XpostWoodworking: Help fix "sticky" Waterlox bb countertops?

huangoSeptember 1, 2013

Can you help with my wood finishing problem?

My Waterloxed butcherblock countertops are sticky!!! Paper sticks to it and even transfer the images onto the countertop. The ink from grocery bags sticks/transfer onto the countertop. All sorts of dust particles stick to it.
It looks and feels plasticky.

What did I do wrong?

**How to fix it?**
- I found a few links/directions, but how did you handle it?

- I have 3 countertops; 2 of them new Ikea oak butcherblock, and third is sanded-down-to-the-raw-?maple wood butcherblock
- All of the work was done in Dec, Jan, and Feb, so humidity was pretty low.
- All bb were brought inside to acclimate to the indoor temperature
- Open floor plan so there�s plenty of oxygen (not like it was closed off in 1 room).
- The Waterlox was brand new; I squeezed the air out like AskWoodman showed me.

- (lots of sanding/vacuuming/wiping in between coats � learned from watching youtube AskWoodman)
- Used disposable black sponge brushes.
- No shaking of Waterlox; stirred, pour out into bowl for use.

o Treated bb with � Bullseye sealer and � denatured alcohol mixture (to reduce blotchiness); let dry few hours.
o Wiped on 1 coat Zar mocha stain; let dry overnight
o Sand w/ 220grit, wipe/vacuum: Stained w/ 2nd coat Zar stain, let dry 1 day
o Friday: Vacuum/wipe: Applied 1st coat Waterlox; let dry 1.5days
o Sunday: Sand/vacuum/wipe: Applied 2nd coat Waterlox, let dry 1 day
o Monday: vacuum/wipe: Applied 3rd coat Waterlox; let dry 4 days
o Friday: sand/vacuum/wipe: Applied 4rd coat Waterlox, let dry for 1 week before putting stuff on it.

That was 6months ago and yes, butcherblock countertops are still sticky.
(been tired from 1st floor renovation, so finally addressing this now).

Really appreciate your feedback.
thank you,

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1. Was the "Bullseye sealer" shellac?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 7:27AM
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Does the Zar stain can specifically say that it may be top coated?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 7:29AM
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What are you using to clean with?

There are certain cleaners that will make the tung oil turn sticky.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 8:24AM
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I'd like to figure out where the problem lies so I know how far/deep to go to correct it.

Waterlox direction claims: Poor/Inadequate Ventilation.
If one of the coats never dried properly and was top coated with a new coat, which blocks additional oxygen from reaching it, it could still be uncured. The finishing process completed in a poor ventilation situation can also cause all coats not to dry and the finish to remain sticky or tacky for 6 months or more.

To fix a tacky or sticky surface, clean the surface with vinegar and water (and a clear water rinse) and wipe down with mineral spirits. Next, buff the surface with 4/0 steel wool or 320 grit sandpaper and let the surface dry out for 24 - 48 hours in a cross ventilation situation. Next, top coat the surface with more Waterlox Original Tung oil finish.


Note: it's the Original Waterlox.
I read enough to stay away from the Satin finish Waterlox.

1. I learned about using mixture of 1/2 Bull's Eye Seal Coat shellac and 1/2 denatured alcohol to prevent blotchiness from the Wood Whisperer.
I had tested the stain w/OUT the shellac and the stain looked awful.

Here's his youtube that showed how:

2. According to Zar, it does say to topcoat with a Zar polyurethane (1-2 coats). While I didn't use a Zar brand, it should mean I can top coat over the Zar stain, yes?
And Waterlox is an oil base (it's not like I'm mixing oil base Zar stain w/ a water-base top coat).

BUT when Goggling: I found 1 statement in a 2006 post:
"By the way dont use Zar stains when top coating over oil based stains (it never dries, I mean never).
Have been finishing for 20 yrs and I hate that stuff!!!!!"

Also, Zar direction says:
Drying Time: 3 hours
But on the Zar website, it also says dry 1-3 days.
--> So maybe that's a problem. I only let it dry ~12hours between 2nd coat of stain and 1st coat of Waterlox.

The stain felt dry. Dry enough where I was able to sand it lightly (because of the dust that had landed on it), vacuum/wipe, before Waterlox coat.

But if it's the stain not being dry, why would the Waterlox feel sticky/tacky? All 4 coats?
If the stain wasn't thoroughly dried, but the 4 coats of Waterlox would dried together, I can see that it would be like the Waterlox sitting ON top of the stain, but this tackiness is more like an issue with Waterlox not drying.

According to Waterlox, it could take ~3-4weeks to fully dry. I was waiting that long before doing the final buff (getting rid of all dust, etc), but it's been over 6months and still tacky/sticky.

I use water.
Sometime on my kitchen bb, I use Dawn soap and water.
(the other bbs are in my familyroom on the hutch, and in mudroom on the bench.)

thank you for reading.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 9:50AM
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Have you called Waterlox? They were pretty helpful when we had questions. I'd try that tomorrow if you haven't already; they may well be able to figure out immediately which step is causing the problem. I'd guess either sealer or stain is the culprit, though. Your process sounds right for everything else. The only thing I might have done differently is to wait a little longer between the first couple of coats, but I think that's still well within the drying time they recommend. If you're having the same problem on all of your counters, it's likely not a cleaner or wood issue. Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 2:50AM
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1. I think the shellac sealer is fine. I've used in the same manner many times. You just didn't specifically say that your sealer was indeed shellac.

2. The Zar seems to be the culprit. Remember, you 1st top coated the Zar with another coat of shellac, which is not the same as oil-based varnishes. I'd call Zar and ask about topping it with shellac.

3. Seems to me that it would have to dry sooner or later. If it is not awful, I'd wait a few more months. Otherwise, you'll have to sand it all off and start again.

If you do, I recommended the water-based dyes from Lee Valley.

Here's how I do it, which is exactly how you did it:

1. Determine if wood is blotch prone by wiping all surfaces with denatured alcohol.
a.If blotchy use a shellac washcoat: Thin de-waxed shellac 50% with denatured alcohol. Apply, and when dry, sand with 320 grit. Then apply dye
b.If not blotchy, spay all surfaces with water and rub with a damp cloth. Allow to dry and then sand off the raised grain by hand with 320 grit. Apply dye

2. Apply dye with a foam brush and then wipe off excess with a cloth. Work quickly to avoid lap lines via drying. If too light, apply subsequent coats. If too dark, an attempt can be made to re-wet the surface and rub with a cloth to remove excess.

3. Allow dye to dry overnight so the dye deep in the wood is also dry.

4.Seal in the dye with a coat of shellac. Apply lightly and carefully, as the Shellac will disturb the dye and you can get bad streaks and blotches if not careful. Spraying the 1st coat is a good idea.

5.Now a grain filler paste can be applied, after which the top coats are applied. or the top coats can now be applied if the grain filler is skipped.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lee Valley Stains

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 6:04AM
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Was it de-waxed shellac? Waxes in standard off the shelf shellac aren't compatible with oil finishes. I'd bet that's the source of the incompatibility. Coupled with too little drying time between coats. 24 hours isn't enough.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 7:59AM
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Bullseye Seal Coat (sanding sealer) is de-waxed white shellac. So, if that's what you used, the sealer isn't the problem.

And, yes, 24 hours isn't enough drying time. I allow three days with an oil-based stain...mostly I use Min-Wax since that's what I have on hand. Min-Wax is a very thin-bodied stain so it will cure out faster than a heavier bodied stain. So, my guess is that the problem is not enough drying time for the stain. I'm not sure that it will ever cure because the Waterlox most likely lifted the stain & the chemistry of the Waterlox got altered.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 8:56AM
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thank you for your inputs.

Ugh: finally got a chance to call Waterlox.

Waterlox support was not very supportive.
He basically told me:
- to read what he wrote on the Waterlox website;
- that I've read too many wrong things online;
- that I shouldn't have used the BullsEye and
- definitely not the gel stain.

Yup, only solution is to sand it all back down.

So I'm going to let it sit 1 more month (too tired to do it right now anyway).
In the meantime, I'm going to do 2 test pieces:
1. w/ the shellac/alcohol conditioner mixture under a different stain (Waterlox recommended Minwax, but I did not like my Minwax test piece back in December)
2. w/OUT the shellac, but w/ a stain.

off to pick up kids from school.

will update you.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 3:09PM
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1 more thing:
- Waterlox man said to never use Dawn soap to clean Waterlox-anything. It'll leave a film/haze.

--> should instead use vinegar/water mixture.

good to know.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 5:37PM
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