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Old 04-22-2020, 11:32 AM   #1
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1985 345 MoHo: Trying to Refinish Cabinets

Hi Folks,

Another question for you all. This one is regarding refinishing the solid oak cabinets in our 1985 345 Airstream Motorhome. We purchased it 5 years ago from S. Cal, and now we have it in Tucson, Az.

Over the last couple of years, as a result of our ‘dry heat’, the solid oak cabinets, drawers and valences seem to be “dripping” the old varnish/finish (whatever they used after staining).

See pics 1&2, although its hard to see the ‘dripping’ finish from before I started, you can also get an idea from the last pic too.

Note: These are solid oak cabinets, not laminates etc.

These are the steps I've taken:

1) Stripping the wood: I pulled a few of the drawers/cabinets out and used “Citrus Strip” to strip off the old finish. Once finished stripping, I used steel wool and sandpaper to get the remaining finish off, and smooth the surface. Basically, I got them to the view below.

2) Staining the wood: I used an oil based, MinWax Golden Oak stain. I try to apply 2-3 coats of stain. While doing this, I let the stain sit/soak into the wood, and wipe away the residual stain after about 15 minutes. See Pic 3.

3) Finishing the wood: For this I’m using a Minwax Poly Urethane. The specific type I’m using is for higher temp environments.

Here’s the “UGH” part… See pic 4. Of the pieces I did, a couple came out lovely…. Unfortunately, the remaining pieces came RIGHT BACK with that awful melted look… some even worse then before!

This door took the first coat of Poly just fine… and once I put the second coat on…. I came back nasty/dripping…..


Has anyone else experienced this?
Has anyone successfully resolved this issue?
Do I need to use a wood-treatment of some kind? If so, do they make that in a Oil based? (I have a water based wood treatment, but am afraid to use it… Oil & Water isn’t good together? Right?)

Thanks All !

Todd
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Old 04-22-2020, 11:48 AM   #2
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I have had good luck with Defthane and Varathane satin finish polyurethanes. Sand to at least 220, wipe down, apply a fairly liberal coat with a good brush, and it always seems to level out and dry well, even working here in high humidity with air dried wood. Never had to apply more than two coats to bare wood. Your wood is probably very dry and soaking up the finish in spots.
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Old 04-22-2020, 12:15 PM   #3
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Thanks Waipio!

That makes sense, have you ever used a wood pre-stain treatment?

I would assume that if I'm using a oil based stain/poly combo, I would need some form of oil based pre-treatment?
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Old 04-23-2020, 07:25 AM   #4
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I've had good luck using tung oil soaked fine steel wool. Just scrub the wood like you'd clean it with soap and water then wipe it off with a clean cloth. In areas of high steam/humidity in the galley/bathroom if may take 2 coats I do the same in my home kitchen.
I used to wash them with soap/water, then steel wool then, then wipe new varnish on. A friend who refinished cabinets for a living showed the tung oil trick. But not till after he's sold his business.
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Old 04-23-2020, 11:04 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toddnazus View Post

That makes sense, have you ever used a wood pre-stain treatment?

I would assume that if I'm using a oil based stain/poly combo, I would need some form of oil based pre-treatment?

I just use the poly and only use stain with a q-tip to fix mistakes. You might want to try some and tung oil as Mel suggested on small sections of the wood that you have already worked.
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Old 04-23-2020, 12:43 PM   #6
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It may be too late now but I would of tried the old tried and true canola oil and vinegar furniture and cabinet finish. 3/1 oil to vinegar. Just rub it on and walk away. Fixes scratches too.
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Old 04-23-2020, 03:51 PM   #7
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1985 345 MoHo: Trying to Refinish Cabinets

Did you apply sanding sealer before you stained and applied the Poly?
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Old 04-23-2020, 08:02 PM   #8
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Here are a few things to consider:
To completely refinish Airstream Oak (or walnut) cabinets, its best to remove all of the finish, meaning bare wood .

Staining:

Once you have bare wood, you should avoid over saturating the wood with too much oil base stain. 3 coats is too much and will take many days to cure enough to take a top coat. One coat of oil-base stain is enough, if you wish to darken the oak, you can use a stain that is called Dye-stain. Its is water base and it will change the tone of the wood in the direction you desire. This step is a professional approach and can lead to mess with out experience.
Top coats:
There many different type of top coats on the market. Lacquer, oil base polyurethane and water base polyurethane.
All three have issues:
1. Lacquer turns greenish and bridle over time, sometimes even whitish.
2. Oil base polyurethane is tough, but barely bonds to itself, so several coats can be a problem. It also has the tendency to turn very amber over time.
3. Water base polyurethane has come a long way and there are a few now than can be used over oil base stain, after the stain cures for at least 24 hours. Several coats of oil base stain under a waterbase polyurethane will turn into a disaster.


summary:
The proven old school results are using 1 coat of oil-base stain, 1 coat of oil-base sanding sealer and 1 or 2 coats of polyurethane with a light sanding in between the coats. Ample time between coats is required.


The more advanced techniques (the ones I have been using professionally and on Airstream restorations) is to use an Oil base stain, like i.e. Minwax golden oak, shade color to my desire with dye stain, 1 coat of oil base satin polyurethane and several coats of very high grade acrylic (water base) top coats.
The high grade Acrylic polyurethane will bond to the oil-base polyurethane better than the oil-base will to itself (amazing but true and proven)

This has been my profession for many decades and I have tested many combinations and products as they became available and found that a product by Modern Masters is (or was) the most superior water base acrylic polyurethane product on the market. It is still avaliable as left over stock (called master clear in a green label), but unfortunately was replaced by a product called Master clear supreme (with a blue label). This replacement does not have the same properties as the original.

Do with this info as you wish, i am just sharing my many years of trial and error.
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Old 04-27-2020, 09:58 AM   #9
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PeterH !!! YOU NAILED IT !

I ended up calling Minwax (maker of the stain and poly U I'm using).

They suggested that I was not adequately wiping the stain off after letting it set for a 5-10 minutes... As Peter stated, 1-2 coats of stain is really all I needed. Now the PolyU is on, and everything looks GREAT !

Thanks for all the ideas folks !

Love these forums 1

Todd
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