Final Sanding on a Fly-Speck Finish

The last licks with 320-grit paper can make all the difference. January 9, 2007

I'm refinishing a solid cherry drop-leaf side table. The customer wants it to have that dreaded fly-speckling to match another table. (I don't think anything should have fly-speckling.) I used extra dark walnut toner and the old tried-and-true toothbrush method. Looked great! I applied two coats of pre-cat lacquer and sanded everything smooth… Still looked great! I applied a sealing coat of lacquer and noticed little tiny pin-hole wherever the specks are. I leveled the surface several more times and applied another coat each time, but still have the tiny holes. They are almost invisible until the light hits just right. Anyone have a suggestion?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor W:
Why did you apply a "sealing coat of lacquer" when you had everything right?

From contributor R:
How can you level the surface when you have fly specks all over it? Just mix up some Van Dyke color into a little paint thinner, dip your brush into the mixture, flick it a bit and then topcoat it with your favorite coating.

From the original questioner:
The fly specking left tiny little bumps all over the finish. By applying two coats of lacquer, I was able to lower the finish and lop off the raised bumps. This produced fly specking with a nice level surface, like the original finish. Since what I used was colored finish to make the specks, I don't know why they just didn't blend in with the later coats. For some reason, I guess they are rejecting a bit? Thanks about the tip using VanDykes color.

From the original questioner:
Hey, I got it. I took my Festool sander with 320 grit and sanded the heck out of it... Bam, no pinholes! I was sanding by hand before and just not cutting it back enough. Lesson learned! Thanks for your input.

From contributor R:
Can you describe how you usually apply fly speckling? Maybe there is something in your technique that needs experience.

From the original questioner:
I usually use glaze mixed with a bit of naptha, but I was out of naptha. I tried something different because of time. The table was delivered on time (whew!) and the customer loved it.

From contributor G:
Why not use your gravity gun? Adjust the needle to open fully, adjust air down to barely anything. It will spit the glaze out. Adjust your viscosity accordingly. This method is way faster for any job, big or small.

From the original questioner:
Thanks! I'll try it next time... any excuse to buy a new tool. I use a Sata cup gun for everything - love it! I've been thinking of buying a small gravity fed gun, so now I have an excuse to spend the money. But I still hate flyspecks and think they're ugly and useless and if I think it's possible, I try to talk customers out of it unless it's needed to match another piece of furniture.