any bumps. It gives a very smooth finish which I've used on oak bookcases, oak canopy beds, and an old antique oak rocker.

                          Somewhat Dusty and Always Lefty