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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kitchen Redo, Step Four: Polyurethane

Following Step Three: Staining...

Sticky, sticky, sticky.  Other than that, it's pretty straightforward.  I recommend the following:
- Buy a couple good quality brushes.  The cheapo brushes you used for wood conditioner and stain will leave bristles behind.  If you catch them and pull them off while you're brushing it on, you'll be okay.  But trust me when I say you will not catch all of them.  You typically can peel them off once it's all dry, but they leave a line you'll have to either ignore or lightly sand and hope for the best.
So buy two quality brushes, and after each coat, clean the brush out in mineral spirits.  Then use your back-up for the next coat while the other brush dries.  And then clean out the back-up and use the first, etc.
- MAKE SURE THE SURFACE IS CLEAN!!!  I again used the brush attachment on my vacuum first.  Then wipe them down with a lint free cloth (not wet this time) to catch anything you missed before you stained.  If you don't, you will have a lovely grainy texture like the side of one of my cabinets that I missed wiping down.
I started brushing on the poly only to discover sanding dust still on the cabinet.  I quickly wiped down the rest of the cabinet, but since there was already some grit in the poly I'd already brushed on...it just got swept all over the cabinet.  And I was too lazy to wait for it to dry, sand it off and do it again.
- As mentioned before, I used Minwax in Satin.  I did two coats of poly on the cabinet bases, and the backs of the cabinet doors and drawer fronts.  Three coats on the fronts of the doors and drawer fronts.
- When they say "thin coats," BELIEVE THEM.  Nice and thin and easy does it.
- So here's a big issue: while the surface is drying, every little thing will stick to it.  Seriously.  Which makes the garage a less than ideal place to do this.  Oh well, where else is there to do it?!  Fortunately, wood grain camouflages dust pretty well, and 95% of anything that sticks to it...not even you (the toughest critic) will see.  But this means DO NOT OPEN THE GARAGE DOORS while the poly is drying.
- Don't forget that mask! Especially since those doors need to stay closed.  Open a screened window (and hope no super obvious dust blows through).
- Close the lid tightly between coats, otherwise the poly could get gummy and form a disgusting layer on the surface.
- The folks at Minwax recommend lightly sanding between coats of poly.  Good for them.  I didn't.  Again, it goes back to what you want (and if you've made so many mistakes that you are going crazy and just want the madness to end).  If you want them PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT (or if you've chosen a higher sheen), you'll want to do that.  And lightly means by HAND, not by machine, capiche?
- If you do sand between coats, MAKE SURE YOU WIPE IT ALL DOWN AGAIN!!!!
- If you don't sand between coats (you rebel you), I suggest the same basic system as I used with staining...put the first coat on the fronts.  Wait two hours, then flip them over and do a coat on the backs.  Two more hours, and flip them again to do the second coat on the fronts.  Two more hours, then flip them again to do the second coat on the backs.  Two more hours, then flip them to do the third coat on the fronts. Let them dry overnight (and perhaps even longer...you don't want the sawdust from drilling hardware holes to stick to your lovely glossy surface).

And that is that!  You've survived the polyurethane!
Now just a recap of our shopping list for this step:

Next up, Step Five: Hardware...
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