Can you produce an "Old School" glass-like polyurethane finish???
You know, the one in which you can see your reflection.
Would you even know where to start???
One of our Community members, Atman, started a thread on this great question. While many of our members use polyurethane as a protective coating, his thread inquired about producing an "Old School," glass-like finish ... what a great learning opportunity!
“Old School” craftsmen were dedicated to their skill … often taking days to ensure their handy work looked perfect.
They used four basic steps to uniformly color and then clear coat:
1) If staining softwoods, like pine or maple, they would use a stain conditioner to fill deeper pockets in the grain so their stain would absorb evenly across the surface;
2) Once the color was saturated, they would wipe off the excess and allow the stain to dry overnight;
3) THIS IS THE OLD SCHOOL STEP THAT CREATES THAT GLASS-LIKE FINISH They would apply a sanding sealer which “captures” the grain and makes it stand up … using a 220-grit sandpaper, they would sand off the grain that was left standing until the surface was smooth. A true craftsman would use a series of increasingly higher number sandpapers, often sanding the final coat with 1200- or 1400-grit;
4) Then they would apply their polyurethane clear coat.
The extra step, Sanding Sealer, is not a trick, but a tried and true old school method practiced by generations of craftsmen.
In our world today, we are sometimes in such a hurry to get done and get paid, that we overlook these lessons of the past.
Taking the time to properly prepare your wood is the key to producing a glass-like polyurethane finish!
Finally, polyurethanes are made to be smoothed onto the surface, not brushed.
So, while manufacturers suggest using a natural bristle brush or a foam brush ... I also recommend to my customers that they discard their usual back and forth “brush strokes” when applying polyurethane and simply smooth on a coat in the direction of the grain of the wood.
You will go from novice wood finisher to professional craftsman in one giant step by properly using sanding sealer!
Expect to take a little more time, but also expect the most perfect, glass-like, reflective finish that you’ve ever produced!
Now you know "How-To" use Sanding Sealer.