Lacquering error correction?
November 3, 2016 12:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm restoring a little deco side table, lacquering its two surfaces. I sanded away the original coat of paint, and since it felt nice and smooth to the touch, proceeded with a first coat of black synthetic. Once it was dry, it was clear that there was substantial grain that was still going to show, the intended smooth lacquer finish wasn't there yet at all.

I thought a second coat might go quite a way towards that smoothness - but now that's dry, my doubts aren't much assuaged. Without restarting all over (and doing the proper fine-tuned sanding to perfection, and/or using some base/levelling paint before the lacquer) what's the best way forward to the smoothest finish? Sand the second coat a little before continuing? Go for a larger number of coats? (Or resign myself ultimately to non-smoothness?)
posted by progosk to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
Dry wood will easily appear smooth to the touch, but some fibres will always stand up as soon as they get soaked with the paint/lacquer. They need to be sanded down between layers.
Use a succession of gradations of very fine sand paper, work along the grain, be patient. Then apply your next coat. In principle, go on until smooth. Techniques may vary somewhat depending on the kind of lacquer you're using. Also: a completely dust-free environment is necessary or you will keep going.
posted by Namlit at 1:40 AM on November 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yes, sanding between coats is the secret sauce. Many thin coats, lots of very gentle sanding. You can eventually build up that smooth, glossy laquered finish that you want, but it will take time.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:41 AM on November 3, 2016

Your question's been answered, so I'll just add that I really like sanding sponges for this. Iirc, they're made by 3M and the ones for this task (fine/very fine sanding between finishing coats) are pinkish, rather than grey/black. They're easy to grip, are especially wonderful when dealing with surfaces that aren't completely flat, can be rinsed when they start to clog, and last a relatively long time.
posted by she's not there at 5:53 AM on November 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's not entirely clear whether you're fighting the rough, loose fibers that Namlit mentioned, or if it's large pores in the wood that are so visible. It only takes a bit of light sanding to knock down the roughness of stray fibers, but filling in pores is a little more involved. Can you clarify, and maybe post a picture taken in low, glancing light?
posted by jon1270 at 6:14 AM on November 3, 2016

It's more a battle against pores/grooves (that my Fingerspitzen didn't have enough gef├╝hl for) than grain as such, so... there's quite a task ahead. But: no way to fill those, now, I guess; sounds like fine sanding + sucessive coats are my only chance. And: point taken about the importance of dustlessness (a further challenge, as my workspace is the flat itself...)

I'll get a picture up in a bit. Thanks for all the input so far.
posted by progosk at 7:14 AM on November 3, 2016

Also, what specific finish are you using?
posted by jon1270 at 7:16 AM on November 3, 2016

There's no reason why you can't use a filler at this stage. Make sure it's compatible with the paint you're using.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:59 AM on November 3, 2016

It would help to know the finish, but you almost always want to sand between coats, using progressively finer sandpaper.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:10 AM on November 3, 2016

There is also a kind product called grain sealer or grain filler that would help. You're supposed to lay it down before painting, but maybe next time
posted by adamrice at 8:48 AM on November 3, 2016

I'd also suggest sanding with a fairly hard block. If you use fingers or a soft block then the paper will tend to follow contours, which is exactly what you don't want.
posted by jon1270 at 10:16 AM on November 3, 2016

So here are pix: the still-taped-up side-table (mentioned previously here), and a close-up of the top surface after two coats; crappy indoor lighting conditions and weird reflections close to camera, but you get the idea of the grooves (and of some of the dust...)

The paint is a glossy black "high resistance alkyd enamel", diluted 10% with turpentine; I'm using a small roller to apply.
posted by progosk at 2:05 PM on November 3, 2016

Nice table.

I've done a lot of furniture refinishing and I have built shelves and a table that I finished with enamel paint, but I'm not an expert, so take this for what it's worth. It appears to me that it's going to take an inordinate number of coats to get to the smooth, almost glass-like look that I assume you're going for with the black enamel. In other words, I think you stop short of the necessary prep work before you started painting.

Too-ticky says you can still use a filler at this stage. That's news to me, but at the same time, I can't think of a reason why not, given your using black paint, not a clear finish. And, as I said, I'm no expert.
posted by she's not there at 2:57 PM on November 3, 2016

Yup, with hindsight: I definitely scrimped on the prep...

I'm fairly optimistic about a few rounds of hard-block fine sanding between coats (though the more I think about dust, the more my spirit wilts again...)

Too-Ticky: what kind of filler would be compatible with synthetic enamel?
posted by progosk at 3:18 PM on November 3, 2016

You should learn about using Tack cloths. Wipe the piece down just before applying the finish with a tack cloth, it will eliminate having new dust grains sticking up in the paint. Available at your local big box store or amazon or local paint store or....
posted by rudd135 at 5:18 PM on November 3, 2016

I'm afraid you'd best ask for advice on filler at your nearest paint store, as you can probably not get the same brands as I can.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:06 AM on November 4, 2016

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