A "Piano Finish" for Plant Stands

Here's a good description of the steps involved in getting a very high-gloss opaque black finish. August 15, 2011

I've been contacted to design and build two flower stands that are to be finished like a piano. The wood I've chosen for the stands is maple. Where's the best place to begin? Sanding sealer with a black Trans-tint? If so, then what? I've never completed a finish like this before.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
Is there going to be any moisture from the plants spilling onto the stands? If not, you could spray multiple layers of black lacquer. Very easy to apply and polish, but very soft. If you want something more durable, you could use a 2K urethane. If you have an automotive paint supplier nearby, they could hook you up.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I think the stands will be protected from water, just from my impression of my client. Good thinking, though. Do you think spraying a sanding sealer first is worth it, or just keep running with the black lacquer?

From contributor C:
I'd use the sealer first to get a nice smooth surface. It's easier to sand.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
What do you mean by a "piano finish"? Opaque black (paint) with a high gloss? Stained black with good wood grain definition with a high gloss finish?

From contributor J:
The finish will be a high gloss, and no grain. I chose maple so I'm hoping the grain won't show through. Just very black and very shiny.

From contributor H:
Well, you are in for some fun; I hope you are not looking for a profit on this. A high gloss finish is very difficult because it shows every imperfection in the underlying substrate and the finish itself.

Automotive paints will help you achieve the look you need, but they are not engineered for wood and are susceptible to cracking under wood movement.

First you will need to apply a primer surfacer. Sand smooth and fill any and all imperfections with body filler. Sand and prime again. At this point you should have a perfectly flat and smooth surface.

Now you are ready to apply the base coat (color). Spray one coat and very lightly sand to remove any nibs. Spray your second coat. You will now have a beautiful matte black finish. If there are any imperfections, fix them now.

Finally, you are ready to spray the clear coat. Apply two coats and then sand. You will see shiny spots where the surface is uneven. Be very careful not to sand through the clear coat. Apply another coat of clear and sand until all the shiny valleys have disappeared and you have a matte surface.

You are now ready to polish to a high gloss. Sand up through the grits - 320, 400, 800, 1200, 2000, 4000. Finish with rubbing compound, then finish compound and swirl remover. Make sure they are all silicone free, usually marked safe for body shop use. You will now have a beautiful finish worthy of a Bentley! Menzernas is the best polishing materials. Once you have mastered the process, you will get better and faster, but expect some trial and error.