cgrayson65

Red Oak Finish

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I just recently made a new work desk out of red oak. All is good with the exception of the finish. I have applied 3 coats of gloss clear polyurethane to it. I did do a ight sanding between each coat. The problem I have is I can feel the wood grain. Is there a way to correct this or should I just continue to add more coats till it smooths out. 

 

Thank you 

 

Chris 

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Red Oak has a strong grain pattern to it and unless you us a pour finish like epoxy or resin you will pretty much always feel the grain.  Its just the nature or the red oak species.  You might have had some luck with a few coats of sanding sealer, and sanding between each before you started your film finish but for that to work now, you would have to remove the finish and start over.  

 

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It is common to use a grain filler to achieve a smooth finish on coarse grained woods. I could be wrong, but I think a grain filler will not work after you have applied the poly. A very old method is to use the finish itself as a filler. Lots of work and many coats, but it works. The technique involves sanding each coat almost down to the wood leaving only the finish that is in the pores and depressions. This involves many coats and lots of sanding. As you are sanding, you can see the pores and depressions as they remain shiny. Once you reach a point where you are sanding those areas too, you are ready for the final coat or two and the surface should be smooth. You really only need to do this for the top where a smooth surface is needed. Of course, you can always put a piece of glass on it for a smooth surface.

BTW, just putting on more coats is not a good solution. More coats without heavy sanding in between will build the high spots as well as the pores and depressions. It may eventually even out, but by then you will have many coats and a very thick finish that may be vulnerable to chipping, etc.

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I think chet and Wimayo have the right of it.

I'd venture to guess a thin casting type epoxy could be spread with finish on but it'd be an experiment and could turn out poorly so yeah never mind don't try that.

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Aquacoat is a popular commercial grain filler, that is supposed to do well on oak. Never tried it, though.

I HAVE tried an old-time piano maker's method, rubbing plaster of paris into the pores, then sanding smooth.

It works pretty well, and becomes translucent when an oil-based finish (like poly) is applied. Smooth-ER, but not the kind of smooth you get from something like cherry. Red oak is a coarse grained and coarse fibered wood. End of story.

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I am not a fan of pore fillers at all. Except maybe with red oak. The pores are so large & deep that they can actually fill with crud & you can never get it cleaned out. So some sort of filler is a good idea. But I would rub it back to the point where you can feel the texture of the grain a little bit. This is wood, after all. If you wanted something that looks like perfectly smooth shiny plastic, then why not just use plastic laminate :) 

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11 hours ago, drzaius said:

 This is wood, after all. If you wanted something that looks like perfectly smooth shiny plastic, then why not just use plastic laminate :) 

That is a good idea. Plastic laminate on a desk top is hard to beat for serviceability. With all the colors available, I'm sure you can find one that looks good with the red oak. Without further research, I would say you should scuff the existing poly with maybe 150 or 180 grit and then use a solvent based rubber cement to glue down the laminate.

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You can use additional coats of finish as sealer, making a slurry with it should work:

https://www.woodmagazine.com/materials-guide/finishes/filling-grain-for-perfect-finishing

Do note the article says "natural oil and thinner" but it is actually Danish oil, which has varnish in it. 

Your only other option would be to strip all your finish and start with a sealer.

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Please ignore my previous remarks about using epoxy. I stupidly had it in my head that it was a vanity top we were dealing with.

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