Avoiding Raised Grain on Oak Using Water-Based Finish

      It takes the right schedule of spraying, drying and sanding. March 18, 2005

I'm making the switch to water base finishing and would appreciate some pointers to reduce the grain raising I'm getting on red oak.

I'm used to spraying solvent lacquer and expect there to be some difference but I'm experiencing grain raising into the fourth coat; mostly on detail profiles. I only sand enough between coats to knock down the fuzz. It's for cabinet work, so I'm not aiming for a glass finish, but do want a good hand on drawer fronts and doors. Could any of you with water lacquer experience tell me your prep/finishing routine?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor B:
Depending on how I'll be coloring the piece, I usually wet the surface with water prior to any finishing. Let dry and sand down raised grain at that point. After coloring, I'll seal either with shellac or a diluted coat of finish. I let that dry, do a light scuff sanding, and apply 3 coats in one day, with no sanding in between. After 24 hours, if any raised grain, I'll sand down and apply a final coat.

Depending on how and what you'll be using to apply color, the pre wetting and then sanding to remove raised grain can be an asset. If applying a pigment stain or color in any type of binder, wet surface, let dry and lightly sand diagonal to the grain with a 400 grit. This leaves a very smooth surface, with minimal scratching. It won't absorb much color, plenty of grain shows through, and it only needs 2 - 3 coats of finish to feel very smooth.

From contributor J:
I have been using water base on cabinets for 15 years. The first thing to try is making a wash coat. Reduce your finish about 5 water to 1 finish. Spray this on and let it dry. I like to let it dry overnight. At this point you will find the oak to be very coarse from the raised grain. Sand smooth with 220 grit. You are now ready to stain. Use a water base stain. After the stain dries, apply a coat of finish. Let this coat dry well, sand and put on a final coat. Letting the finish dry hard between coats so that when you sand, you cut off the raised grain rather than just pushing is most important.

From contributor A:
We use contributor J's method sometimes. However, most of the time we do the following:

1. 1/2 lb cut of dewaxed shellac
2. stain
3. 1 lb cut of dewaxed shellac
4. light sand with 320
5. 2 coats of wb clear
6. sand 320
7. continue to build the wb clears

We do our builds with gloss and then last coat(s) with semi or satin.

From contributor D:
Why the gloss first and then the satin finish last? Does it give a different look or are you just trying to achieve a harder finish with the gloss first?

From contributor A:
With more solids, the gloss tends to build faster.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
There are a few ways I've worked with the grain raise on oak.

* Sand the wood to at least 220 and keep the first 2-3 coats very light (dust coats) to seal the wood. Then a wet coat, sand, and spray the final.

* Or, take some fast dry oil-base varnish and reduce it 100% - 200% with naphtha and spray and wipe like a stain.

* Dye and/or stain the wood and let it dry. Then use a light coat to seal followed by a wet coat. Sand and spray the final.

Using 2-3 very light dust coats on the bare wood will seal it with minimal grain raise. It adds time to the job, though. Using shellac is place of the fast-dry varnish is an option. Either will warm up the color of the oak better than the water-base by itself and seal the wood to eliminate grain raise.

From contributor L:
We use either the very light wash coats of WB sealer or shellac to hold down the fuzz. The shellac gives a warmer look. Use flake shellac since it doesn't keep well once mixed. Keeping your coats very thin and giving plenty of dry time helps a lot. Iíve also found that we need to keep the molder knives very sharp to avoid pounding the fibers into the pores, same with sanding. Widebelt sanding on oak always seems to make it worse. Mostly try to avoid adding too much moisture to the wood, plenty of dry time with air movement and thin coats. The Kremlin Airmix spray guns work very well. HVLP guns set to very low pressure work okay too. Airless is hopeless, conventional guns not very good. Whose finish are you using?

From contributor J:
The reason I don't use the shellac is the local fire marshal. He would require all explosion proof lights and fans. We just built a new building and the cost savings was about 20,000.

From the original questioner:
A responder wanted to know what finish. Target Ultima Satin Lacquer. Heard good things and it claims 100% burn-in. It handles nicely, and seems easier than solvent lacquer.

Just need to experiment with some of the techniques offered. The early wash coats with plenty of dry time before first sanding seem to make sense. I'll like also to try other products as well. The Target seems fine, but would like to compare to others.

Would you like to add information to this article?
Interested in writing or submitting an article?
Have a question about this article?

Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?
  • KnowledgeBase: Knowledge Base

  • KnowledgeBase: Finishing

  • KnowledgeBase: Finishing: General Wood Finishing

    Would you like to add information to this article? ... Click Here

    If you have a question regarding a Knowledge Base article, your best chance at uncovering an answer is to search the entire Knowledge Base for related articles or to post your question at the appropriate WOODWEB Forum. Before posting your message, be sure to
    review our Forum Guidelines.

    Questions entered in the Knowledge Base Article comment form will not generate responses! A list of WOODWEB Forums can be found at WOODWEB's Site Map.

    When you post your question at the Forum, be sure to include references to the Knowledge Base article that inspired your question. The more information you provide with your question, the better your chances are of receiving responses.

    Return to beginning of article.

    Refer a Friend || Read This Important Information || Site Map || Privacy Policy || Site User Agreement

    Letters, questions or comments? E-Mail us and let us know what you think. Be sure to review our Frequently Asked Questions page.

    Contact us to discuss advertising or to report problems with this site.

    To report a problem, send an e-mail to our Webmaster

    Copyright © 1996-2020 - WOODWEB ® Inc.
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without permission of the Editor.
    Review WOODWEB's Copyright Policy.

    The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices. What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk.

    WOODWEB, Inc.
    335 Bedell Road
    Montrose, PA 18801

    Contact WOODWEB

  • WOODWEB - the leading resource for professional woodworkers

      Home » Knowledge Base » Knowledge Base Article