basics of finishing

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Forum topic by Lalaland posted 12-26-2009 09:52 PM 1198 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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44 posts in 4004 days

12-26-2009 09:52 PM

I read alot about different preferences of finsihes on wood. What I would like to ask, and I am sure most will think a very stupid question, but what are the basics of finishing? Are they applicable to both furniture and flooring? When working with raw wood, is the process a) some form of a sealer? (please explain what for), b) stain or natural finish? (what is the difference?), c) finishing coat? ( I read about poly finishes, linseed oil, etc. Theory and benefits please)

Can someone, or everyone help me understand the processes? Thanks so much.

3 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3847 days

#1 posted 12-26-2009 11:35 PM

Lalaland, you are asking for quite a bit of information. One place to start is to look at Marc Spagnolo’s web site. He has produced several videos on finishing. And here are some more that were produced by Charles Neil.

I would also recommend getting some books on finishing. Two authors that I have found to be informative are Jeff Jewitt and Bob Flexner.

But, in a nut shell, finishing consists of (1) preparing the wood for finish through scraping and sanding. I usually stop at 150 grit if I am going to stain the wood and 180 grit if I am going to leave it natural; (2) coloring the wood, if desired; (3) sealing the wood usually with shellac, if desired; (4) application of topcoat. This is a matter of personal choice. I tend to prefer to use a wipe on poly, but shellac, lacquer and tung oil are good alternatives; (5) finish out the finish by sanding or use of abrasives.

Furniture and flooring can have the same finishing routine. Generally flooring consists of sanding the wood followed by several applications of a polyurethane topcoat. Furniture can be handled in a similar fashion but it is largely a matter of personal preference.

Staining is application of a dye or stain to color the wood. This is different from a natural finish which is simply a topcoat that is added directly to wood that has been prepared. A natural finish emphasizes the natural color of the wood itself.

A finish coat is a topcoat- polyurethane, varnish, shellac, lacquer, tung oil- that is added to seal the wood and minimize moisture penetration as well as providing surface protection for the wood, itself. The type of finish coat again is largely a matter of personal choice. I tend to prefer as I have said wipe on polyurethane since it goes on easily, dries quickly and provides good surface protection. BLO (boiled linseed oil) does provide a moisture barrier of sorts and helps to “tone” the wood but it provides no surface protection to the wood.

But this is a pretty complicated topic so I would highly recommend pursuing the videos and books on finishing as well as practicing some finishing techniques on scrap to determine your preference. There is no one finishing routine that is right for all situations. You need to educate yourself with respect to the various techniques and then decide on the routine that best suits your needs.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Taigert's profile


593 posts in 3866 days

#2 posted 12-28-2009 09:36 AM

The biggest thing about finishing is in how the project is prepped. Your effort in the prep work will pay out ten fold.
Then take the time to make samples of different finishes, document what you do as you go. That way you are able to duplicate the finish.
As for the rest of your question, follow Scotts suggested reading. The question you are asking would take a whole book or perhaps two to answer. Way to many variables.
Happy reading,

-- Taigert - Milan, IN

View Lalaland's profile


44 posts in 4004 days

#3 posted 12-29-2009 04:34 PM

Thanks for the replies

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