I have an oak coffee table with several coats of polyurethane. It has cured for several months. When I rubbed out the finish I can still see surface scratches in bright sunlight. How do I get rid of these scratches?


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When I rubbed out the finish I can still see surface scratches in bright sunlight.

Polishing is a process of replacing big scratches with small ones, and then replacing those with even smaller ones, and so on. That's why we progress through abrasive sizes: very fine abrasive is too small to remove the scratches from coarse abrasives in a reasonable time.

How do I get rid of these scratches?

If the scratches are very light, more polishing with fine abrasive. If the scratches seem deep, then it may be that you proceeded to fine abrasives too quickly and you'll have to back up a bit to something less fine in order to remove the scratches, then proceed through the finer grades again.

If you think the scratches that you're seeing are from the finest abrasive you've used, then you'll need to move on to something even finer.

  • I have been using 0000 steel wool and the very fine abrasive pad (the gray one). Is there a finer abrasive I can use other than the 2 mentioned above?
    – L. Ritter
    Jul 25, 2018 at 13:55
  • @L.Ritter Yes, there are finer abrasives. IIRC, the gray pad isn't as fine as 0000 steel wool. There's a white pad that's finer, and then there are abrasive powders like pumice and rottenstone, and those come in different grades. And there are various pastes and other products that you can use to buff the finish after that. I'm not an expert, so I think you'll find much better advice online if you search yourself, but this might get you started: homesteadfinishingproducts.com/rubbing-out-finishes
    – Caleb
    Jul 25, 2018 at 15:45
  • @L.Ritter, we have numerous previous Q&As here that touch on how to 'rub out' or perfect a varnished surface, all the possible abrasives and polishes you might use are covered. In brief, you want to wet-sand to 1200 (not equivalent to P1200) at least, and then switch to some type of polishing agent.
    – Graphus
    Jul 26, 2018 at 16:46

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