Fixing a bad varnish job

8 Nov 2013
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United Kingdom
Hello! I've screwed up varnishing a couple of interior doors in my house, and now I'm puzzling over how to fix it. In my experience, it's best to describe the problem in detail straight off, so bear with me.

We have unfinished pine doors in our house, and we decided to varnish them with a teak-colored water-based varnish. Now, I have varnished and stained wood before, but it was ages ago. So when I applied the varnish to the first door, after 3 coats it looked pretty bad. It was uneven, you could see the brush strokes, some places were darker, others were lighter. It didn't look like blotching, as you see sometimes on pine after staining/varnishing; it just looked like a bad painting job.

So naturally, I assumed the problem was in the way I applied the varnish. I looked up some articles on varnishing, and changed my technique significantly. But the second door turned out exactly the same as the first.

So finally I changed the brush. The brush I used at first was a synthetic bristle brush made for painting, and I replaced it with a brush that had "varnishing" in its label. And voila! The varnish went on beautifully on the third door. The color is even, no brush strokes, it's exactly what wanted all along.

But now I'm stuck with the first two doors, which look pretty bad. They've had a week or so to dry now, so the varnish on them is quite hard, and I'd like to avoid sanding it all back down to bare wood.

Does anybody know what I can do to even out the color on the doors? Should I sand it down with a coarse paper as much as I can, and then basically start over? Or is it better to scuff sand with a higher grit sandpaper and do a top coat? Or is there something else I can do?

Thanks in advance!
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Remove the doors, lay on a trestle and belt sand from a low grit (to remove the varnish) to a high grit (to sand smooth).

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