Rubbing Out Arm R Seal & Questions
Woodworker West|January.- February 2019
Rubbing Out Arm R Seal & Questions

Rubbing Out Arm R Seal & Questions

David Marks


While I do lots of rubbing out techniques on lacquer, my approach to rubbing out General Finishes’ Arm R Seal is different. Lacquer is a much harder (or should I say brittle) finish and behaves differently. You can wet sand, and polish or buff lacquer with excellent results, because each layer melts into the previous one.

Arm-R-Seal is a family of urethane resin topcoats, which produce a durable and long-lasting finish. Oil-based, they are essentially a thinned down varnish, designed to be wiped on and wiped off. I always build all of my coats of finish with gloss, no matter if it is lacquer, varnish, oil, or polyurethane. In some cases when I want a satin finish, I will apply a coat of satin as the final coat. In other cases, I will use rubbing out techniques to dull down the finish.

My approach to Arm R Seal is to build all of the coats with gloss, wiping it on, wiping it off, then letting it dry overnight. The next day, I rub the surface with 0000 steel wool, blow the dust off, and apply another coat. My goal is to have the last coat looking perfect, after I finish carefully wiping it off and then buffing it with a clean, soft, cloth. Sometimes, Murphy's Law gets in the way, and things do not come out looking so great. If I have something in the finish that looks like it needs to be flattened, for example some specs of dust or maybe a hair from a brush or some dried resin, then I can usually level it with some very light sanding with 600 grit sanding paper.

From there, I can rub the entire surface with 0000 steel wool to blend the sheen and make it uniform. After that, I would apply another coat of gloss oil to fill in any small scratches from the 600 grit sandpaper and let that dry overnight. If this looks good, then the finish is complete.


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January.- February 2019