My Tips & Tricks for Finishing with Minwax’s Wipe-On Poly (High Gloss)

So i’ve been doing a bunch of samples with poly, trying to get the technique down and it was only until i started finishing this body did it all really make sense. My buddy Trevin recently finished a guitar body using wipe on poly and had great results so i figured with a redwood top it’d be better protection. Here are some of my tips along the way. I’ve always wanted a lacquer like depth and shine so here’s how i achieve a similar result with Wipe on Poly

First things first : Surface Prep is Paramount. For this body there were some areas that weren’t as flat as they could be but hey im still learning.

  • Keep in mind that your first two to three coats will look like crap initially after you wipe it on. DO NO GO BACK AND TOUCH UP.
  • After each coat take 600 grit paper (wet/dry) and soak it in a bowl of water that has a drop of soap in it. Keep it there for 10 min or more then sand the coats of poly. What you want is an even dullness with minimal shiny spots. the spots just mean that there is a low level where your sanpaper cant hit just yet. DO NOT focus on them otherwise you’ll create a dip. Wet sanding is what will remove the brush strokes/wipe marks. keep the sandpaper soaked and you’ll use less and it’ll work more for you.
  • After the third coat the finish will glide on very smoothly. Sometimes i like to put a drop or two of water in the small cup i use to dab my application cloth in. It just helps it flow better.
  • Keep Applying, 1 coat of wipe on poly is about 1/3 of brush on poly so get ready for a long process.
  • After your last coat (you can choose, the more the merrier) then leave it be for about a week or more. As always longer wait is better. this will allow the finish to cure. Afterwards come at it with 800 grit and 1000 and 2000 until everything is dull again.
  • Take 3M’s Finesse it II and put some elbow grease into it and it will shine up like Lacquer. Take it one step further and use 3M’s Hand Glaze and you are set!



20130507-140045.jpgThis Last pic is with the 3’d coat applied. Its going on much smoother now.

20 Comments Add yours

  1. simonandpris says:

    Hi Alex, do you have to use wet sanding between coats of poly? Would steel wool just work? Are we just trying to get it dull by the end of the sanding in between? Sorry for so many questions! Great work!

    1. purelojik says:

      Hey simonandpris!

      Yea the idea is to get it dull and level as you go. From what i’ve read about poly is that its not a Hot finish like lacquer. meaning that every layer you put on top wont burn into the one below it. Its kinda like tru oil in that the reason why you scuff sand in between is so that it’ll give the next layer something to grip on to. for flat areas use a felt block or something flat. if you use a block be very gentle and avoid the edges because you can sand through really easily.

      so you also dont want to be too aggressive either otherwise you’ll burn into the next layer and its just a pain. I’d advise against steel wool unless its the synthetic type because real steel wool’s fibers can rust over time and get trapped in the layers. synthetic is fine though.

      as always test out a technique on a piece of scrap and note down what you do so you can reproduce it on the final work.

      hope that helps !


      1. simonandpris says:

        Thanks Alex. That’s very helpful. That method seemed to work on my guitar neck but haven’t tried it on the body yet!

  2. Eric says:

    Do you sand with 600 between each coat except the final or do you stop sanding after the third?

    1. purelojik says:

      i usually will do progressively finer grits. the first two coats or even three are usually a bit rougher, i’ll use 400 lightly to dull it all up then apply another coat if that goes on easier then 600 and then do that a few times till you get a little more depth and build. then i’ll go 1000 and 1500 and 2000 between each coat. then let it sit for a few days to a week or more. then come at it again with 2000 and then Finesse it 2 and then hand glaze and a shit load of arm power or if you are good with a buffer then use that too.

  3. adisa mtima says:

    Do you use shellac coats and then the wipe on poly? Why?

    1. purelojik says:

      i did that because i didnt know how well poly would adhere to the epoxy basecoat. I know people do wash coats of shellac before applying a topcoat to ensure adherence so thats what i did. I got the tip from kathy matsushita, shes a luthier who makes pretty beautiful ukuleles.

  4. when using 600 grit, do you use a sanding block? or just by hand?
    Also, does the poly yellow over time?

    1. purelojik says:

      hey Clay!
      for the 600, i’ll sand by hand on the curves and non flat areas, for the flat areas i’ll use a block. for those higher grits i’ll soak my paper in water usually overnight, some warm water with a few drops of soap. then when you sand it wont clog . just keep a towel handy to wipe the sediment after a few minutes of sanding.

      as for the poly, so far my guitar hasnt yellowed and its been about 2 years now

  5. Matty King says:

    This is amazing, thanks so much. What is your email so I can ask a few more specific questions?

  6. Thomas Gray says:

    Thanks for all the tips. I am new to trying to re-finish guitars and struggling to get a nice gloss going. Do you recommend Minwax Wipe-On Poly in the Clear Gloss? Also, the 3M Finesse It 2 and Hand Glaze – are they generally auto proucts? Thanks again. Your tips are great.

    1. purelojik says:

      Yes those are auto products. I like wipe on poly clear gloss for the lacquer look. The satin is almost too matte

      1. Thomas Gray says:

        Thanks again. I have already put on a few coats of the wipe-on poly satin finish. Can I apply the clear on top of the satin using the steps you provide above?

      2. Thomas Gray says:

        Sorry… I meant “clear gloss” on top of the satin in the last reply.

  7. Fernando says:

    My Jackson PC-1 has natural finish and have collected a number of dark stains over time. I’ll sand it and make it like yours. What are the steps to do it from sanding (from the beginning)? Just sand it and apply the wipe-on-polly? or there’s something in between? The wood type is maple. Thanks very much!

  8. Terry Bunch says:

    So was wondering can u use wipe on poly on cars as well???

  9. Hello. How you use 3M’s Finesse? you use some sponge? I’m currently in third layer, using your methond. so far so good!

    1. Hi there! I just used a clean old T shirt and a lot of manual buffing. I think some pro’s use a buffing wheel!

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