How to polish final polyurethane finish

Written by don kress
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How to polish final polyurethane finish
Highly polished polyurethane can be achieved with automotive polishing compound. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Polyurethane provides a translucent, shiny finish on your furniture. To bring out even more shine from the polyurethane, it is necessary to sand and polish the surface, which is how car painters achieve a glossy finish. In woodworking, the only difference is the use of dry sandpaper, rather than wet/dry paper, as is done in auto refinishing. The dry sandpaper helps prevent the wood from soaking up moisture and becoming damaged.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 2000-grit sandpaper
  • Polishing compound
  • Orbital buffer

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  1. 1

    Sand the surface of the polyurethane thoroughly with the 2000-grit sandpaper. Avoid pressing too hard on the surface to prevent the paper from clogging, as this diminishes the effectiveness of the sandpaper. Continue sanding until the surface is uniformly smooth and even, with no trace of leftover gloss.

  2. 2

    Clean the surface of any excess dust left over from sanding. Apply a few drops of automotive polishing compound to the surface, and then spread it around with the polishing pad on the orbital buffer.

  3. 3

    Set the orbital buffer's speed to its lowest setting, and then pull the trigger on the buffer to commence the polishing operation. Work in wide arcs, slowly but continuously, being certain to polish away as much of the sandpaper haze as possible. Do not polish in one place for too long, though, as this will heat up and melt the polyurethane finish. Additionally, avoid using the edge of the buffer pad to polish anything, as this, too, will melt the finish.

Tips and warnings

  • Perform the sanding and buffing operation only on polyurethane that has thoroughly cured for at least one week. Humid conditions require a longer time to cure.

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