Creating a Luxurious High-Gloss Finish

Creating a Luxurious High-Gloss Finish

Demonstration of MIRKA® Sanders, Polishers and Abrasive Products

Published: 10/2/2014
By: Jerome Vernon
About the Author: Jerome Vernon is a software developer/project manager and an avid antiques enthusiast. When Jerome’s not busy creating business related software products for his clients he’s restoring antiques and writing articles for Restoration News.
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Creating a Luxurious High-Gloss Finish

Demonstration of MIRKA® Sanders, Polishers and Abrasive Products

If you've seen the first article of this series then you already know that my quest has been to find the best sanders and abrasives for restoration and refinishing work. Dozens of sanders and abrasive types have been evaluated and compared. While some clearly performed better than others, one company did emerge with particularly notable products of superior performance.

MIRKA® Abrasives has been manufacturing high quality sanding equipment and abrasives for over seventy years. The company has recently introduced a series of abrasives perfectly suited to the delicate requirements of restoration and refinishing. The first article describes MIRKA's compact electric random orbital sander, dust collector and important accessory items. This article will demonstrate MIRKA® sanders, polishers and abrasive products while applying luxurious high-gloss finish on several aged mahogany panels.

High Gloss LacquerThis is the second in a series of articles that focus on the utilization of abrasives and sanders particularly suited for restoration and refinishing of antiques and fine furnishings.

The first article, “MIRKA® CEROS - Innovative Sanders and Abrasives for Restoration and Refinishing” describes MIRKA's
compact electric random orbital sanders, dust collector and accessory items. The article also briefly mentions MIRKA's 'Net' sanding concept and the advantages of dust-free sanding. 

In this article, we will refinish several mahogany panels while demonstrating how MIRKA® sanders, polishers and abrasives are utilized to achieve an incredible high-gloss finish. With respect to the general usage of abrasives for refinishing work, this article will also describe some common mistakes and how they can be easily avoided.

Lets begin by reviewing the abrasive products to be demonstrated in this article

AbranetAbranet Mesh Abrasive
MIRKA's innovative 'Net' sanding concept is unlike any other; consisting of a dense network of polyamide fabric threads onto which the abrasive grit is bonded. 

With thousands of holes they provide phenomenal dust extraction. Since dust is continuously being sucked away it's always possible to see exactly what is happening at the sanding surface. This gives the user greater control over the job and avoids problems such as over sanding. Abranet far outlasts traditional abrasives which save both time and materials. This makes Abranet the most efficient choice for a vast majority of sanding procedures while simultaneously producing consistent and superior results.

MicrostarMicrostar Abrasive Film
Microstar has a special stearate layer with a smooth film backing and is perfectly suited for finish rectification of clear top coats. Microstar produces 
excellent results and  lasts longer because it doesn't clog as easily as traditional stearated abrasive products. Developed for dry sanding only, it produces a very fine scratch pattern that is easy to polish out. 

AbralonAbralon Abrasive Foam/Fabric
Abralon is multifunctional sanding material developed for tackling both smooth and profiled surfaces. Its patented flexible construction allows it to create an 
ultra-fine surface finish on both flat and profiled surfaces while minimizing the risk of pressure marks. The flexible weave and open cell design holds large amounts of water or lubricants for cooling, making it suitable for both dry and wet sanding, by machine or by hand.

Abralon is the perfect abrasive for wet 
sanding of high gloss finishes prior to polishing and for sheen adjustment of semi-gloss, satin and flat finishes.

Polarshine 10Polarshine 10 Polishing Compound
Polarshine 10 is a medium coarse polishing compound especially designed for achieving the best result after sanding with grits P1500 and finer. Polarshine 10 is 
suitable for polishing of scratch resistant top coats. It is designed to keep the surface temperature low when polishing and it removes marks permanently. Polarshine 10 is silicon free and can be used for both machine and hand application.

Polarshine VF5 Polarshine VF5 Polishing Compound
Polarshine VF5 is a medium fine polishing compound suitable for hologram removal and removal of sanding marks after sanding with grits P2500 and finer. For clear 
top coat finishes Polarshine VF5 produces a deep high gloss shine. Polarshine VF5 is silicone free and suitable both for machine or hand applications.


Now that we've had a chance to review the abrasives, let's get to the workbench
and begin refinishing those mahogany panels in a luxurious high-gloss lacquer 

In the following demonstration, I will refinish three identical antique mahogany panels measuring approximately 8 by 25 inches. For this project, I will be applying high quality wood finishing products manufactured by "Mohawk Finishing Products" of Hickory, North Carolina, a division of "RPM Wood Finishes Group"

All three panels will be refinished using the same multi-step process; however, each will receive a slightly different color treatment.  For finish repair demonstration purposes, I will deliberately add multiple scratches and a few deep gouges to one of the panels.

Before we actually begin, I should mention that a beautiful finish begins with surface preparation and the correct usage of abrasives is essential to achieving a 
uniform, smooth surface. For restoration and refinishing, a primary objective is to remove and apply the least amount of material possible. One of the most common mistakes in refinishing work is excess removal of material by over sanding. Evidence of over sanding is most noticeable around the edges and other dimensional features of a piece. Over sanding degrades dimensional characteristics, restricts penetration of stains and causes irreversible damage to delicate veneers and inlays. The following is a list of suggestions that may help avoid excess removal of material by over sanding.

Tips to avoid over sanding…
  • Use dust-free sanders and abrasives, such as MIRKA® CEROS and ABRANET, wherever possible. Over sanding can be more readily avoided when the operator has an unobstructed and clear view of the surface area.
  • Begin a sanding task with a finer grit then, select the next coarser grit only if needed. Additional material can always be removed but not added.
  • Sand the center area of flat surfaces first, followed by sanding around the perimeter with much lighter force and with fewer sanding strokes. Abrasive materials will tend to cut the edges of a substrate more aggressively than within the center areas of the same substrate.
  • When sanding bare wood avoid using exceedingly fine grits. Exceedingly fine grits reduce the pore size thus restricting the areas for stain pigments to penetrate. For harder woods, exceedingly fine grits can cause wood resins to glaze thus leading to a splotchy and/or non-uniform finish.
  • When sanding bare wood using progressively finer grits, minor defects such as discolorations, shallow scratches and gouges should totally disappear upon the final pass of the finest grit. Avoid attempting to completely remove all defects with the relatively coarser initial grits.
  • Avoid sanding between each top coat layer when possible. This is unavoidable for finishes that rely solely on mechanical bonding or, when finish defects such as runs, sages or contamination occur. Typically with catalyzed lacquers, and only within a limited time period, additional coats can be applied without sanding. For nitrocellulose lacquers, shellac and other finishes that rely on evaporation of volatiles for curing, sanding between each coat is often not necessary.
  • Let the abrasive do the work; keep the sander/polisher in constant motion and without excessively high speeds or applying undue downward force. With heavy sanders this in more difficult so select the lightest and most easy to control sander possible. Interface pads are helpful and often necessary when sanding delicate materials. Wood finishes have a melting point and, undue downward force increases friction and heat. Excess force can burn the wood and soften the finish thus producing pills that clog the abrasive and damage the finish.

Process Steps

Step 1 - Surface Preparation

The top left-hand picture shows one of the three mahogany panels to be refinished in this article. For demonstration purposes, I added some noticeable scratches and deep gouges to the surface of the panel shown. We will start our refinishing project by removing the existing finish using a methylene chloride based remover. A scraper and steel wool are used to remove the bulk of the material and final cleanup was done using an acetone dampened towel.

Next, the deep gouges are filled (over-filled) with putty. Notice the scratches penetrating into the substrate. My guess is that the average depth of the scratches is ~5/1000 of an inch. Also notice that the color of the wood is non-uniform.  The darker heavily stained areas need to be made lighter so the resulting finish is both uniform and clear. 

To remove the scratches, level the putty and obtain a uniform color, the panel is sanded using the MIRKA® CEROS and Abranet abrasives. First, the panel is sanded using P180 Abranet, starting with the putty (fill) then overall. Sanding is done in the center areas then more lightly around the edges. 

Although the scratches and discolorations are somewhat visible, the panel is then sanded using P240 Abranet, again, starting in the center area of the panel then more lightly around the edges.  Sanding continued using P240 Abranet until the color was adequately uniform and surface scratches vanished. 

Notice how the green towel placed under the wood during the sanding operations shows absolutely no sign of sanding dust. Also notice that the panel is uniform in color and free of surface defects. We are now ready to begin applying a finish. 

Step 2 - Apply Color

The top left-hand picture shows the damaged panels after a dark red mahogany dye stain and low solids vinyl sealer coat (wash coat) have been spray applied. 

Mohawk Finishing Products BLENDAL Sticks were used to blend the patched areas with the surrounding wood. The repaired areas then received an additional coat of vinyl sealer. 

To achieve a smooth surface the panel is lightly sanded (scuff sanded) using P400 Abranet with the MIRKA® CEROS set to the lowest speed; sanded just enough to remove the raised wood fibers.

Mahogany is an open- pore wood. We are applying a full-filled finish to all panels so; the open pores in the wood are packed (filled) with grain filler. Dark mahogany grain filler is applied (packed/cleaned/dried) then a full solids (un-reduced) vinyl sealer coat spray applied in two passes. Spraying in two passes helps to ensure complete coverage. Note that the grain filler is now sandwiched between two sealer coats. 

(For information about applying grain filler see  "Solvent Based Grain Filler Application, Instructional Guide" located in the Mohawk Finishing Products, Instructional Guides section of the Downloads page.)

After the sealer coat dries (~ 2 hours) the panel is then sanded fairly aggressively using P320 Abranet with the MIRKA® CEROS set to a moderately low speed. The objective of this sanding step is to remove the sealer level with, but not into, the top (rifts) of the grain and, too leave an adequate layer of sealer over the grain filler packed into the open pores of the wood.

In the next step, a red mahogany pigmented stain (glaze) is applied by rag. A graining/glazing brush is used to sweep the glaze around the surface until the desired appearance is achieved. The panel has received multiple color treatments and the appearance is clear.

Notice that the natural grain patterns are accentuated and fully visible.

Step 3 - Apply Top Coat

In this step, I will spray-apply an ample film of clear gloss lacquer onto the panels. The objective is to build smooth and level film however; not so thick as 
to exceed the manufactures maximum dry-film thickness specification. Mohawk FINISHERS CHOICE lacquer has a maximum dry-film thickness of 4 mils. We had previously packed the pores of the wood with grain filler so a film thickness of 4 mils will place the top of the lacquer just above the (rifts) of the wood grain.

Four coats of lacquer will be applied. The first two coats will be applied un-reduced and the third coat will be applied reduced by 25% with lacquer reducer (3:1). The final coat is reduced by 50% (1:1). A retarder is also added to the final coat to aid in flow-out of material. Note that a highly reduced final coat can help in achieving a smoother surface but over reduction can sometimes lead to fog/dry spray issues.

After the second coat dried (~4 hours), the panels were sanded lightly using P320 ABRANET. After the third coat dried (~4 hours), the panels were sanded lightly using P400 ABRANET. During both sanding procedures a 5mm interface pad was used and the MIRKA® CEROS set to a modest speed. Also, during the sanding operation the panels and abrasive is frequently cleaned. ABRANET abrasives can be easily cleaned using a small brush then re-used on future projects. 

After sanding and before applying a subsequent coat of lacquer, the panels are thoroughly cleaned by wiping with a lint-free rag dampened in Mohawk SILICONE WASH.

Very minimal pressure should be applied to the surface while sanding semi-cured lacquer.   Minimal pressure, using an interface pad and frequent cleaning helps prevent undue friction and potential melting (<77 deg. C. for shellac and <160 deg. C. for lacquer ) of the topcoat. Friction/heat could cause pill formation and damage the finish. Any hand sanding operations should also follow similar precautionary procedures.

Finishing Tip: There are several common lacquer finishing issues that can cause indentations or craters in the finish; cratering (fish eye) often caused by silicone contamination and, pinholes or bubbling often caused by flash time (drying issues). 

When issues occur the defects should be repaired prior to applying additional coats and the finisher has several choices for corrective action. Note that with 
any of these remedies the initial cause of the issue is first corrected and the surface thoroughly cleaned (free of silicone or other contaminants). The first option is to remove (sand) the surround material until a level cut is established. This option has many obvious drawbacks and should be avoided.  The second option is to re-flow the lacquer film which is usually done by applying a light mist of an aerosol solvent/retarder blend. This option is effective when defects are minor and is often the first course of corrective action. The third, and most effective option, is to fill the craters with additional material by applying a tiny drop of lacquer into the void using a small paint brush. With this method, the surface is subsequently sanded level prior to applying additional coats.

For more information of finishing issues and corrective actions see the document: "Finish Troubleshooting Guide, Solving Common Wood Finishing Problems" located 
in the Mohawk Finishing Products, Instructional Guides section of the Downloads page

High-gloss Sheen:  In preparation for our final two finishing steps, rubout and polishing, I have compiled the following information regarding the sheen of a finish. Sheen refers to the reflective attributes of a finish and is commonly expressed as flat, satin, semi-gloss and gloss. From a coatings manufacturing standpoint, sheen is controlled through the introduction of an additive, often a measured amount of finely ground silica. As light traverses the coating and encounters a flattening agent it is either absorbed or reflected at random angles and dispersed. This causes the coating to appear less reflective.  

Another common approach for achieving a specific sheen is by abrading the surface. Coarse evenly dispersed abrasions produce a flat sheen and finer evenly 
dispersed abrasions produce a glosser sheen. High-gloss sheens have no observable abrasions so the reflected angle is equal to the angle of incidence. As specified in ISO2813/ ASTM D523 sheen is measured in gloss units. For example: with gloss coatings the gloss unit measurement is around 80gu. A trained observer can often discern differences of +-5gu. Various instruments are available to measure the “gloss units” and accuracy improves when the instruments incident light source projects from 20, 60 and 85 degree angles. 

In the next finishing step, you will see exactly how sheen adjustment is easily accomplished using the MIRKA CEROS and ABRALON abrasives. The final step will 
demonstrate how a high-gloss finish is achieved using a MIRKA® Polisher and Polarshine liquid abrasives.

Rubbing out the finishStep 4 - Rubout and Sheen Adjustment

In this step, we will rubout the lacquer coating and begin the steps for achieving high-gloss sheen. The rubout procedure corrects minor finish defects and 
establishes a level surface above the (rifts) of the wood grain. We will begin by sanding with MIRKA® MICROSTAR.  MICROSTAR has a special stearate layer and a smooth film backing. It's designed for removing minor defects in finished surfaces. Rubout is a delicate procedure, which if done incorrectly can cause damage to the finish. A 5mm interface pad is used and the MIRKA® CEROS is set to its lowest speed. The dust collector is not used throughout the remaining steps.

I will start by lightly sanding the panels using P800 MICROSTAR. Very minimal pressure is applied while continuously gliding the sander over the surface. The lacquer should easily powder. If pills rapidly form, this may be an indication the lacquer is not adequately cured. Tiny pills can also form as dried lacquer powder coalesces so during the sanding operation the panel and abrasive disc is frequently cleaned. Sanding continues until the shiny (low) spots nearly  disappear. Note that if many shiny spots exist between rifts of the grain then, additional coats of lacquer may be needed.

Next the panels are sanded with P1000 MICROSTAR, using the same precaution, sanding continues until the shiny (low) spots completely disappear. At this point, dry sanding stops and wet sanding using MIRKA® ABRALON begins. 

ABRALON is well established among professionals as a premier abrasive for wet sanding of high gloss finishes prior to polishing and for sheen adjustment of semi-gloss, satin and flat finishes.You will see, as I progress through the grits, how ABRALON is used to achieve a precise sheen level for wood finishes. 

A small amount of water, or a diluted 
rubbing lubricant such as Mohawk WOOL-LUBE, is applied to both ABRALON pad and surface. The MIRKA® CEROS is set to a moderate speed.  I will begin with P1000 and end with P4000 ABRALON while cleaning the surface before advancing to the next grit. While sanding using a 50% overlap pattern, the water and sanding debris will combine forming slurry on the surface. Periodic cleaning and re-wetting may be required. ABRALON pads are highly resilient and can be rinsed and reused on future projects.

Notice how the sheen of the panel transforms from flat through semi-gloss.

Step 5 - Polishing To High-gloss Sheen

In this step, I will bring the panels to a brilliant high-gloss finish using a MIRKA® 77mm (3 inch) Rotary Polisher and MIRKA® POLARSHINE liquid polishing compounds. 

The MIRKA® MR-30TH Rotary Polisher is a powerful, light-weight and easy to control air-powered machine. While most bulky electric polishers weigh in at over 5 pounds, the MIRKA® MR-30TH weighs only 2 pounds. Precise controllability is important when considering that the primary concern associated with electric polishers is the likelihood of melting or burning through fragile lacquer and shellac finishes. Here the MIRKA MR-30TH will be run at low speeds so the pressure regulator is set to 60 PSI.

In the previous step, I finished the rubout and sheen adjustment procedures with P4000 ABRALON. In reality, we could easily begin polishing with MIRKA® POLARSHINE VF5 medium fine polishing compound. However, for demonstration I will begin with POLARSHINE 10 medium coarse polishing compound using a twisted wool pad. 

A small amount of POLARSHINE 10 is deposited directly onto the twisted wool pad. With the polisher set to the slowest speed the compound is deposited (spread) evenly over the surface. The polisher is then set to a moderate speed and polishing begins in a straight and slightly overlapping pattern. Two full passes are typically adequate for removal of P1500 and finer scratch patterns. The panel is then thoroughly cleaned by wiping with the wood grain using a clean, pre-dampened micro fiber towel. 

The final procedure is to polish the panel with POLARSHINE VF5 using a black foam pad. A small amount of POLARSHINE VF5 is deposited directly onto the foam pad. With the polisher set to the slowest speed the compound is deposited evenly over the surface. With polisher set to a moderate speed, polishing begins in a straight, slightly overlapping pattern. Several passes are adequate for removal of P2500 and finer scratch patterns. The panel is then thoroughly cleaned by wiping with the wood grain using a clean, pre-dampened micro fiber towel. 

Notice how the sheen of the panel transforms from semi-gloss through high-gloss. 

I had mentioned in the introduction of this article that three identical aged mahogany panels were refinished and each received a slightly different color

From left to right: The first panel received a red mahogany dye stain, dark mahogany grain filler reduced in color strength by 50% and red mahogany 
glazing (pigmented) stain. The second panel received a yellow dye stain with the same grain filler and glazing stain treatment. The third panel received a van-dyke brown dye stain, dark mahogany grain filler and dark mahogany glazing stain. The photograph of these high-gloss finishes were taken under a diffused light source.

Some would say “Sanding” - it's not rocket science! But for MIRKA® Abrasives it really is rocket science. MIRKA® sanders, polishers and abrasive products are 
utilized world-wide; from aerospace to particle accelerators, from the finest European automobiles to fine antiques and furnishings.  MIRKA® Abrasives consistently delivers leading-edge technology for the world's most demanding of applications. Antique and fine furnishing restorers, refinishers, hobbyists and craftsmen can now take advantage of MIRKA's revolutionary products to realize vastly improved efficiencies and unsurpassed results. 

high gloss finish

MIRKA® Distributors
MIRKA® sanders and abrasives are available world-wide through an extensive network of distributors. Here is a link that has a listing of distributors within USA: [MIRKA® CEROS USA Distributors].

Restoration News accepted no monitory award, support or payment from MIRKA® Abrasives for the development and publication of this article and its content. The content, usage guidance and, general opinions regarding all products mentioned here are the sole opinions of the Restoration News staff; as determined by their independent interpretation, analysis and testing.  In addition, Restoration News assumes sole responsibility for all content contained in this article as defined by Restoration News limitation of liability and website disclaimers.

Materials Warning Statement

This is not an OSHA/NOSHA recognized warning. One or more of the products described here is flammable. To prevent death or serious injury, proper precautions must be observed. Refer to product material safety sheet for detailed information. Flammable liquid and vapor, keep away from heat/sparks/open flames/hot surfaces. Keep container tightly closed.
One or more of the products described here causes lung, eye, skin, nose and, throat irritation. To prevent death or serious injury, proper precautions must be observed. Refer to product material safety sheet for detailed information. Harmful or fatal if swallowed, may be harmful if absorbed through the skin, vapor harmful. A NIOSH-approved air-purifying respirator with the appropriate cartridge may be appropriate under certain circumstances.

For material safety data sheets, product data sheets and, addition instructional guides; visit our Downloads Page:
Click Here

MIRKA Website (North America)
   Sanders, Polishers and Abrasives
MIRKA Woodworking Website (USA)
   Explains MIRKA Sanders and Abrasives for Woodworking
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Comments and Discussions
Add a comment regarding this Review:
Add Comment
Richard P.
10/5/2014 4:23 AM

Another excellent article!  I have been using Mirka Abralon finish sanding pads for years and have found them to be excellent, however, my experience with the Abranet pads was not so good.  I do not have a Ceros sander and was using the Abranet discs with a conventional random orbit sander.  The problem that I experienced was that the hook and loop pads on my sander just wouldnt last for more than a couple uses.  The Abranet pads were so open that the "hooks" were exposed through the pad and worn off.  I still have a large inventory of these Abranet discs, and thought the concept behind them great when I purchased them. Perhaps I'll invest in a Ceros sander and give the product another try.

Thank you for the informative review and keep up the good work.

Rich Patnoe

Wooden Restorations

Add Responce

Jerome V.
10/6/2014 6:57 AM

Hi Rich,

Thank you for your comments.

It is true that the Abranet GRIP fastener really holds onto the backing pad and when removed can actually break those fragile tiny hooks (some sanders are more fragile than others). MIRKA STRONGLY RECOMMENDS the use of a PAD SAVER. It is basically a very thin interface pad but without cushion that’s designed to protect the sander backing pad. A package of 5 pad savers will last quite a long time and costs around $19 from Amazon (Mirka 9955 5" Abranet Grip Faced (Hook and Loop) Pad Protector - 5 per pack).

Best Regards,

Jerome Vernon

Jerry R.
10/13/2014 9:48 AM

Nice Article!

I use the Abralon pads with my 6 inch Bosch ROS for touchup work sheen adjustment. I only use gloss lacquer spray so the discs work really good to lower the sheen evenly and overall.  Where do you buy the polisher and compounds?


Add Responce

Jerome V.
10/13/2014 10:59 AM

Hi Jerry,

Abralon is an excellent product for sheen-adjustment during finish repair, touchup and restoration work. I plan to publish some how-to articles on this approach over the next several months.

You can find MIRKA polishers and polishing compounds on E-bay and Amazon. MIRKA products are available from numerous online distributers. You can also call by phone to get exactly what you need. For example; take a look at "AB's Gloves and Abrasives" for compounds and "SMS Distributors" for polishers/buffers.

When polishing using any compounds, make sure to first protect the client’s environment by covering nearby furnishings and laying down a tarp. Using an apron is also advisable. It’s really easy to mistakenly sling polishing compounds onto yourself, flooring and other furnishings.


Jerome Vernon

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