After applying dye to my furniture pieces, I wanted to sand them down a bit because they were slightly rough to the touch. 400 grit seemed to remove a bit of the dye so I used what else I had, 1000. I did a light sanding all over so that the pieces are now smooth, however I'm wondering if this is bad for the bonding of the polyurethane (oil base), or if that only applies to the in-between coats of polyurethane.

edit: Since I'm not able to comment, I'd like to say thanks for the detailed response. I did do a test application on two areas of the same piece, one sanded with 1000 grit and one not, and the sanded part (with poly) felt better texture and color wise. I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking for as far as defects-- maybe it's not a big deal. But my piece was never sanded with a low grit to begin with, so maybe that's why. I considered cutting the poly as suggested, but the minwax container said "Do not thin". So I am unsure, but I'm thinking it won't be necessary.

  • It may be bad to sand too finely before applying stain, however. Ssanding past about 180 grit starts filling the pores in the wood and can reduce how much the stain soaks in. That might actually be useful in some cases, but it usually isn't what you want.
    – keshlam
    Nov 3, 2015 at 2:45

2 Answers 2


As a general thing it's not a good ideal to sand this finely before applying certain finishes, including varnish, but in this case you solved a practical problem with what you had available which is often what we're forced to do in real-world situations that occur outside of the finishing textbooks. In case you weren't planning on doing so anyway I would recommend you thin your first coat of poly rather than apply it full-strength (note: not absolutely required, just a security measure).

Another option is not to worry about the rough surface now but instead, apply the first coat or two of varnish and then sand. In this way only the tops of the roughness poke through the finish layer and the sanding shaves off just those. After which you can proceed to varnish as normal.

A third option is actually to apply a thick enough coating of finish (in multiple coats) that you don't sand the wood surface at all. Instead, the roughness becomes fully covered in the topcoat and as amazing as it might seem you can't see it. Obviously many of us don't apply varnish this thickly so it's likely this is the least practical of the solutions for the home woodworker.

For next time, the best solution of all is to pre-raise the grain prior to staining so that no post-stain sanding is required. Sanding after staining should always be avoided if possible.

however I'm wondering if this is bad for the bonding of the polyurethane (oil base), or if that only applies to the in-between coats.

There are no bonding issues with sanding finely between coats of varnish (poly or otherwise) despite what you might have read.

In fact no sanding of any kind is required between coats of varnish to ensure bonding of the next layer. Ideally the one, and only, reason you should sand between coats of varnish is to 'de-nib' — to sand off minor surface blemishes, e.g. from dust particles landing in the finish before it has dried.

Runs or drips, streaks and brushmarks, none of these are best dealt with by sanding between coats. These are broadly speaking all avoidable issues and one's application process needs to looked at if these occur regularly, but all of them are best deal with in a single step at the end of finishing rather than dealing with them at each stage of the process. In this way you save both time and finish, and the resulting surface is frequently far better too (after fine wet-sanding and buffing/polishing).


Pre raising was a standard procedure for furniture when I was in trade school. We would rub the entire surface with a damp cloth to raise any grain tips, let dry, then sand with up to 220 sandpaper. We then stained, first coat thinned, varnish, or used a polyurethane primer, sanded with open coat silica carbide 220, then finish coats, (sometimes up to 7 coats), usually light sanded between.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.