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James Miller

Poly application

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How is everyone applying poly and what's the clean up? Do I just brush it on and throw the brush away between coats? Doesn't seem cost effective. Do I use thee different brushes and then let them soak in thinner or mineral spirits? Total newbie.

 

 

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Oil based poly gets a mineral spirit clean up.  Water based poly gets soap and water clean up. The time between coats determines clean up. A long time between coats, means clean up, a short time {an hour or so} you can reuse.

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I've also heard that wrapping the brush tightly in cling-wrap between coats will keep it fresh, and avoid unnecessary cleanings.

Only heard, never tried.

Frankly, I apply poly with a cotton rag (t-shirt) moistened with mineral spirits. Wiping thin coats this way is slow, but I don't have a spraying outfit, and I can't brush without runs and drips, no matter how hard I try.

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50 minutes ago, wtnhighlander said:

I've also heard that wrapping the brush tightly in cling-wrap between coats will keep it fresh, and avoid unnecessary cleanings.

Only heard, never tried.

I have & it doesn't work that great. For a couple of hours maybe, but not overnight.

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I use a can with mineral spirits in it and soak the brush for a while between coats then beat the brush out and use it again. That has worked pretty good for me will last for a whole project at least, I got 4 coats on my last project then threw the brush out. Bush's baked been tall cans have worked the best for me it support the brush so it stands up.

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If you are brushing poly you need a high quality brush. You can get these at the home center or a paint store. You will have a heck of a time getting a smooth finish with a crappy brush. I don't consider a $12-$20 brush a throw away item.

The first thing to know about oil based poly is it is activated by moisture in the air. Don't brush out of the can or keep your container open for any longer than necessary. Get a pack of the gladware or rubbermaid takealongs. They are great temporary containers. Pour in what you think you will use and brush or wipe out of this container. When you are finished don't pour it back in the can. If there is enough for another project put the lid on and hope it doesn't harden. If it does you lost a few ounces instead of the entire can. If there is just a little leave it open until it dries hard and then toss in the trash. 

When you brush if it is not leveling, meaning you see brush strokes, then add a little mineral spirits, maybe 10%-15% and try again. Let it dry and sand lightly between coats with 320 or 400 grit. One coat is never enough. Thin coats work best for me and I usually do 2-3 coats on the entire project. Maybe, no definitely, a couple more coats on a table top or wear surface. 

Take said gladware container or an old can, pour in some mineral spirits and clean your brush as soon as you are done. I usually have a two container brush rinse. Soak a bit in the first batch and work out as much as possible. The mineral spirits become a very thin batch of poly so its important to follow with a rinse in a clean batch of mineral spirits. I'll use the cleaner a couple of times and then throw it out. Also note that if you let the poly harden on the brush then it is time for a new one. After it dries it will not come out with mineral spirits.

I hope this helps you out some. 

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I would recommend not brushing at all, and instead use a pre-mixed diluted formula like Minwax Wipe-On or Arm-R-Seal, and use a folded t-shirt for application.  Brushing on straight poly is sloppy and it builds a film too quickly...unless a plasticky looking finish is something you want.  Wiping gives you more control over drips, eliminates brush marks, and allows you to build a much thinner film and therefore produces a more natural looking finish.

You can make your own wiping formula by simply adding a good shot of mineral spirits to poly, but the pre-mixed formulas are barely more expensive and IMO superior to homemade concoctions.

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1 hour ago, Mike. said:

It is all personal preference.  Rags, brushes, and foam brushes work equally well, in my experience, assuming good technique.  Personally I find foam brushes the easiest and cheapest option for furniture-sized work. 

Just make sure the foam brushes are compatible with oil based finishes. I bought some cheap ones that just disintegrated about 1/2 hour into the job. Not a good look.

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Sorry I misread the question as what is the best way to brush on poly. I agree wipe on is easier and looks more natural than most of us can achieve with a brush. Since you are a newbie, I would highly recommend that you try the wipe on poly. I prefer satin because you see the wood instead of the finish. It looks similar to a hand rubbed oil finish but has the protection of poly. I just use blue paper towels for small items and lamb pads for big projects. Lint free cotton should work fine too.

 

Safety note, don't wad up the applicators and put them in the trash. We don't need a science experiment to prove spontaneous combustion. I hang mine over the edge of the can until they dry.

 

 

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If brushing is your thing, take a look at this guy

 

He also has another video on applying straight varnish with a brush properly.

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37 minutes ago, kyokahn said:

If brushing is your thing, take a look at this guy

He also has another video on applying straight varnish with a brush properly.

WARNING!! If you watch this your gonna end up spending the rest of the day (& maybe more) on his channel.

I use his method & it works very well, except I don't use a spinner, just shake it out well into a bucket or large box.

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Thanks for everyone's responses! I've tried to use cheap foam brushes and that just didn't work very well at all. My time in between coats is about 4 hours and I sand lightly with 220. I never thought about using minwax or arm-r-seal. It looks like I'll start using old t shirts to apply and save the brushes for painting.

 

 

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On 8/15/2017 at 3:19 PM, James Miller said:

How is everyone applying poly and what's the clean up? Do I just brush it on and throw the brush away between coats? Doesn't seem cost effective. Do I use thee different brushes and then let them soak in thinner or mineral spirits? Total newbie.

I'm still playing with waterborne finishes to get something I am happy with.  Till then I primarily use oil based.  I don't brush unless I absolutely have to . . . tight or intricate areas that I do not want to flood, targeted repair or touch up and so forth.  I use commercial or mix my own wiping finish.  Very forgiving.  Easy to build, flatten or polish up.

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Guest Randy
On 8/16/2017 at 8:02 AM, Eric. said:

I would recommend not brushing at all, and instead use a pre-mixed diluted formula like Minwax Wipe-On or Arm-R-Seal, and use a folded t-shirt for application.  Brushing on straight poly is sloppy and it builds a film too quickly...unless a plasticky looking finish is something you want.  Wiping gives you more control over drips, eliminates brush marks, and allows you to build a much thinner film and therefore produces a more natural looking finish.

You can make your own wiping formula by simply adding a good shot of mineral spirits to poly, but the pre-mixed formulas are barely more expensive and IMO superior to homemade concoctions.

General Gel Topcoat is also a good wipe-on finish. It gives off less fumes while using and drying because there are less volatile chemicals in gel form. I have used it for several years almost exclusively but I think it only comes in a Satin finish. It is the best though.

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