Everything You Need To Know About Buffing Polyurethane Finish

Every woodworker dreams of having a smooth-minor finishing with polyurethane to gain a scratch-free woodwork creation. However, it might be a bit complicated for beginners to get a glassy and smooth wood surface with one go. You are required to follow some crucial steps for buffing polyurethane finish.

A perfect application of polyurethane will provide you with glassy looks and save the woodwork from permanent damages.

In this guide, we will be providing you step by step procedures for applying polyurethane on woodwork. Additionally, you can avail tips and tricks about this as well. Let’s get started.

Everything You Need To Know About Buffing Polyurethane Finish

Importance Of Buffing Polyurethane Finish

Importance Of Buffing Polyurethane Finish

Buffing wood is undoubtedly one of the most effective wood finishings. Woodworkers often find it difficult to get perfectly sleek woodwork with glass-smooth finishing.

However, here buffing polyurethane finish plays a crucial role in dealing with scratch-free, glassy, shiny, and smooth woodwork.

Keep in mind that water-based urethane is quite troublesome to apply on an oil-based surface. Nevertheless, buffing polyurethane finish has hassle-free procedures to apply on wood surfaces.

It’s quite easy for beginners as well. So, picking up oil-based polyurethane rather than water-based urethane is better considering its chemical durability, heat-absorbing ability, long-lasting sustainability, etc.

Tools & Materials For Buffing Polyurethane Finish

Tools & Materials For Buffing Polyurethane Finish

To complete the whole process, you are required to have some tools and materials. An overview of basic tools is given below.

  • Paint Roller

The paint roller, naps, brushes, and trays are quite useful regardless if you are a beginner or professional.

  • Plastic Sheeting

These elements are incredibly useful to cover crawl spaces or as a vapor barrier for concrete and similar stuff. (6ft×100ft)

  • Polyurethane

These products are usually non-yellowing and have a low odor. It is applicable as water clean-up. (Satin Paint, 1 Quart)

  • Mineral Spirit

It is useful for cleaning up Interior jobs. Additionally, it thins oil-based paint, stain, and varnish. (Oil-based paint) Wipe-on Polyurethane (1 Quart, Satin) and Wood Stain Application Pad (6″ ×8″) are other tools that you should list.

  • Fine Grade Finishing Paper

Some decent finishing papers are appropriate for polyurethane finish. For instance, Micro-mesh finishing paper because it consists of little friction power. That is why it’s suitable for finishing.

The grit level between 1500 to 2000 is ideal for this. Keep in mind that all you need is to remove the small protrusion first. Other than this, you can use steel wool #0000 or brown paper as alternatives to this.

Additionally, medium grit sandpaper can also be useful. Nevertheless, the objective can be completed using any of the elements.

  • Styrofoam Block

You need to gather handy styrofoam and a foam pad to do this part. It helps your hand while putting pressure on the surface. You’ll not be needing them after you get used to doing without them.

  • Buffing Pad

You can easily find some buffing and rubbing pads around home improvement or hardware shops. While picking, select the one with super fine abrasion capacity.

  • Orbit Sander

An orbit sander is quite efficient for doing big projects. But if you don’t have one, you can work manually by using your hands as well.

  • Rubbing Compound

 These are abrasive chemical formulas that are used on small scratches. You can flatten them or seal them for the job to be done.

  • Paste Wax/ Automotive Polish

 These elements will provide you with an incredible glossy shine. Nevertheless, these are not that useful if you look for a matte or flat look on the surface.

Step By Step Process For Buffing Polyurethane Finish

Step By Step Process For Buffing Polyurethane Finish

Step 01: Sand The Workpiece

Get decent-grit sandpaper to do this part. It’s better to wrap the sandpaper with styrofoam. That’s how you’ll be able to get a good grip to hold the paper.

Now sand the surface back and forth to cover up, sanding every area of the wood surface. Remember that don’t put too much pressure on the surface.

Dispense the right amount of rubbing on the woodwork. Be vigilant while rubbing through the ages of the surface. Now observe the surface and look for any remaining dull area.

Check out the woodwork to feel the smoothness through your hands. If you still find any rough place in the area, that means you need to sand a couple of times more in that area.

Step 2: Get A Tidy Workplace

Step 2 Get A Tidy Workplace

Dust-free surroundings are essential to get the best outcome for a polyurethane finish. A messy work area becomes an obstacle to getting a smooth finishing. However, before starting the work, vacuum the floor and work surface to clean it up.

Moreover, you can unfold some poly sheets so that your floor can be saved from drips and spills. Additionally, it will make the clean-up process super easy and make the sheet reusable afterward.

Keep in mind that the dirt and dust stay in the work atmosphere for a while. As a result, it is recommended to sand and finish the wood piece on separate days for a smoother outcome.

Step 3: Buffing the Woodwork Board

Step 3 Buffing the Woodwork Board

You can use tap water using a spritzer over the surface. After applying the polyurethane on the surface, leave it for drying.

When it dried out completely, use that cool water on the surface to smoothly sand down the finish. Keep in mind that wet sanding is quite useful and efficient to get a sleek finishing.

We recommend you use a 2000-grit paper and orbital sander to buff the surface. First, you have to get a circular sheet of that paper or a scrubbing pad and set it with the sander.

Next, start with running the machine speed slowly and rub the sander all over the surface area. The pressure you put should be mild.

Start with the one side or the surface and then shift to the other side accordingly. Keep in mind that the sandpaper should be either dry or wet.

You can avail them from any kind of hardware store or online. If you are looking for shinier finishing, then set a buffing pad under the sander instead.

There are several handheld tools for sanding down the surface. If you don’t have any, you can use your hand too. For that, wrap the paper with a block of styrofoam.

In that case, use 1500-grit sandpaper for rubbing. Otherwise, 320-grit sandpaper will do fine as well. Moreover, you can even use brown paper to buff the area.

After completing the main part, use a clean cloth for the residues. Check for any dust on the surface to clean up. Keep in mind that applying polyurethane needs to be done several times to get the best outcome.

To get the smoothest surface, you need to do the process of sanding and spraying repeatedly. Continue it until the scratches and bumps are completely removed.

Put mild pressure on the surface and cover every part of the surface. If you find your sandpaper dirty, change it. Be patient and continue to do this until you get your preferred outcome.

Step 4: Using Polish For Glazing Surface

To do this, set up a foam buffing pad with the orbital sander. Choose a 2.5-centimeter foam insert. Now install this with the orbital sander. Now put some appropriate amount of car polish on the pad.

Then create a suitable foam from that and start rubbing it on the finish. Focus on the clear polish to do this part.

While buffing the surface, try to make it shiny because it may require you to do it several times. Nevertheless, control the speed of the orbital sander and focus on the edges as well.

After finishing this part, use a clean polishing cloth to buff the residue. Keep doing this until you find a reflective surface. This is also useful to remove any extra polish from the surface.

Now, along with polishing cloth, use a swirl remover to get the best outcome. In this case, use a handful of swirl mark remover and wipe back and forth onto the surface.

The automotive swirl removers are easily found online or in any auto supplying store.

Step 5: Apply Mineral Spirits To Efface The Project

You are required to get a lint-free cloth to do this. Use the cloth and carefully wipe the surface first. Keep in mind about saturating the cloth with the help of solvent.

Using an old T-shirt will do as well. Nevertheless, by doing so, you can clear the dust in a while. We suggest not to use water. Because it will ultimately raise the grain, and you may need to sand the surface again.

Step 6: Use A Roller For Applying Poly

Step 6 Use A Roller For Applying Poly

For this step, we recommend using a 6-inch roller to apply the poly. Because it is perfectly suited for an even and fast job for this. The advantages are that you can have spot-free finishing.

Next, you will need a ranking light to check the full periphery completion. But keep in mind that it is usual to find lots of flaws while checking through the light.

You are required to dip the roller in the mineral spirit after every coat. Also, keep them in a plastic zippered bag as well.

Now let it dry for a while. After some hours, you can notice the ease coming out of dried poly from the pan.

Now it’s your preference to put the level of coats. You can either go for two coats on the surface or three coats if you want extra protection on the interior.

Step 7: Complete Both Side At The Same Period

You should always complete the bottom, top, and both sides of the solid wood top. Regardless of the showing of the bottom surface, you should finish the side as well. You can reduce the drying time here.

First, you need to carefully coat the bottom side. Then finish the top side by flipping it over. It doesn’t matter if you get some fingerprints on the surface because that will be eventually cleaned up while doing the final coat.

Step 8: Use Wipe-on Poly For Narrow Area

Step 8 Use Wipe-on Poly For Narrow Area.JPEG

You need to wait for a while to let the roll-on coat dry. Next, you can use a new roll-up poly and apply it to narrow and small areas. For instance, doors, face flames, etc.

When you complete the large areas, focus on the small areas with this. You may require additional gloves and a cotton rag to complete the process.

Step 9: Make Suitable Use Of Sand

Step 9 Make Suitable Use Of Sand

For this step, you need to have paper and a pad to sand lightly on the surface. You will receive a good outcome if you do this between the coats.

However, a decent synthetic pad is recommended to do this part. It will help you to be morose the periphery. Other than this main objective, it also helps you to rub out dust, hair, and drips as well.

Step 10: Waxing To Gain Satin Finish

For this part, get some wax material and rub it back and forth on the surface. Get an appropriate amount of car paste wax to a clean cloth. Keep in mind that you need to keep doing this until you find no scratches on polyurethane.

After completing this part, get a paper towel in order to remove the additional wax. Use horizontal and long motions through this on the surface. Make sure to remove excess wax before it dries so that you get an even surface.

As a double-check, spray water on it because a few drops of water is enough to clean the excess wax from the surface.

You can use a wool pad for the cleaning process. After clearing out the wax, let the woodwork dry up itself.

Step 11: Select a Dust Free Area For Final Drying

In the final part, it is crucial to select an area that is quite clean and dust-free. This chosen area will be used to dry the final coat.

You can vacuum the whole area to make it work worthy. When the working area is ready, you can leave your work project here and let them dry.

Tips For Buffing A Polyurethane Finish

Tips For Buffing A Polyurethane Finish

Now you are well aware of the process for applying polyurethane on wood. But here are some tips and tricks that you can apply while doing this.

As a result, you will be able to get rid of a few possible flaws while doing the task.

  • Go For Buffing The Thick Coating

As a beginner, you need to know that buffing usually involves a bit of light sanding. So, it’s not necessary to go for a few thick layers; rather, go for applying four or five regular films.

  • Avoid Buffing Uncured Polyurethane

Before you start buffing, let it dry completely to do so. It may take up to 48 hours for solid hard dryness. However, for water-based dryness, it may take a bit longer than this as well.

And for the oil-based ones, it may even take up to weeks. Though there are several factors like humidity, the temperature needs to be considered. When the wood becomes odorless, you’ll know that it’s good to go for the next phase.

  • Select Glossing Properly

It’s rare to transform a matte gloss polyurethane into shiny high glossy stuff with buffing. Nevertheless, you need to pick a suitable right gloss of your preference.

You can look at the labels where semi-gloss, high-gloss, flat and matte, etc., are written.

  • Try To Minimize The Imperfections

Pesky bugs, dust bumps, etc., on the woodwork, makes it inevitable for a woodworker to get the perfect outcome.

So, you should make several adjustments while applying polyurethane in order to minimize the imperfections.

Strategy To Get Rid of Polyurethane Bubbles

Strategy To Get Rid of Polyurethane Bubbles

While working with polyurethane, it’s quite common to face bubbles while working with woodwork. The problem is created because of two main reasons.

The first one is the brushing technique while applying the finishing. People tend to think about taking a long time while brushing to get rid of bubbles.

But it is not an efficient way to do so. Another reason is not giving enough time to brush out, which eventually causes the finish to evaporate quickly.

The right method is to pick the brushing method correctly to liberate it from bubbles. Then apply a thin layer first on the woodwork.

After giving it enough time to pop up the existing bubbles, apply the finish thoroughly to get the best outcome on the wood surface.

Using Polish For A Glossy Surface

Using Polish For A Glossy Surface

Polish is a type of polish that’s used to Buff a Polyurethane Finish. It’s a two-step process: first, the polish is applied to the surface to be polished, and then it’s buffed off using a cloth or brush.

Polish is available in several different colors and can be used on a variety of surfaces, including wood, plastic, glass, and metal. It can also be used to restore faded or damaged paintwork.

Overall, polish is an effective way of restoring the gloss and luster of a Polyurethane Finish. It can make your furniture look new again and help it resist scratches and scuffs.



Before you start buffing your polyurethane finish, it’s important to know the risks involved. By buffing it, you’re essentially putting a layer of new polyurethane over the old one. This can lead to scratches and other damage that wasn’t there before.

If you do decide to buff your finish, be sure to take great care not to apply too much pressure or heat. Make sure that you use a soft cloth and apply the buffing particles slowly and evenly. And lastly, be prepared for potential messes – polyurethane finishes are notoriously difficult to clean

Final Thoughts

Well, now we are certain that you are well aware of the procedure of buffing polyurethane finish on the woodwork.

As a beginner, it’s not tough to get a decent outcome from the first few trials if you follow the above-mentioned steps properly.

There are also some tips and tricks available that may help you to get a more efficient outcome. After getting the overview from this article, you can create your smooth and glass-shining woodwork quite easily.

So what are you waiting for! Follow the methods and go for your first woodwork. Good luck.


1.Is It Important To Sand The Final Coat Of Polyurethane?

Ans. Well, you are not required to sand the final coat because if you have already gotten the smooth finish earlier, you do not need to sand it again.

But there are some other issues that you should look for, like bubbles, dust nibs, etc. So, if necessary, go for the sanding of the final coat of the polyurethane.

2.How Can I Get Bumps From Polyurethane?

Ans. You should go for stripping the finish from down to void wood. Then thoroughly wipe down with denatured chemicals, restain, and alcohol. After that, get the dewaxed shellac and brush on that. For instance, Zinsser’s Sealcoat.

3.Why Does The Polyurethane Finish Get Rough Sometimes?

Ans. In the drying process period, when it picks up a bit of dust, it gets a rough surface. Similarly, if you brush or wipe the dust too long after applying, it may get a rough outcome on the woodwork.

4.How Can I Fix Bad Polyurethane?

Ans. In order to fix this thing, you are required to use a bit of a light coat of polyurethane. Apply it to the sanded area by using a brush.

Let it dry and check the evenness of the surface thoroughly. In the case of a thick or thin coat, do the same activity again to fix it.

5.What Can I Use Over Polyurethane?

Ans. You can go for using a primer. Especially a primer with a thin coat of bonding. Using this can get rid of tannins. So you can get a better outcome.

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