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3 Reasons Why I Don’t Use Polyurethane

January 3, 2017 by Scott - Saws on Skates

Polyurethane has it’s place, but for me, I generally don’t use it for my DIY furniture projects. Polyurethane is too finicky, the application is difficult and it doesn’t give the look I want for my projects. These are three reasons I don’t use polyurethane and what finish I use instead.

This DIY finish for wood is easy to make and way easier than polyurethane to apply. It just wipes on!

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3 Reasons Why I don’t Use Polyurethane

Finicky Finish

Polyurethane is way too fussy for me. Just look at the instructions on the back of the container… polyurethane must be applied in a dust free environment. That rules out applying polyurethane in my workshop or applying polyurethane outside. In my small house that means I’m applying poly in my kitchen!

Air bubbles are also an issue with polyurethane. Never shake a can of polyurethane or wipe your brush on the rim of the can because you’ll introduce bubbles into the finish. The bubbles will dry in your finish and leave the surface bumpy. The only way to get rid of the bubbles is to sand, which means more time and effort.

Just like air bubbles, drips can be an issue with polyurethane. Drips must be corrected right away while still wet. If drips are allowed to dry they’ll need to be cut out with a razor blade and sanded. Again, this is an extra step that will consume your time and effort

Application is Difficult

Applying polyurethane is difficult. The product must be applied with a brush in long, even strokes. You must also keep a wet edge. If you touch an area with your brush that is dry or drying, you’ll pull the finish which could leave bumps when it finally dries. These bumps will need to be sanded.

To apply additional coats, you’ll need to lightly sand with 220 grit sandpaper or steel wool. Again, this means more time and effort.

The Final Look

While polyurethane provides a clear, durable finish, to me it looks plastic-like. Polyurethane does not become part of the wood. If you look closely, you can see it just sits on top of the surface.

Where to Use Poly

Don’t get me wrong, polyurethane has it’s place. It’s great for floors, doors, woodwork around windows and doors and furniture that will get lots of abuse like dining tables and kitchen cabinets.

What I Use Instead

For my furniture projects I use a top coat that is waaaay less finicky, the application is a snap and the finish looks like a hand rubbed finish you might find on a quality antique. I use Bob’s Miracle finish for wood!

Bob’s Miracle finish for Wood is a DIY wipe on top coat you make yourself. It’s three simple ingredients: gloss spar varnish, boiled linseed oil and paint thinner.

Easy Finish

Because it’s a wipe on top coat, you don’t have to worry about applying in a dust free environment. You simply wipe it on, allow it to penetrate the wood for a few minutes, then wipe off. This means you can apply outside with plenty of fresh air and not have to worry about dust or insects getting trapped in your finish.

Air bubbles and drips aren’t a concern either. Again, you’ll wipe it on and wipe it off. So bubbles and drips are virtually impossible.

Easy Application

Did I mention this is a wipe on top coat? That means the application is sooo easy! Wipe it on with a rag, allow to penetrate and wipe it off with a clean rag. That’s it! No brushes, no worrying about keeping a wet edge and no sanding in between coats.

Final Look

Because Bob’s Miracle finish for Wood actually penetrates into the wood, it becomes part of the wood itself. It doesn’t have that plastic, floating on top of the wood look that poly has. For me, Bob’s Miracle finish for Wood has the exact look I want for my projects. A timeless, not too shiny, hand rubbed look you might find on a quality antique.


Poly has it’s place on floors, doors, trim and table tops, but for me, I prefer a hand rubbed look on my furniture pieces. Who has time for finicky, difficult to apply finishes when you can make your own DIY finish that is easy to apply and gives amazing results. Make a batch of Bob’s Miracle finish for Wood today!



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12 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why I Don’t Use Polyurethane

  1. Bruce says:

    That’s basically danish oil. I use it all the time too. The thing to remember is that with open grain woods, it can leave the grain open and the piece can collect dust in those grains and look dingy over time. If you do a couple coats of this finish, following up with a poly top is easy. Of coarse, you can use a grain filler too.

  2. Donna says:

    Can this be used on top of painted finishes (like chalk paint)?

  3. Shawn says:

    Just one question, do you have to keep it mixed thoroughly? My mixture separates almost immediately. Every time I dunked my rag I mixed. Is that right? I got it on and so far it’s exactly what I want. Just seems weird…

    • Scott - Saws on Skates says:

      Hey Shawn – That is weird. I’ve never had mine separate. Can you share pics or the names of the products you used, so we can try to figure out what’s going on?

      • Shawn Cerda says:

        Scott, here’s what I have. Maybe it’s because I used satin as they were out of clear when I bought it and I needed it right then. I tried to upload a photo but it wouldn’t let me. I used Klein Strip boiled linseed oil and paint thinner, and verathane satin spar urethane with uv protector. The BLO and Paint Thinner mixed but the urethane settles out almost immediately.

      • Scott - Saws on Skates says:

        Hey Shawn – I think I may have figured this out. I googled “verathane satin spar urethane with uv protector” and it appears this product is water based. Check your container and see if it says water based. The spar urethane needs to be oil based, so if yours is water based, it would explain the “oil and vinegar salad dressing” separation you’re getting. Check it out and let me know – I’d love to figure this out!

      • Shawn Cerda says:

        Scott, thanks! You are correct! I completely didn’t think about oil and water but that’s it! The urethane is water based and I’ll be changing it today. I aporeciate all your help in figuring this out and will be using your method from now on with, hopefully, much greater success!

      • Scott - Saws on Skates says:

        That’s awesome Shawn – glad we figured it out!

  4. Jackie says:

    I’m going to give this a try. Thanks for sharing!

    Have you ever tried the wipe on poly? It might be perfect for when you need more protection.
    It is super easy to apply, dries fast for quick recoats. I only sand after the final coat is dry- just a quick wipe with very high grit paper. It’s like silk. The satin gives a nice finish too.

    • Scott - Saws on Skates says:

      Hi Jackie – I haven’t tried wipe on poly, but it sounds like I need to give it a try. Thank you for the recommendation!

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