How to Finish Without Streaks?

This Viewer Question is from Matt and its a little different than what we usually do. Instead of a simple question and a simple answer, this is an example of a long exchange that eventually leads to an excellent result and a happy ending. As you’ll see, it never hurts to ask questions!

I’m hoping you can help me with a finishing problem I’m having. I have completed a bubinga veneer coffee table, which I’m sure you are familiar with, as it is a David Marks’ design. In the past, I have always had good success with the General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Satin product on much smaller projects/surfaces. However, the large surface (18″ x 44″) of the table top is giving me fits. I can’t seem to produce a finish with this product that is streak or haze free. My technique thus far included:

armrseal1. First coat the surface with Seal-A-Cell followed by a light sanding with 320 grit.
2. I apply the Arm-R-Seal with a foam brush, spreading as thin as possible then wiping with a cotton rag, as lightly as possible. All application and wiping is done with the grain. I’ll work an area approximately equal to 1/4 the table top at a time.
3. Inevitably, as I’m about to move to the next section of the top, the wet edges of the previously wiped area are already setting up, making it difficult to blend the wet section back into the previous section.

Some guesses I have are that maybe the Arm-R-Seal product is too thick to start with making it hard to spread on quickly over the entire tabletop? But the instructions on the can indicate “do not thin”. Per the instructions on the can, wiping off the finish with too heavy a stroke can cause friction streaking, but I can’t seem to wipe any lighter than I already am? I’ve even tried not wiping the finish off at all, but the appearance after drying was too thick and heavy looking, not to mention the ridges from not being able to blend into the edges that are already tacking up. I’m in the process of attempting covering only a quarter of the surface at a time, not wiping with a rag, and letting this completely dry before proceeding on the the next section, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to blend the edges properly between coats. I’m working in a basement shop, approx 70 degrees with relative humidity in the “normal” zone of my humidity gauge. I’d guess by now I’ve already put about 10+ coats of finish on this project, sanding at 320 grit or 0000 steel wool between coats but still can’t get rid of the streaks/haze. I don’t have a lot of finish built up though, as I think somewhere during this process I sanded quite heavily in between to try to remove as much of the finish as possible.

Sorry for such a long winded question, but as you can probably tell, I’m a bit desperate at this point as far as what to do next. Hoping to hear from you, and thanks for all you do.

And this was my reply:

Hey Matt. You’ll be happy to know that this seemingly simple process baffled me for quite some time as well. Over the years though, I’ve developed a simple system of application that results in a perfect finish every time. The streaking you are describing seems to be the result of the finish being applied too thin. But you don’t want to go quite as thick as a brushed-on coat. The way I get a coat that is “just right”, is by using the wipe on/no wipe off method. And I would abandon the sponge applicator in favor of a simple folded rag.

SVFsmallHonestly, this process could take a while to explain in an email. And I hate to point to something you would have to buy as a solution, but this is the exact reason I created my DVD, A Simple Varnish Finish. In the video, I show each and every step of the process that I use. The DVD would essentially be a direct answer to your question here. If you are not able to pick up the DVD, I would be more than happy to help you along over email. But obviously this is something that is much easier to show than it is to explain. Good luck my friend.

Matt’s reply:

Thanks so much replying, and especially the same day! I thought if I heard from you at all it would take weeks! I will be placing an order for the DVD in the coming days. Meanwhile, it may be hard to answer this question without seeing the project, but are you able to comment on whether I need to strip all the old finish off as recommended by the guys at my Woodcraft store? My last sanding and buffing with 0000 steel wool seemed to clean up the imperfections pretty well. Perhaps watching the DVD, trying your technique first, then as a last resort strip if necessary? Thanks again.

My reply:

If you keep applying thin layers, you’ll never get rid of the streaking. So what I would recommend is giving it one more shot before deciding to strip. This stuff is outlined in the video but I will give you a quick synopsis. You want to get a couple of cotton rags and fold them over several times to create a good sized square applicator. No wrinkles or seams if you can avoid them. Put your Arm-R-Seal in a shallow dish or bowl. Pre-wet your applicator with a little mineral spirits. This has two benefits: it helps the pad glide along the surface and it stops the pad from sucking up and wasting a bunch of varnish. Now dip the applicator in the finish and start applying it in long smooth strokes. Move quickly, deliberately, but not frantically. Each pass overlaps the previous by about half. Reload the pad whenever it stops laying down a good even coat. If you proceed all the way across the table like this, you should end up with the perfect film thickness that will essentially “reset” the surface and cover any flaws. It might take two coats to get it done completely, but it should do the trick. Since you’ve already applied a number of coats, the question is whether the finish will now be too thick. If so, you’ll have to strip. Oh and just an FYI, you never want to apply finish on only part of a surface, especially when using a varnish product. It will create unsightly borders and lines that you’ll never get rid of.

And a few days later Matt writes:

Thanks for your continued support in my efforts! I really appreciate your time. I received your video yesterday and have watched it through to completion twice. Very nicely done, and of course you make it look so easy. And, I’m convinced that it really should be that easy. BUT, something is still going wrong for me. I decided to attempt to strip first, just to try to make sure I was starting with the best possible surface. I wiped down the surface with who knows how many applications of mineral spirits, I’d say about an hour and a half worth of wiping on mineral spirits and wiping off”¦I can’t tell if I’m getting any of the old varnish off though”¦for one, my applicator (white cotton rag) is staying clean, and not taking on the “color” of the wet varnish as it appears right out of the can. Also, I assumed this process would result in a somewhat “gummy, tacky” surface as the mineral spirits are dissolving the varnish, but I found this not to be the case. It was actually “easy on and easy off”. So I’m wondering if once the varnish has had a couple of weeks to cure, will mineral spirits dissolve it? Assuming I have 10+ coats of varnish on already, any idea how long or how many wipings with mineral spirits it will take to remove all the varnish?

Well, anyway, after said numerous wipings with mineral spirits and after arming myself with the techniques in your video, I went down to the shop and proceeded making a nice thick triple folded applicator from three cotton rags (I had been using one third of one folded rag). I decided to attempt to build the finish with gloss Arm-R-Seal, reserving Satin for the final coat in an attempt to reduce the potential streaking from the flatteners in the varnish. I poured some varnish into a plastic food storage container (I had been dipping straight from the can of Satin Arm-R-Seal), wetted my nice thick applicator with mineral spirits, loaded the applicator with varnish and began wiping on in one continuous stroke. Here’s where I notice an immediate deviation from what I see in your video. Now I know you say that I’ll never get rid of the streaking by applying thin coats, but, your varnish in the video appears to be very thin and “watery” as it’s going on the surface. Mine however seems MUCH thicker and heavier. So much so that the applicator has a noticeable “drag” as I’m attempting to wipe the surface. Also, despite the fact that I think I have the applicator very saturated with varnish, I’m not getting a continuous covering on my first application stroke. Then, once the entire surface is at least partially covered and I’m attempting to go over it that one last time to make sure I have continuous coverage, which I know I don’t yet have (by way of a raking light), even with a re-wetted applicator, the varnish feels SO thick and seems like it’s already setting up. This final attempt at smoothing over the varnish just completely ruins the application. I either get too much “puddling” in areas or still not complete coverage in other areas. Total elapsed time for wiping at this point couldn’t have been more than 2-3 minutes. So, out came the mineral spirits and I wiped the varnish completely off and I’m back to square one. This behavior leads me to several possible conclusions: 1) maybe my varnish, being at least 6 months on the shelf, has already started curing in the can, although I do not notice any solidified material around the inside of the can or any “skin” on the surface when I open the can. Or, 2), maybe I already have so much varnish built up, despite my attempts at stripping, that the new varnish is no longer absorbing into the wood, but instead sitting on the surface and is just drying too quickly?

So, one no-brainer would be to purchase a brand new can of Arm-R-Seal, or I am so tempted to thin it out a bit with mineral spirits, despite the can’s instructions not to. Truthfully, I’m tired of buying that Arm-R-Seal, because it seems once I open the can, its shelf life leaves a lot to be desired. Admittedly, I have not tried that gas in a spray can that’s supposed to displace the oxygen in the opened can. Have you ever thinned Arm-R-Seal from the can, and if so, how many parts mineral spirits to how many parts Arm-R-Seal? Would you thin or just buy a new can? Does it sound like I have to be more diligent at stripping?

Well Marc, once again any continued help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. And again congratulations on an excellent video and continued success with it. I’m anxious to try the techniques on my next project, but I must find a way to complete this one first. Take care and hope to hear back from you.

My response:

Hey Matt. I hate to say it my friend but you can wipe that surface for 100 years and you’ll never get the varnish off. Cured varnish doesn’t redissolve in mineral spirits. We only use the mineral spirits to dilute uncured varnish in liquid form. To actually remove the finish, you will need a chemical stripper.

So, what makes your project different than mine in the video (aside from size), is the fact that you have so much varnish already on the surface. A well varnished surface will feel like it drags more than one that has raw wood or just a coat or two of finish. So if the finish is drying too fast and you aren’t getting the coverage you need, there is only one thing to do. As you mentioned, you should dilute it. You can usually ignore just about any can that tells you not to dilute. As long as you are diluting with the right material and in the right amounts, you can dilute all day long. Most times these warning are on there to protect the manufacturer, because it keeps the product working in a predictable fashion. You change the formula, you change the way it works and they can no longer help you if you have trouble. Also, by adding more of a thinner, you increase the VOC count. But I say dilute as needed and don’t look back. So given your description, I would dilute the material about 25% with mineral spirits. That should allow you the additional working time and will still leave a pretty good coat. But always move quickly. On larger surfaces, you get about 2-3 strokes to get it right before you need to move on. And don’t count on being able to go back, because it will already be tacky by the time you get there.

Also, even if your Arm-R-Seal is getting old, as long as you are not seeing solids in the can and the finish is curing, it is probably still good. And it shouldn’t have a reduced working time because of it. So I would stick with the same can and just do the dilution. Now remember that every second that can is open, the finish is curing. So if you had been dipping into the can, that means it was open the entire time you were finishing. If you just open the can, pour out what you need and close it back up, you have dramatically reduced the opportunity for oxidation. The finish will last much longer this way, assuming you seal the can up. And this is without products like Bloxygen.

OK so now you see what has to be done. If you decide to take a mulligan, you need to use a chemical stripper. This is messy business. The more environmentally friendly ones require it to sit for at least 30 min. You’ll see the varnish bubble up. Carefully scrape it off, let the surface dry, then give it a decent sanding to remove the residual varnish. You might need a second round of stripping in some areas, but the fresh varnish should come off relatively easily.

Keep the faith my friend. Its all one big learning curve. Think about how many things you’ve learned on this one project alone! Armed with all this information, the next project will be that much easier.

Matt’s final reply:

A month or so later, and I’m finally sending you some pictures of the finished product. I took your advice and thinned the varnish 25% and that made a world of difference. I chose not to strip the old varnish, but instead gave it a good sanding to the point where I “evened” the streaking as much as possible. In hindsight, the worst mistake I made on this project was with the sanding between coats of varnish”¦I think I was taking off too much of the finish with each intermediate sanding, to the point where I was cutting through the various layers to various degrees”¦that, I believe, is the streaking effect I was seeing. The finish is by no means perfect right now; to a discerning woodworker’s eye, it’s not something I’m really proud of, but to the average admirer’s eye, I can live with it. All the methods in your video are spot on, so I’m really looking forward to applying your techniques on my next project. For now though, I must again send you my thanks and appreciation for bailing me out of what at first was a complete ruination to a project I was otherwise extremely proud of. Of course, thanks to David Marks as well for coming up with an amazing design, and for making his designs available via Wood Works and his web site.

A few details about the table: Overall it measures 48” long, 18” wide, and 16” high. The legs and aprons are made from one piece of 8/4 maple for grain and color continuity, as well as providing the proper grain orientation for rift sawing the legs. The top is a bubinga veneer that I resawed from one 4/4 piece of “waterfall” bubinga that I purchased from Rockler. The underside of the top is a maple veneer resawn from the same piece of 8/4 maple. Substrate is a piece of Ã?Â3/4 ply. The inlay is ebony. This project was a “first” for me in many ways:

  • resawing my own veneer and using a vacuum press for bonding the top panel
  • mortise and loose tenon joinery, accomplished on the router table with the help of a shop made fixture for holding the 44” rails vertically on end
  • bandsawing the rough shape of the leg and final shaping by hand with a block plane and sand paper
  • inlaying the thin ebony strips and using scarf joints to hide the joints (which also gave me an excuse for purchasing a small, more maneuverable router!)

bubinga_veneer_tableFunny how it wasn’t my first attempt at using a wipe-on varnish finish, and that’s what ended up giving me all the problems! Since my bubinga stock was neither wide enough nor long enough for the top, I had every intention of using a 2 way book matched pattern, however after laying out the book match, I decided against it due to the different way the light reflected off the top when the grain changed orientation. Instead, I chose a slip match to preserve a continuous reflective quality to the entire top.

If you deem it worthy, please consider sharing the photos with others on your web site. Or, feel free to indulge in a little self-promotion with my quotes of gratitude; you deserve it. You might be able to sell a couple extra copies of your DVD in doing so.

bubinga_veneer_table2 bubinga_veneer_table3 inlay_and_leg_profile

inlay_and_leg_profile2 leg_apron_detail table_elevation


Category: Finishing

Comments

  1. This email exchange is just typical for an interaction with Marc. I too have benefited from his expert finishing advice and was surprised at how quickly he offered up his time and even going so far as to fire up his web cam to illustrate something to me. Marc is just an all around stand up guy!

    Great job on the table Matt, it looks just like David Marks’ version!

  2. Dave Brewer August 24, 2009

    I am impressed for several reasons. The patience Marc showed in answering the many questions by one of his readers and the final product. The table is beautiful. This is why I really enjoy woodworking. The end products that you call you own and just a bunch of guys and gals helping each other out for the pure satisfaction of the craft.

    Priceless!!

  3. That’s an awesome table, no wonder you wanted to get it just right, Matt… well done on staying the course!!

    I’ve been reluctant to bother Marc with my own questions, but now that I see how generous he is with his time, I expect to be flooding him with relentless inquires about all my projects!! (kidding)

  4. I’m also impressed. Similarly, I had a customer email me last week about trouble with varnishing. When I saw this today, I sent her the link. Great information wrapped
    in a story with a happy ending. That table is awesome. I love this stuff.

  5. Charlie August 24, 2009

    Great looking table Matt! Sometimes you have to make mistakes to move forward.

  6. C. S. Mark August 24, 2009

    I don’t know about others but I’ve too often found myself squeezing in the finishing of too many projects due to time issues. I’m still learning how to properly estimate project completion dates and not procrastinate or loose focus on a project that needs to get done because I’ve found something new and interesting to tinker with.

    I subsequently find myself scouring the web looking through the archives of newsgroups and message boards for tips on quick quality finishes. As many know quality and quick don’t go together well. Even when my clients (I haven’t had many yet)are very pleased with their new furniture I feel like I’ve somehow cheated them knowing I could have done a better job in the finishing department.

    Having spent only a few hours learning from a semi-retired grand master woodworker (who has produced pieces that truly belong in the Smithsonian)we’ve worked on a lot of things but finishing isn’t one of them. He has said he’s frustrated with repercussions the VOC laws. I was out playing with toys and computers back then!

    On a final note:

    I have to give a special thank-you to those who have produced many orders of magnitude more pounds of sawdust than I. Their willingness to provide assistance to someone who panted themselves into a corner is truly a marvelous gift. It says a lot about the community that can be found among woodworkers and sets a high standard for us newbies to live up to.

    C. S. Mark

  7. matt rakowski August 24, 2009

    table looks very nice. i guess they are right when they say learn from your mistakes, very impressive Matt

  8. jHop August 24, 2009

    This article, and C.S.’s comment, seem to be the single biggest promotion of wood working, or any “olde tyme craft” I can think of. Every time I have gotten around any people, either cyber haunting or breathing over someone’s shoulder as they make ‘dust or sparks, I have been impressed once more with the person’s willingness to share tips, tricks, expertise, and even do demonstrations.

    This particular article/ entry only reinforces what I have come to suspect for a long time: this site is populated by, visited, and supported by people who genuinely care about sharing their passion for the craft they are in, more than simply selling a “canned solution.”

    Finishing is one area of woodworking that I still get nervous about. I have ruined far too many projects because I cannot get the finish right. This dialogue terrified me, at first, because I felt trapped in Matt’s dilemma. And seeing the end results, as well as the process tips listed in both parties portions, has helped reassure me somewhat. (The only way I will have complete reassurance is by practice.)

    So congratulations to Matt, on such a great table! And thanks to Marc, for everything we could ever say, and more.

  9. Mike Darr August 24, 2009

    Nice Infinity speakers in pic two. I am also a fan. Have had two sets in 22 years. Oh, nice table too.

  10. Jason Helton August 24, 2009

    Did I read something about a happy ending? Just couldn’t resist that.

    I’ve ordered Marc’s DVD and it was great. I would highly recommend it.

  11. Aaron Cashion August 24, 2009

    As mentioned it is not unusual to have exchanges like this with marc. It is nice to have someone to ask. Sadly, woodcraft, rockler, whereever it is hard to find anyone that knows what the hell is going on. Maybe I just have crappy locations. This is an expensive hobby, and I cannot afford to be wasting and destroying product. It always seems to be the little things that hang everyone up. End result was very nice though. Maybe I am not discerning enough, but the end result was fantastic.

  12. Justin57 August 24, 2009

    “Shannon says: August 24, 2009 at 8:53 am
    This email exchange is just typical for an interaction with Marc.”

    My thoughts exactly! I’ve asked Marc many questions that I really felt bad bothering him with but he’s ALLLLLWAYSSS responded very promptly (I think he has an alarm that goes off when he gets mail), and completely (no matter how many times he’s probably been asked the same thing).

  13. Matt, cudos for sticking with the project. Your piece has such a story that you can appreciate every time you see it. Looks lovely and distinctive. I did see the same piece at Ethan Alan for $19.95, but… ; )
    Marc, once again you are a marvel to be generous and patient. Some answers invariably lead to more questions. Such is the process. And potential for satisfaction Well done. While helping Matt, I’m sure your assistance will benefit many of us down the road.
    Cool Viewer Question.

  14. Matt August 24, 2009

    Thank you Marc for sharing my experiences with others, and many thanks to all the readers for their kind words of encouragement. I echo Shannon’s sentiments regarding Marc’s character…truly a “stand up guy”! I’ve already started a new table and am eager to put all the knowledge from this experience to the test. I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out.

    Matt

  15. Claude Stewart August 24, 2009

    I too have had a rapid response to something I emailed Marc about and always really appreciated that. Great Looking table Matt.

  16. Harry August 25, 2009

    Well done Matt For a Great Finish I bet you Where on the Edge of Throwing the Project Through the Window We all Felt your Frustrations. Marc This is The reason we all Sighed up To your Site It’s the Best

    Harry

  17. JP Knapp August 25, 2009

    DVD on finishing is great. Well worth the money. Watched it 3x now.

  18. John Daugherty August 26, 2009

    I also agree about Marc’s generosity with his time and knowledge. He helped me greatly with tinting a project and it turned out great.

  19. Carolynne August 29, 2009

    People like you Marc keep me encouraged. A newbies’ newbie. Getting ready to launch…

  20. Don W December 29, 2009

    I admit I didn’t have the patience to read all of this.
    But it’s sure a nice looking table.

  21. Jeff Anderson January 27, 2010

    Hi Kids,

    Just stumbled across this site and article. Great stuff.
    I’m a finishing and painting contractor in the Bay Area.
    A couple of things..
    The reason paint and varnish makers state “do not thin” is because they have to meet VOC regulations and if you thin the product it no longer complies making it illegal. They have to say do not thin. The Pros no that is bull and always thin if needed.
    Another major mistake I have seen often is not stirring enough. The flatteners and resin settle and can cause many problems from to glossy to never drying even though it looks fine in the can. Stir and stir again.
    Thanks, Great site,

    Jeff Anderson

  22. Brandon December 2, 2010

    This is the first time i have ever refinished anything. i started with a blond maple cabinet ( aquarium stand) and dyed it using a dark walnut trans tint( i know, but now it matches our decor) cut with alcohol ( after stripping and sanding properly).

    In the finishing stages i found that the smaller areas cured nicely but i was having the exact same issue that Matt was having with streaking and hazing on the larger sides, using the Arm r seal Satin. I had become extremely frustrated and had reached the throw the project out the window stage.

    After reading the exchange between Matt and Marc i am confident that the project is not lost, i will be attempting the thinning technique tomorrow.

    Thank you !

  23. Brandon December 7, 2010

    Just wanted to update:
    Success !
    Though i did sand down to bare wood and re-dyed,( i decided i wasn’t happy with the shade of the dye) i thinned the Arm r Seal with 20% mineral spirits.
    I allowed 24-30 hours of sure time between each coat and sanded with 0000 steel wool between each
    I applied the finish with an old Tshirt very thinly with fairly even pressure without issue.
    Project looks awesome.

  24. David March 26, 2013

    I see that General Finishes also has wipe-on Arm-R-Seal -http://www.woodcraft.com/product/2007259/10159/arm-r-seal-top-coat-semigloss-pint.aspx

    Does anyone recommend this? Or just get the normal stuff and thin it if necessary?

    •  

      Arm R Seal is the best wiping varnish on the market, in my opinion. So if you don’t want to try to make your own, Arm R Seal is an excellent option.

      • David March 26, 2013

        Hi Mark,

        Sorry, I must not have been clear. This is my first project as a convert to your finishing techniques! I was going to buy some Arm R Seal, but I saw that there is “Arm R Seal”, as well as “Wipe On Arm R Seal”. You always talk about wiping it on, but it looks like you use the “normal” can of Arm R Seal. I assume the “Wipe On Arm R Seal” is just a thinned version (like most wipe on polys), but I wanted to clarify that you are indeed suggesting wiping on the normal Arm R Seal, not the “Wipe On Arm R Seal”.

        Thanks,

        David

        •  

          They are the same product. There is only one Arm-R-Seal on the market and it comes in a wiping formula. It is already pre-diluted. Unfortunately, there is no “full-strength” version of Arm-R-Seal.

  25. pat September 17, 2013

    Marc,
    I am revarnishing some 30 year old window sills, jambs and heads. Do you have any advise for the best way to apply varnish overhead? I’ve tried brushes, pads and wiping and every technique is so messy I always end up with varnish drippings on the window and floor. Also, is there any problem is using different types of varnish in different coats? Can I mix and match a wiping polyurethane after a coat of spar varnish?

    Thanks,

    Pat

    •  

      Hey Pat. I was going to recommend wiping. If you are applying thin coats, you should never have drips or runs. So that would still be my advice. Remember, wiping is not brushing. So you are only trying to apply a very thin coat at a time. Should be no chance for drips. As for using different varnishes, as long as they are all oil-based you should be able to use them interchangeably.

  26. Jack January 29, 2014

    Marc, I have now gone through 2 quarts of Arm-R-Seal Oil & Urethane Topcoat on a Brazilian rosewood table top. This has been a 2 month lesson on “wiping varnishes” but, I finally after sanding the table back to wood three times have found the correct approach for me thanks to information gathered in your videos and blog postings.

    I always start with a dilute shellac seal layer because of the woods bleeding oils. It just took a while to realize that; each layer of varnish doesn’t burn into the previous layer, sanding to flatten layers applied too thick can easily burn through the previous layer, and getting good flow out of the can over a large table top didn’t work for me.

    Taking your advise posted on this site I diluted the semi-gloss product 25% with mineral spirits and applied with a soft cotton rag which had paper towels inside moistened with mineral spirits. This approach left me a smooth even layer that didn’t need to be sanded and allows me to build to the desired look/protective layer.

    Thanks again for the helpful tips,

    Jack O

  27. Rhoda Vero May 27, 2014

    Hello,
    I just re applied (after sanding) the Arm-R-seal to a beautiful Kitchen table made of Sapielle after a year due to some cracking in the wood. I put down 2 coats that looked like glass but I have 2 larger areas that have a “Dimpling” effect (like cellulite). I really don’t want to resand anymore. Is there somehting I am doing wrong or is it possiblehte urethane is too thick (ity is 1 year old). The dimpling is where I got down to the “wood” to get the cracks out. I reapplied hte sealer but is it possible it diod not penetrate enough?
    THX!
    rhoda

    •  

      Hi Rhoda. The problem likely lies in the fact that you only sanded the repair areas. When working with varnish, you usually have to remove the entire finish before re-applying new finish. Otherwise you get all kinds of problems. And that sounds like what you’re seeing. The only sure-fire solution I know is to strip/scrap/sand the finish and then re-apply.

  28. Steve June 18, 2014

    You know, Charles Neil always says that woodworking is a two part process – building and finishing. If either one is compromised then you are screwed! And after screwing up many times myself, I have learned to think about the finish before I start the build. I know that seems kind of weird, but it really does make a difference.

  29. Betty September 15, 2014

    Hi, Marc!
    Thank you for posting this article. Just like Matt, I have streaks from Arm-R-Seal satin. The difference is that I only have 4 coats of it over cherry gel stain. The first 2 coats were fine (I didn’t sand before applying them) but then I sanded lightly with 0000 steel wool before the 3rd coat and when it dried I noticed the streaks. I thought maybe I applied the arm-r-seal with too much pressure or something (even though I didn’t…) so I sanded lightly with the steel wool again and applied *very lightly* another coat. The streaks are still there. I would really hate to strip to bare wood… is there a way of either covering the streaks, making them disappear or removing just the arm-r-seal without removing the gel stain? I have a feeling the streaks are from the steel wool. I applied the 4th coat last approx. 16 hours ago.
    I am posting my message here, maybe it helps somebody with the same dilemma. Thank you so much!

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