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Forum topic by USCJeff posted 12-06-2007 04:35 AM 1188 views 1 time favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1063 posts in 4035 days

12-06-2007 04:35 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finish oil poly varnish shellac wax finishing

Hey all, I’m still attempting to stop ruining projects as a result of limited finishing experience. It’s frustrating to put all the hours into making a project perfect, only to turn it into junk with a bad finish. Anyways, I found some good sources of information that I wanted to share:

The first is actually a book by Bob Flexner, “Understanding Wood Finish”. I’d say it is thorough, but that’s an understament. I think it was Wayne who suggested the book to me in another thread. I keep it close.

More recently, American Woodworker Magazine has a special publication currently on stands. It is called “Guide to Finishes”. It has many charts that I plan to photocopy and keep it in the shop. There are so many finishes, and it is tough to remember all the properties. The charts are very helpful. There’s also information on all of the identical products that are labeled differently. It was helpful to learn the contents of some of the finishes as I have bought several things I could have made with what was on hand. For example, Tung Oil is typically varnish thinned with MS. Danish Oil is simply oil and varnish blended to share properties.

Lastly, check out PW's finishing section their website. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to know that wasn’t on their site.

Well, time to practice. Hope this helps.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

4 replies so far

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3929 days

#1 posted 12-06-2007 03:40 PM

Good info, Jeff. You can have the best joints and perfect design on a piece and the only thing the customer will look at is the color. I remember a lady that liked a painting of mine but wouldn’t buy it because the frame didn’t match her decor. Never under estimate the importance of a good finish.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3905 days

#2 posted 12-06-2007 04:03 PM

Jeff, finishing is hard. As I’ve progress in this wood stuff, I’ve found that the structural part is the easier part. A good finish is an art and a constant challenge for the likes of me. Not only do I frequently battle my ignorance, but my patience keeps wandering off on me.

-- Working at Woodworking

View USCJeff's profile


1063 posts in 4035 days

#3 posted 12-06-2007 07:34 PM

I guess the most frustrating part is that finishing can sometimes take the enjoyment out of a hobby I really enjoy. This will go away with experience, but I am fairly critical of my own work as this is a hobby that tends to make us strive for perfection. Like all, I’m not a fan of sanding. I understand it is a required evil. Putting on a bad finish will double the sanding when I have to start over. I’ve spent a ton of money on different equipment to While I have no issues with wipe-on’s and other finishes that are tough to screw up, they are not always the right choice for the purpose of the project. I have noticed that finishing prior to assembly really helps where possible.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4128 days

#4 posted 12-06-2007 08:26 PM

I do not mind sanding, it is the finishing part I dread. A great looking project can suddenly turn bad if the finish is not done right. So far, I have been successful in finishing, but they are never quite what I hope for. Anyway, more practice should help.

I try to finish parts before assembly if they will be in hard to reach areas, or possible glue squeeze out that might be hard to remove. Having shellac or varnish on these sections prevents the glue from sticking when it does squeeze out. It makes clean up much easier.

I am working on a piece now that the color matching is tough. I went to the paint store and had them mix up a special stain to get a match. But, I will have to be careful that I do not apply too much stain, as it is a bright yellow (to go on Red Oak). Nothing like applying a stain that looks like a highlighter onto the project you are working on…

-- Bill, Turlock California,

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