Help fix our bookshelf
March 21, 2010 11:52 AM   Subscribe

How can we salvage this woodworking project? We've applied two coats of stain, and just finished the second coat of polyurethane - but the poly is drying bleached white! What did we do wrong and how can we salvage it?

Working with pine. We applied pre-stain conditioner, and then oil-based stain. We let the first coat of stain dry about 4 hours outside. We let the 2nd coat dry overnight inside. We let the first coat of poly (fast-drying minwax) dry about 4 hours outside. Almost immediately after applying the 2nd coat of poly it started bleaching and turning white in spots.

Are we looking at a complete mineral spirits/sanding redo? Is there anything we can do to salvage it? Any idea what caused the problems with the 2nd coat of poly?
posted by ish__ to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total)
Did you lightly sand between coats of poly?
posted by hydrophonic at 12:01 PM on March 21, 2010

See the "What causes the finish to dry milky?" part of this FAQ for advice. Bottom line, wait a couple of days, to see if the problem clears up with complete drying. If not, resand and start over.
posted by paulsc at 12:02 PM on March 21, 2010

We did lightly sand (220, by hand) between the poly coats.

It has been a weekend activity, so anything we do will have to wait til next weekend - it'd be a joy to go down to the basement and see it looking perfect next Saturday ;)
posted by ish__ at 12:33 PM on March 21, 2010

oil-based stain normally needs to dry for a lot longer than 4 hours before it can be topcoated. what does the can say?

unfortunately it sounds like you'll probably have to sand and start over. :-(
posted by killy willy at 12:45 PM on March 21, 2010

I came in to ask if it was cold when you applied the finish and saw the FAQ also implied this could be a cause. Let it dry a couple days and see if a light sanding will remove the milky part. I usually wait at least a day or two between stain and coats of finish but have had this happen if my work area was cold.
posted by tamitang at 12:55 PM on March 21, 2010

"... it'd be a joy to go down to the basement ..."

Although I see you said your first coat of stain dried outside, you just said your second coat of stain was applied "inside." Basements are not only inside, but they are usually below grade, and as such, are far from optimal locations for working with oil stains and polyurethane finishes. They tend to have relatively high humidity, which inhibits evaporation of any kind of solvent, and they are good places for concentrations of heavier than air solvent molecules to gather in high concentration. Unless you have significant forced air circulation in there, 8 ball of doom says "Success unlikely."
posted by paulsc at 1:00 PM on March 21, 2010

Both coats of stain and both coats of poly were applied outside in the bright sun (the shelf has been done for weeks - we've been waiting for a nice weekend to finish it up here). Stain looked fine and great this morning before any poly was applied. Stain dried overnight upstairs.

It is only drying in the basement right now so that the entire house doesn't smell like poly. I'll go throw a fan on it though, thanks for the advice.
posted by ish__ at 3:20 PM on March 21, 2010

Check the stain and poly label for how long it needs to setup AND for temperature limits. Although I've been lucky in pushing the time and temperature bounds, I like to wait at least 10 hours for stain to dry (12 is better). Also, I'm hesitant to apply stain or poly below 45 degrees F, but have done it at 40. If the temp dipped to these lows even while it was drying, you could have problems.

Let us know how it turns out and post pictures!
posted by achmorrison at 9:56 PM on March 21, 2010

Ended up stripping & sanding the top shelf and reapplying stain & poly. Waited a good 24 hours between each coat of stain & poly - and put a fan in the room while it tried (not blowing directly on the shelf, but circulating the air). Looking *beautiful* - wish the rest of the shelves looked as good as the redone one does now ;)

Crappy cell phone picture:

Thanks all
posted by ish__ at 7:20 AM on April 2, 2010

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