A High-Gloss Painted Panel

Panel quality may be as important as finish choice and application method. November 13, 2005

I have a number of questions and need some advice on getting started with a project. I want to make a high gloss panel that is similar to the one in the image below. I am planning on using high quality plywood for the basic material, and then finish to a high gloss covering. The finishing I am thinking of would consist of priming, and painting which I would then finish with a polyurethane clear gloss.

I would like advice on material choices - is there something better than using plywood? Also I would like some insight into the steps needed to create the finish in the image. For example is lacquering a better approach?

Product advice would be of great help as well as equipment. I have looked through the forums, and have done some research in books on woodwork finishes but nothing came close to giving me advice on creating a high gloss finish over a painted medium on such a large flat surface.

Click here for full size image

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor J:
Although I use plywood on almost all of my cabinet jobs I think I would be careful in this situation. MDF would be much flatter and also easier to get a good finish on. If the panel is going to be firmly attached to something which will keep it flat you may be ok but you will need quite a few coats of primer and/or pore filler to get a flat surface.

Another option could be to laminate a thin sheet of 1/8" hardboard to the plywood for a very smooth surface. Also with either material you will have to make the edges smooth. I think I would probably not use edging as this could swell/shrink over time under the paint.

As for actual painting I will just throw out one possibility. I use ML Campbell water-based lacquer primer for my paint grade projects and it is very easy to work with. You may also want to look on the car restoration sites. Those guys have a lot of knowledge on getting perfect painted finishes.

From contributor T:

Your approach is fine. When you apply the poly make sure you put at least 3 coats then rub it out using 320, 400, 600, 800, 1000, and 1200 grit paper. The 320 must be dry and the other grits wet (I prefer mineral spirits). Then polish it with a compound. Any finish you apply will require buffing out the imperfections.

From contributor D:
If there are any defects whatsoever beneath the surface on the plywood the high gloss will make them shine for all to see. Surface defects you can fix but 2 layers down is a different story.