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My husband and I have been building a farm table and we are oh-so-close to being done, but we are having issues in the final coats of polyurethane on the top. Here's a rundown:

We stained the wood with gel stain and put three coats of Minwax polyurethane on top. I used steel wool between coats and it looked pretty good, except we noticed brush marks in about three different spots. I think the brush didn't have a wet tip and the poly dragged or something... the rest of it looked great.

We used steel wool again and did another coat of poly, this time with a sponge. When it dried it left these weird spots, so we put on another coat with a sponge... even more weird spots. (they almost looked like water marks?)

This time we took 220 grit sandpaper and sanded the entire top of the table (with our hands... we didn't do enough research to learn that we should have used a sanding block... we're total newbies!) and put on a coat with the brush again. The coat itself looks great! But we can see scratches from the sandpaper under the poly :(

I've seen mixed advice online about how we should proceed.... do we need to sand down to get rid of the scratches (and probably sand out all of the stain and start over), or will using steel wool again and applying more coats of poly get rid of the scratches? I so do not want to sand down completely and start over, especially when we are this close to being done. But I also want our table to have a beautiful finish. Please help!

  • What type of wood? What type of stain and poly - like the exact name. – jqning Sep 9 '15 at 17:07
  • I'm curious about the type of poly too - generally the only scratches from sandpaper that light that are visable after a second coat of polyurethane are scratches in the wood. – Comintern Sep 9 '15 at 22:51
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The best answer I can give you without seeing the piece is to slowly start sanding away the finish over the scratch marks until they fade away. Visible scratches are always much deeper than you want them to be, so they're probably going to require removing some material. I'd recommend the sanding block so you remove it in a uniform manner. You don't want it looking like there is a dip in your table.

If you do need to re-apply the stain, it's going to be very difficult to match the color. Put on as little as possible and wipe it into the wood with a paper towel, removing the excess. Let it dry, the first time it should be lighter than what you have. You can slowly shade it darker and darker till it matches again.

Then reapply the poly.

Sorry, probably not the answer you wanted to hear with the table being so close to looking done. But if you want the piece to be beautiful for a lifetime, it's worth taking the extra week now to finish it out nicely.

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