Top Coat Overview


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There are LOTS of options for top coating your projects, and the choices can be very confusing. This video breaks top coat finishes into various categories, and explains advantages and disadvantages of individual finishes. It’ll help make choosing finish for your next project a lot easier.

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9 Responses to “Top Coat Overview”
    • WWGOA Team

      Hi Daniel, I wouldn’t advise putting poly over lacquer. But to be completely certain, I would recommend you contact the poly manufacturer and ask them.

    • Keith Mealy

      Big issue here is adhesion. Poly does not adhere to stuff as well as some of the other finishes. Shellac in between would make a good barrier/bonder coat (assuming you use de-waxed shellac as poly does not adhere well to waxed)

  1. Keith Mealy

    Normally, you can intermix oil-based products (oil, mineral spirits, and oil-based varnishes) in any proportions. Be aware though, that unless it says 100% pure tung oil, you are getting one of the imposter “Tung Oil Finishes” most of which don’t contain tung oil as an ingredient or component of varnish. They are normally either thinned varnishes or oil-varnish blends.

    Of course, the real question is “Why would you want to do this?” Tung oil has a mystique about it that I don’t understand. It’s more expensive, harder to apply, if you mess up application, you have to strip and start over, and provides no real advantages over boiled linseed oil.

    In fact, the Watco Danish Oil shown in the video is not “oil” but an
    oil-varnish blend. While it’s undergone several owners in the last 30
    years, the most recent formulation I found was roughly 2/3 mineral
    spirits (which thins the solution and evaporates away, contributing
    nothing to the final finish), 2/9 linseed oil, and 1/9 varnish, with
    traces of driers and/or colorants.

    It’s just a shame that manufacturers persist in deceptive labeling and naming of their products. It makes what should be simple science into confusing and misleading information.

  2. Keith Mealy

    There is a world of difference between water-borne products (mostly acrylic) and oil-based varnishes. They “cure” differently and at much different rates, they’re chemically different, and often they have different coloring properties.

  3. Keith H

    I was not aware you could use shellac in between coats of poly. Question; Is that recommended, and for what reason? Would it be strictly for adhesion purposes or does the shellac between coats add an extra dimension to the finished piece ?

    For my first coat I always use equal parts of tung oil, poly and mineral spirits and I apply it with 400 grit wet/dry while constantly wiping off the slurry as I go to get the smoothest surface I can. I sand between coats w/600 grit wet/dry dipped in Min. spirits and then wipe it down. Is this the point when I should apply the shellac, before and after each coat of my rubbing poly? Do you think it would enhance the finished look?

    • WWGOA Team

      Hi Keith, others may have more experience with poly/shellac, but I don’t think there’s any compelling reason to put shellac between coats of poly. I don’t think it would enhance the appearance or protection. It’s good to know that it can be done so that if you ever come across a project of unknown origin that needs a new finish, you’ll know you can shellac cover the existing coat and apply a new top coat.


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