3. Apply a finish of your choice and let it dry overnight. We tested this technique on oil-based spar varnish, oil-based polyurethane, waterbased polyurethane, and oil-based enamel paint. Any sheen -- gloss, satin, or semigloss -- will work. You can bring gloss finishes to the brightest sheen. The flatting agents in satin and semigloss finishes prevent them from being worked to attain a high gloss.
Left to right: You can work enamel paint to a bright automotive-style finish. Shown on white ash veneer, water-based poly goes on perfectly clear; oil-based poly and spar varnish add progressively more amber cast to the wood grain.
4. Now it's time to "knock down" brush marks, drips, or dust flecks in the finish. Put about 1/2" of water in a shallow plastic tray and add a couple of drops of liquid detergent. The detergent, by reducing the surface tension of the water, allows it to more effectively wet the sandpaper and the tabletop and be a better lubricant. Dip 500-grit wet/dry paper (see box on page 4 on wet-sanding) backed with a rubber sanding block (available at hardware stores and home centers) into the detergent solution and work the surface in a circular motion, as shown in Photo C. Be careful not to oversand the edges. Keep the sandpaper wet with clean detergent solution. Periodically wipe the surface dry to inspect it. When the surface has a uniform dull sheen, wipe it clean with a damp sponge and let it dry.
5. Apply a second coat of finish and let it dry overnight. Wet-sand again as in Step 4 and wipe dry. Now apply a third coat of finish, but this time, let it dry two days to make sure the entire film of finish is dry.
6. Just as in Step 4, wet-sand the surface, this time starting with 1000-grit wet/dry sandpaper, progressing to 1500-grit and finally 2000-grit. Buff with a clean, soft cloth.
7. Get out the car wax and apply and polish it, as shown in Photo D, according to the directions. (We used Turtle Wax, but any automotive cleaner/wax will do.)
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