Troubleshooting "Milky" Appearance in Finish

Diagnosis: the finisher missed the window for applying the topcoat. November 13, 2005

I have a problem with a milky color appearing in my finish. The wood is cherry and it was stained, and we waited for it dry then sealed it with pre-cat sanding sealer, then glazed and let dry; after which we sprayed a pre-cat flat top coat. About 3-4 weeks later we noticed a milky color appearing in the finish.

At the milky part, the top coat will come off easily with your finger nail. I tried a solution of 60% top coat and 40% lacquer sprayed over the existing finish. You could see the milky color disappear only to have some, (not all) of it return a day or two later. After six coats I can't get all of the milky color to disappear. I know what caused the original problem. Does anyone have any suggestions or solutions on fixing the problem without stripping?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
Sounds like a bit too much oil in the glaze or improper drying times for the stain and glaze. At this point you have quite a bit of material on your project and if you keep going you’re sure to surpass the mill thickness of your coating, and that will lead to more problems down the road. I would suggest you strip it down to raw wood and start over. Is it possible for you to leave out the glazing process and go with a toner instead?

From contributor G:
I think that the glaze had not dried completely before the top coats was sprayed. The look we are trying to achieve is highlighting the corners and joints with a black glaze. I don't know of any other way to get that look.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
I agree on Contributor R's recommendation to strip. There's a window of opportunity with the oil-base glaze - topcoat after it flashes and before it starts to cure or wait until it reaches full cure. Sounds like you missed the window.

Also, as a precaution, I'd seal the glaze with a coat of vinyl. To get some color in the recesses only, you could use a fast drying spray glaze. Check with your supplier to see if they have one, or you can make your own.

From contributor S:
If you haven't stripped this already there is a product out there called Speed Clean that will wipe off the milky film wicking up through the finish.