Q: I am working on a kitchen cabinet to match another sample. The finish is a primer coat, base paint coat, and a glaze for an antiqued look. This part I have worked out and matched. The issue is the final clear coat. It is very flat and has a silky feel to it. The sample I have is very evenly finished and durable. What are my options for a final clear coat?
A: That depends on what you mean by very flat. If we are talking about the level of sheen, you are somewhat limited, because while almost all finishes are sold in gloss through satin sheens, it’s hard to find anything but lacquer sold in matte and dead flat. On the other hand, if by flat you mean perfectly smooth, that’s much easier. Choose whatever clear coat you like; for durability I would lean toward polyurethane. Once the finish is cured, rub it. The rubbing process leaves a perfectly smooth and very silky feeling surface. Here’s how to do it.
Wait until the finish cures completely. For shellac and lacquer, two or three days will do; for oil-based varnish and polyurethane, try to wait at least a week, and longer if you can spare the time. For waterbased, wait a month. Remove any dust nibs or application marks by sanding lightly with 400-grit self-lubricated sandpaper. Sand only as much as you need to make it smooth, and don’t sand through the topcoat. Dip a pad of 0000 steel wool into paste wax and carefully rub with the grain in very straight lines, adding more wax as needed for lubrication. Avoid rounding the steel wool over the edges, which might cause you to rub through the finish. Overlap your strokes and cover the entire surface with several passes back and forth to guarantee a uniform fine scratch pattern from the steel wool. The finish should look like brushed brass. When you are done, immediately wipe off all the wax with a soft cloth.