Rubbing Out for a Smooth "Hand Feel"

Advice on hand rubbing techniques to give fine furniture pieces that silky smooth softness. April 9, 2007

I've got a show coming up and I've built a cherry and tiger maple console desk. I will be spraying lacquer. The finish on the top should be pretty good off the gun, but I want to give it a little better "hand feel". What would you suggest without going through a lot of separate steps?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor G:
If you can spray well enough to get a good finish off the gun, try using a lacquer that has the "hand feel" that you are referring to. I've found that Chemcraft and Becker have that feel. It may be wax formulated into the lacquer. As for a process that doesn't have a lot of steps, some paste wax on some 0000 steel wool and lightly buffed will do the trick.

From contributor M:
I like to use Mirkas' Abralon pads. Spritz on a little water and use the 6" diameter Abralon pad on a DA air sander. Start with 500 grit and work up until you get the look you want. They go all the way to 4000 grit. Unless it's a very dark almost black finish you won't see the scratch pattern at all and it will feel wonderful.

From contributor R:
If thatís the case, you canít beat the look and feel of Wool-wax applied with a White Scotch Brite pad. Mix up a little of the wax into water and evenly rub the mixture back and forth with the grain. Itís going to be soapy but thatís what you want. For a real even, streak free rub, I place a brick on top of the pad and then go for it.

From contributor D:
Contributor R brings up a great point about doing a hand rub. With either Scotchbrite or Steel Wool if you use a sanding block instead of your hand to wrap the abrasive with you will get a much more even look, as close as you can by hand to mimicking the look of using a rubbing machine. This is important for in-home service calls. Just as block sanding yields better results than using your palm, the same is also true with rubbing out the finish.

Also, make sure to rub straight. It is a natural tendency to put a curve in the rubbing pass because of the way our arms work. Fight that tendency, rub straight and avoid the windshield wiper/rainbow sweep of your rubbing pass. Using a block helps in this regard because it makes it easier to get a straight line rub instead of the curve.

From the original questioner:
I sprayed on Mohawk satin nitro lacquer. Don't want to dull it down too far - what sheen will result if I use the Scotchbrite and Woolwax?

From contributor R:
Itís not really going to change the sheen as much as it gives a hand wax feel. I do it on flat surfaces all the time and if you make a sample I think that you will like the results.