Finishing a projectd before assembly

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Forum topic by Redford1947 posted 01-26-2011 05:44 PM 1317 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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35 posts in 2806 days

01-26-2011 05:44 PM

Obvioulsy it would be easier to finiish all the parts of a project while they are flat on a table before assembly. However, I am concerned about damage when assemblying. What do you guys do? I am making a chest and it would be harder to sand, stain etc. when it is a box rather than flat pieces.

Appreciate any suggestions.


8 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3818 days

#1 posted 01-26-2011 05:52 PM

Redford, I will generally finish the inside of my casework before assembly because, as you mentioned, it is easier to get to it- especially where the corners are concerned. I will mask off any areas that will come in contact with glue. And you are right the prefinished pieces may get scratched during the milling and assembly process. However, this is easier to correct, in my opinion, as opposed to trying to sand and apply finish inside of the cabinet.

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

View Jonathan's profile


2608 posts in 3046 days

#2 posted 01-27-2011 02:36 AM

I’d have to agree with both comments above.

It’s much easier to finish things, and finish them consistently when they’re flat, even when, and sometimes especially if, you’re spraying.Your corners and joints will tend to look better as you’ll have a more evenly applied finish if you finish the flat surfaces before assembly.

Not that you always have to finish things before assembly, as Barry says. With something like a chest though, you may get a better end result by finishing it first.

Try this: do a dry-fit with clamps, etc. Then imagine where you might have problems finishing it if you were to assemble it all first. Is it going to be more work to use tape and be extra careful when assembling, or is it going to be more difficult to get into all those tight spots and get an even coat of finish without missing anything, or applying too much, getting runs, etc.?

It also depends on the finish you want to apply.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View riverb's profile


45 posts in 2670 days

#3 posted 01-30-2011 09:44 AM

i might try it on my next project. it will have a lot of smaller pieces. It sure would be nice to have them done before hand.

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3125 days

#4 posted 01-31-2011 01:19 AM

I started pre-finishing with floating panels to avoid unfinished edges from appearing. I now do it all the time to virtually all my components. Its a lot easier when there are no corners. Another big advantage is that you can wipe glue squeeze out right off with a damp paper towel. No muss no fuss. You can still add glazes and effects after assembly too. To me its a win win situation.

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 3321 days

#5 posted 01-31-2011 01:24 AM

Finish as much as possible first. It saves SO MUCH frustration. And like the guys say above. you can protect from squeeze out with blue tape, etc. etc.

Charles Neil did a great article in FWW recently enough about it. Here is the link to it:

View indianawoodbutcher's profile


34 posts in 2685 days

#6 posted 01-31-2011 02:55 AM

I have been trying different techniques to cut the finish time. So far, pre-finishing is the best idea. However, one must be careful about what gets pre-finished, and what does not. Finishing pannels is a great idea. But to try to finish the rails and styles before assembly eliminates the ability to clean up the joints with a good bit of sanding. As far as the inside of projects, it all depends upon how much will be seen/touched. I try to be reasonable. If there is a piece that is not going to be seen, then I don’t give it a lot of attention. To some, that is lazy, to me it is working smart.

View Redford1947's profile


35 posts in 2806 days

#7 posted 02-15-2011 09:19 PM

Appreciate all the suggestions. One question (a stupid one): does the glue stick, cure to poly surfaces or do I have to mask joints that will be glued?

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2982 days

#8 posted 02-16-2011 02:36 AM

The glue will absorb into the wood better if there is no poly on it. I personally would mask any areas that will be receiving glue.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

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