Custom build.... varnish paint finishing question

Having spent quite some time on these forums and hacked an existing el-cheapo arcade stick with sanwa/seimitsu parts with an official 360 wireless controller I thought it was time to build my own custom case.

After a few weeks of planning, buying materials, more planning, experimenting with woodwork, even more planning… I’m now currently at the stage of having assembled the wooden frame and painted with 3 layers of a mahogany coloured (water based i think) varnish. It looks quite good at the moment but the varnish isn’t really that thick nor is it that glossy… here’s some pics of it so far:

Now, my woodworking/painting skills are definitely not the best in the world and it took me ages to even get it this far… so my questions are:

  • do you guys think I need a few more coats of the varnish or a clear poly finish paint/spray?

  • Also, I’ve read on the forums that alot of people use cutting compound/wax after painting the case but can/should I still do this with my case?

Sorry if this sounds like a noobish question and thanks in advance!

Check my stick. I put 6 coat of varnish on it. I like the way yours look right now but make sure the wood is sealed so if someone spill any liquid on it the wood wiil be safe.

seriously nice work! but are you sure the front button have enough clearance inside? or will you trim the top panel to make it fit?

Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of… so that’s why I was asking whether to whack some more coats of that varnish, get some extra strength clear varnish or try that rubbing compound/wax combo… I’ll prob add a few extra coats of the varnish first to see how it goes I suppose.

You mean the front buttons with just the top panel or the top mounted buttons?

Anyways, the pic above is of the front buttons in with the top panels in place with a few top buttons to show that it fits… and if anyone noticed, the hole for the joystick is 30mm, I noticed only once I had drilled it… luckily the joystick cover will hide that mistake…! :sweat:

i did a pine box with varnish/stain. i put 3 coats on it. however this is what really made it shine. 000 steel wool. after every coat was dry i quickly went over it with the wool. makes it super smooth. after the last coat i put on 3 coats of water based polyurethane (sponged it on). followed the same steps and it came out to a nice mirror shine. or almost mirroe :slight_smile:

so far your box is looking awesome. i like the dark stain.

I think I will put one/two more coats of the varnish and then find some sealer like arr4ws says… prob something like polyurethane like you mentioned pixeldotz.

Thanks for the comments and advice so far!!

you can find some satin finish varnish that could do what you want to!

@arr4ws, yeah… just been trawling though the UK DIY stores and came across this:

Professional Interior Varnish Satin @Wickes UK

Says it contains polyurethane aswell… I’ll probably pick up a tin tomorrow after work and give that a try.

Thanks for the suggestion!

Right, a little update… have bought some clear polyurethane based varnish and have applied two coats of this over the last two days.

From the above photos it doesn’t look that much different from the original photos I posted earlier…?! :wtf:

Now for the million dollar question… is it worth wet sanding it, using rubbing compound and then finishing off with carnauba wax for the ultimate finish?

any advice is greatly appreciated!!

im no expert but I dont know if 2 coats will be enough for you the wetsand…

im currently on my 3rd layer of poly with 2 more to go before I attempt to sand.

im sure others will chime in that have more experience with this stuff

soo… tell us what those tiny holes on the right are for :slight_smile:

looking back and forth over them you can see the light shines better on the update, its an impressive box, looking forward to the updates!

this looks great, cant wait to see the finished article

Thanks guys, will keep you all updated!!

The two smaller holes on the far right yeah? The one right at the end will be the mic socket and the one next to it will be the DPDT switch.

Thanks for replying!!

this painting and finishing business is sure more stressful and time consuming that I thought it would be… any advice is good for me tbh!! :sweat:

So 5 coats is prob a better figure yeah?

omg this casing is so class!!

Firstly, I just wish to say that your case, for a first time build, is superb - you should be very proud of your work. I love the mitered corners you have produced them expertly.

In terms of finishing, at this stage you will need some fine sand paper, some lint free cloth, a bottle of white spirit, some wirewool, a non hair-loss small paintbrush, some clear gloss yacht varnish and lots of patience.

To begin with, finely sand the area you wish to gloss and re-apply the mahogany stain that you have been using another 2/ 3 times to ensure deep absorbtion (wait to dry obviously bewteen coats and resand lightly every time).

Once the final stain has been applied and the surface is dry, lightly sand again and clean the surface with a lint-free cloth to remove all dust and impurities. Then add a coat of varnish which has been mixed with thinner/ white spirits (8 parts varnish, 2 parts thinner). Wait for it to dry, inspect for and impurities and sand lightly if necessary or use wirewool if gloops or droplets have formed and hardened - repeat this process 2/3 times to your taste.

The secret to varnishing is getting the first coats of undercoat nice and deep. The richer the base the better the finish. Apply more coats of colour and the varnishing will look fantastic.

This finish will be extraordinary - it will look as if a peice of solid mahagany has been placed underneath a highly polished piece if glass.

The other alternative if you are interested is to use a process called french polishing but that’s another story…

Good luck and congratulations once again.


@madakuse, thanks for the compliment!

Thanks for the compliments! You should see all the “practise” mitred pieces of wood that I still have lying around…! :lol:

I did consider and googled French polishing at the start but it gave me a headache… and prob would give me even more of a headache if I did attempt it!!

Actually, I’m already having a headache with this paint job… Also, how come it’s so hard to find carnauba wax in the UK?!? The only decent stuff seems to be available from eBay or online specialist car sites…

Anyone heard/used carnauba wax by Collinite?

Carnuba wax is basically surf board wax- forget it and use hot bees wax instead.

try taking some outside shots to really show off the shine.

also - the only reason i use 000 steel wool after every coat is dry is to make sure all dust particles that dried into the finish is removed. it really does work wonders. get a scrap piece of wood and use 000 steel wool after every coat is dry; you’ll see and feel the difference.

so far so good. looks like patience is paying off on this build.

Right, followed Domz suggestion and have built up to 5 coats of the clear poly varnish on Saturday. Here are the pictures of it now:

It feels more “shiny” now and I can definitely feel that there is a thicker protective top coat being there compared to when I originally started this thread!! :wgrin:

Big thanks to all the suggestions!!! :wgrin:

In the meantime, I have wired up a madcatz retro PCB yesterday and finished wiring up a MC Cthulhu today ready for the dual mod. (Big THANKS to Toodles for supplying the MC Cthulhu!!)

I’m thinking of letting the poly’d case cure for 5 days initially… after that I’ll re-assess whether I’ll wet sand, apply compound/wax etc etc…

looks real nice indeed

patience is key

cant wait to see how it turns out

another update!!

I took the plunge and decided to wet sand, compound, polish and wax the frame aswell… concentrated this procedure on the outside panels as these will be on display more so the inside looks slightly neglected!

Here are a few photos… had to put them near the window to show you guys the shine but it still doesn’t do it justice, the real thing is soooo glossy and much much smoother!!

made a few mistakes along the way but it still came out alright I think… oh wells, will know for next time!!