Fixing drips on handrail

nypatti99February 8, 2012

I've been working on finishing our stairs, rails, etc. for months now, and I can feel the end in sight finally. I finished the handrail with stain followed by 3 coats of Minwax semi-gloss oil poly. I thought I was being super careful, but ended up with drips on the vertical (its got some detail to the profile besides). I figure need to sand off the drips, but is there anything short of applying another regular coat of poly to restore the sheen after?

I've done some reading on rubbing the finish, but it sounds like that is not ideal for a semi-gloss poly. Can I use a wiping poly just to restore the semi-gloss shine? A friend told me he read something about polishing with steel wool and WD40, but I don't know about that. Any other advice (short of doing a better job next time...).

Thank you.


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Wait for the poly to really cure down before doing anything else. A month will be sure. Then fine sand with a 320 sponge, sanding block, or small sanding sticks to reduce the drips.
Then, as you suspected, you can apply a wipe-on finish to even things out. The wipe-on will not fill in any sanding scratches, so your spot-sanding will have to be 320 grit. It will be far better to use wipe-on for the whole thing to have the sheen all match, unless the problem spots are so inconspicuous.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 11:39AM
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Thank you Casey. Its already been a month since I finished the rails (been working on other parts of the project) so that's not a problem. Will 0000 steel work? or does it have to be sandpaper? And yes, I was figuring I would have to wipe the whole thing (well, not the underside with all the spindles, but the whole top) not just the problem spots.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 7:49PM
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Sandpaper on top of a firm backing does the best job leveling the drips. Steel wool will also cut finish off of the surrounding area, and you could use it to blend in the sanding marks/margins afterwards. Vacuum up all of the bits of disintegrated steel wool or it will get into the finish.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 9:18AM
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You might also try using a scraper. If you don't have one of these, a single edge razor blade or utility knife blade will substitute. Hold it about 80 degrees from the flat surface and pull it over the drips. Hold it between your thumb and forefinger with both hands and draw toward you with the blade leaning toward you. They're both sharp, so just keep your fingers away from the sharp edge.

You can also hold them at a low angle (5-10 degrees) and shave off the drip, but be careful not to get into the stain or wood surface.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 4:56PM
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