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Fisheye follies – Michael Dresdner

Michael Dresdner

straight talk about wood finishing

Fisheye follies

Q: I’m refinishing a mahogany end table. After stripping the old finish, I washed it down with paint thinner then applied a coat of polyurethane. The finish did not take in some areas. I believe it’s called fisheye. I applied a second coat and it seem to fill in some of the spots but enough remain to be annoying. Can I sand the finish and apply a coat of Zinsser SealCoat before continuing with more polyurethane, or should I re-strip it and start all over.
A: Yes. And by that, I mean yes to both. You can indeed take a short cut and seal the polyurethane with Zinsser SealCoat, then continue, and you will probably seal in your contamination. You can also start over, and though it is more work, it’s probably a better way to go.
If you start again, make sure all the finish is really off when you strip. It’s common, especially in large pore woods like mahogany, for finish to be still in the pores, and that can cause some of the problems you describe. Scrub the finish out using a stiff bristle brush while it is softened by the stripper. Scrub the clean wood afterward using a nylon abrasive pad with ample amounts of lacquer thinner, then mineral spirits, and finally with plenty of warm water laced with a bit of ammonia, wiping off thoroughly between each wash. That three step scrubbing sequence will help remove wax, oils and residual silicone. A coat of SealCoat on the raw wood will add an extra level of protection which is nice under oil based polyurethane, but an absolute must under waterbased.