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Wipe on polyurethane?!?!?

GrouchieGrum's picture

so I was at Lowe's yesterday, and I wanted to get some Gloss Polyurethane for a small kitchen product I was working on.... So I see this "Wipe On Polyurethane" from Minwax... and its like almost $10.00 for a quart.. where as normal gloss polyurethane is like $6.00 per quart.... so I also have this nice picture frame and was thinking about using the polyurethane on it as well...  hey, typical american ignorance, the wipe on costs more, it must be better stuff...... NOPE!!!!!!  its like water, and you have to lay it on real thick, and it is real prone to runs, and I only wanted to do the 4 sides of this kitchen product, but because this stuff is like water I ended up putting a coat on everything /sigh...

I must be doing something wrong... this product just does not seem very good.... at first I put it on and wiped it down with the rag, and the finish was not even CLOSE to a gloss.. so then I layed it on thick so as to leave some solution to give me the effect I wanted, and 2 hours into the drying process I see runs at the bottom of the piece...

in the end, its my bad for not doing more samples I guess... really irks me that I have a ton of work to fix these items now... one of the pieces I already had 3 coats of Minwax Spray Polyurethane, and other than the fact that the coats were very light with the spray, I was really starting to like the affect.... thats why I wanted to go with brush/roll on so as to get thicker coats.... /sigh...

So, did I do something wrong?

Gretchen's picture

(post #107511, reply #1 of 22)

It is called wipe on because you wipe it on with a rag. Let that coat dry to the touch and you wipe on another coat.  You do not put it on "real thick".   It takes at least 4 coats before it even begins to look like something you would want in your house.  It is wipe on because it is thinned 50/50 with mineral spirits. They have sold you diluted varnish--but they told you that. It takes 6-8-10 coats to get the finish you want and depending on the wear the surface will get.  But you can put as many as 3 or 4 coats on in a day and because of its fast drying time there is not the chance to get dust, etc. in it.

You could make your own by diluting varnish 50/50 with mineral spirits.  It is an excellent finish when used properly because you don't get drips, etc.



CheekyMonkey's picture

(post #107511, reply #2 of 22)

Speaking of 'typical American ignorance,' did you bother to read the application istructions?

GrouchieGrum's picture

(post #107511, reply #5 of 22)

Did I read the directions? yes.. in fact the directions I read said I would need 2 coats, 3 coats at the most.... Also, I was supposed to use 220 grit sand paper between coats... Funny, thats the same thing the normal polyurethane states....

Oh gee, my bad for second guessing why the wipe on does a lack-lustre job of coverage compared to the normal polyurethane or the spray polyurethane I have used in the past. or the fact that the wipe on stuff doesnt say ANYTHING about 6-8 coats... Maybe I should have read all the additives to see what they were cutting this polyurethane with... lets look at the statements on the can...



Application tool:
lint-free cloth

interior wood surfaces

Dry time:
2-3 hours

after 2-3 hours

mineral spirits or paint thinner

125 sq. ft. per quart


Recommended uses:
furniture, cabinets, woodwork, trim, doors; small floor touch-ups (scratches)

Minwax® Wipe-On Poly is a high-quality, durable clear finish that combines polyurethane protection with classic, hand-rubbed beauty. And, it's easy to apply! Just wipe it on with a cloth - no need to worry about drips or brush marks. Wipe-On Poly is a great choice for any project, especially furniture, railings and trim.


gee I dont see any statement about 6-8 coats... or the fact that 2-3 coats is going to give me same as 1 coat of normal polyurethane.... Or the fact that my can of wipe on polyurethane states 4 hours between coats(gee their website says differently, which to agree with?).... Oh yeah, I have esp and can read minds of you professionals and realize things that are incorrect according to the company who created said product...

Lets also look at what everyone says about normal polyurethane... everything I have heard/read states that I should complete 2-4 or even more coats of normal polyurethane.... Even the canister of normal polyurethane says this, except the can usually recommends you use 0000 steel wool between coats(personally I have prepped to 220 grit sand paper before I even went to polyurethane, and use 400 grit wet dry between coats, but I digress)....

Geez, thanks for treating me like I am an idiotic arsehole... I just asked a simple question, along with my dismay that this stuff didnt seem to be as nice as the normal polyurethane.... Apologies for not being a total wood geek that knows everything about everything and doesnt deserve the right to ask a question.... 

Live and learn I guess... too bad some of you folks got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.... Pleasant to see a newbie can not ask newbie questions without getting told off..... If you will notice when I wrote that message I was a bit irrate, but I was asking what I did wrong, and throughout that message I made statements that I didnt know everything... but I forget some of you people dont understand being new to something, you knew it all from the get go....Someday, when I grow up, I hope to be a know-it-all like you!!! Maybe then, I can tell people how ignorant they are too!!!

SOoooo, getting back to the point, I guess I should realize that this stuff requires multiple coats to get the same result... I have not really had problems with normal polyurethane with dust etc, but most of the stuff I do is smaller and isnt prone to being out in the shop with all the dust and particles.... guess I will just go back to the store and buy the normal polyurethane I am used to.... Any recommendations on application/etc that I wont get from the can, and please keep your bourgeoisie values to yourself...

Mama always said "Dont tease the moron..." or was it "If you cant say something nice, then dont say it!"


PS - here is the link for the normal polyurethane, other than the time between coats, looks the same to me....

PPS - for those who kept it civil, many thanks for your responses...

Edited 3/10/2003 11:04:04 PM ET by Grouchie

forestgirl's picture

(post #107511, reply #6 of 22)

Grouchie -- hope things go better tomorrow.  Yep, there are those that lurk just waiting for someone to jump on.  Makes 'em feel good, I guess.

BTW, for future reference (you've probably figured this out, but I'll put it in black and white):  Generally, any finish that is considered a "wipe-on" finish is designed to be applied in thin layers.  They are very user friendly overall though.  I, too, have noticed the inconsistences in label directions compared to "real life" use, and how experienced WWers use various products. 

Hope it's not too much work getting things straight.

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl   ;-)

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

oldfred's picture

(post #107511, reply #7 of 22)



"Some days, weren't for bad luck, we wouldn't have no luck at all."

I've been using a wipe-on polyurethane gel, a brand called  Mastercraft by S.J.Bailey and Sons inc., Clark Summit, PA 18411.   It's real thick and goes on easy. wipes off with a rag or a good grade paper towel.  Works fantastic.  I put three coats over a fir door after using a Minwax stain, and it looks super.  Not a thick finish when dry - maybe with more coats - but a beautiful hand rubbed look.  No drips, brush marks, or dust. 

$10.00 a pint, but the label claims 1000 sq ft/ gal.  and I believe it. Best finish I've ever used.  I would guess other gel polys are similar.

Click on google and type in Mastercraft finishes and you'll find a bunch of info.

Good luck to you!



DesertViking's picture

(post #107511, reply #8 of 22)

If you have access to back issues of FWW look back in issue No. 143, pg 57-59.  The article is titled "No-brainer Varnish Technique" by Jeff Jewitt.  The article has lots of great info.  Try it. You'll like it.  Rog

PlaneWood's picture

(post #107511, reply #9 of 22)

It's called "wipe on" cause they take the real stuff, thin it 50% with paint thinner, and mark up the price.

I've never had any problems with Deft brand Poly.

PlaneWood by Mike_in_Katy (maker of fine sawdust!)

PlaneWood by Mike_in_Katy (maker of fine sawdust!)

Splintie's picture

(post #107511, reply #10 of 22)

I believe i will steer clear of answering posters named Grouchie, Snottie, Crabbie, Grumpie, Meanie, Surlie,and Snarlie and will even give serious second thoughts before attempting to aid anyone called Undecided or Non-caffeinated.

A round of chocolates for my friends, please...

forestgirl's picture

(post #107511, reply #11 of 22)

Splintie!  I have an entire wall of candy right across from me here in the store.  I'm trying to forget it's there!!  Please!

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl   ;-)

Edited 3/15/2003 3:36:33 PM ET by forestgirl

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

Splintie's picture

(post #107511, reply #15 of 22)

I turned 47 a week ago and got a box of European chocolate truffles in the mail--consolation prize, i think. Yesterday, i removed temptation by polishing off the last one. Ah, peace of mind...




forestgirl's picture

(post #107511, reply #16 of 22)

Is that what we're doing, "removing temptation"?  ROFL!!!!

It'll be fun to see what they send you when you turn 50.

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl   ;-)

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

WillGeorge's picture

(post #107511, reply #18 of 22)

Speaking of 'typical American ignorance..

Gee Ya folks talkin' about me again??


Anyway.. I use Min-Wax products and usually works OK.. I thinK all the problems I have are ME!

Edited 5/1/2005 8:11 am ET by Will George

Have a great day.. Life is wonderful even if you are having a bad day!

dsmacafe's picture

(post #107511, reply #3 of 22)

As another option, in add to other replies, I've used wipe-on Poly, semi-gloss w/tung oil and achieved a gloss finish by using fine, sponge (disposable) bushes applied in thin coats without wipping the surface. So the application is typically thee coats using fine steel wool and tack clothes between coats. It's a nice surface finish - much better than using gloss poly 'cuse the darn stuff collects dust and all too typically has uneven ripples in the finish...

HowardAcheson's picture

(post #107511, reply #4 of 22)

Another thing to think about is that you could have purchased the $6 stuff and a gallon of mineral spirits and mixed the $6 stuff 50/50 with the mineral spirits and had two quarts of the same stuff you got for $10 a quart. Buying ready mixed wiping varnish is like buying watered down bourbon but being charged more for it.

As others have said, wipe on varnish is nothing more than thinned regular varnish. However, you need to apply 2-3 coats to get the same film thickness as a single full strength, brushed on coat. You wipe it on about the same way the kid at Denny's wipes off your table. Your rag should not be dripping only somewhat wet.

DaveHeinlein's picture

(post #107511, reply #12 of 22)

Not to be nit picky, but the correct thinner to use for the wipe-on is Naptha, which evaporates about twice as fast as mineral spirits. This ingredient is listed on the can,IIRC. The min. spirit is for clean up.

You can mix your own proportion of this, the only thing is, dry time will be affected. I prefer to use 5 or 6 coats. I generaly mix it 60-70/40-30 poly/naptha. It's good for spraying like this also, but sometimes needs to be a little looser. Either method of application, I recomend straining. You'll be surprised at what you find.

HowardAcheson's picture

(post #107511, reply #13 of 22)

When making your own wipe-on you can use either mineral spirits or naphtha. You are correct that naphtha flashes off or becomes tack free faster but in some cases that is not good.

I tested a number of the newer fast dry polyurethane finishes mixed 50/50: some with naphtha some with mineral spirits. The naphtha mixed poly actually started to set up too fast to use on a large tabletop. The mineral spirits worked much better and still flashed off fairly rapidly.

My conclusion was that naphtha works just fine with standard varnishes and standard poly varnish but is more difficult to work with when you are trying to coat large surface areas.

DaveHeinlein's picture

(post #107511, reply #14 of 22)

You are right about that, it is better to use mineral spirits for larger surfaces. Most of the time I am finishing cabinet faces and parts and the quicker flash off reduces dust contamination, but forgot about large panels. Those I usually spray.

pbilly's picture

(post #107511, reply #17 of 22)

Hi Howie or anyone else,  I'm a little behind in getting into this discussion but I have a question and hope that you or someone else can help.  I thinned my semi-gloss poly with naptha so that I couls wipe it on.  It went on beautifully and dried quickly (I'm working in a basement that has its share of dust, etc. even though I try to clean it up)  When the poly had dried, it was no longer semi-gloss but closer to satin.  It also didn't 'feel' good, my hand didn't want to glide over the surface.  Any suggestion?  I'd really appreciate it.  Thanks, Su 

Edited 5/1/2005 4:58 am ET by pbillsu

Gretchen's picture

(post #107511, reply #20 of 22)

Thinning semi-gloss may be problematic. It has flatting agents, although maybe not as many as satin.  If you thin satin or semi-gloss you MUST keep it swirled with each dip of the pad to keep these in suspension.  Howie is not a fan of thinning satin at all for this reason, but I have done it successfully for many years, by being careful about the swirling.

The comment about the thin coats may be cogent. However, you don't say how many coats you have applied. This finish is in very thin layers and takes a number to build to a "coat".  The first several applications really do not make a particularly good looking finish.
I use mineral spirits as the diluent--it dries quickly enough.  For applying dip your rag, wipe the surface well and then wipe it with the grain. If you miss a place, you'll get it the next time adequately.



pbilly's picture

(post #107511, reply #21 of 22)

Hi Gretchen, Thanks for responding.  I originally began brushing (natural bristle brush) on the varnish but I kept getting 'stuff' in it;  I'd change my clothes beforehand, etc. so I was hoping that a thinner coat would dry more quickly (which it did) with minimal stuff.  I have about 10 coats brushed on but most of it sanded off between coats ( trying to fill in the low spots).  The coat wiped on, thinned with naptha ,worked well but My hand 'dragged' when later going over the dried surface.  The gloss changed also.  Will mineral spirits also change the gloss?  Thanks, Su

Gretchen's picture

(post #107511, reply #22 of 22)

If you brushed on 10 coats it is undoubtedly that which is leading to the "not smooth". That is a lot of finish, in my opinion. I would doubt that you could sand that much off with just scuff sanding.
 No, mineral spirits won't change the gloss. It just gives a bit more drying time to wipe off the excess varnish.
Not being able to see it, I think it might be a candidate for starting completely over.  Strip it and start with a wipe on technique from the beginning. It is suggested that if you want a semi-gloss finish (I have never been able to really distinguish "semi" from "satin") wipe on 6-8 applications of gloss and then wipe on 1 or 2 of semi-gloss to finish.

And finally, I would suggest using a non-poly varnish.



MatthewSchenker's picture

(post #107511, reply #19 of 22)

I use Minwax wipe-on poly all the time, and I really like it.

There is one catch: you have to read the instructions. They clearly tell you to put ion THIN coats. If you follow the directions, this product does a great job and it is a lot easier to use than standard polyurethane.

Also, I think it is important to educate yourself about the finish you are using by reading up on it a little bit or searching for information here on Knots. If you research wipe-on polyurethane, you'll see that it is common knowledge to use several thin layers.

Edited 5/1/2005 11:10 am ET by Matthew Schenker