Finished with Finishing

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Forum topic by pashley posted 12-23-2012 03:59 AM 1966 views 3 times favorited 42 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1044 posts in 3951 days

12-23-2012 03:59 AM

I swear, finishing (from sanding to the last topcoat) is the bane of my woodworking; I spend twice as much time sanding, sealcoating, staining, top coating and waxing as I do breaking down the lumber, finish cutting and assembly. I have no love for laborious sanding, either. Yes, I know I could do a simpler finish (sometimes I just sand to 220 and shellac, depending on the project), and that is my preference, but sometimes I can’t.

Ok, I’m done complaining.

I guess what I’m looking for is…is there a quicker way? Sanding seems to take forever. I use a good random orbit, and only usually go 150, then 220. Is carborundum sandpaper much quicker? Just seems like it shouldn’t take so long!

As for finishes…you have to wait so long to dry. Not sure there is a quicker way around that, save water-based ploys.

Any thoughts?

-- Have a blessed day!

42 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117416 posts in 3811 days

#1 posted 12-23-2012 04:09 AM

Do you go through the all of the sand paper grits a step at a time?

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View pashley's profile


1044 posts in 3951 days

#2 posted 12-23-2012 04:17 AM

Typically, 150, then 220, that’s it.

-- Have a blessed day!

View a1Jim's profile


117416 posts in 3811 days

#3 posted 12-23-2012 04:26 AM

That’s why it’s taking so long. Depending on how rough the wood is start at 80 or 100grit and then all of the other grits
120,150,180 . I usually don’t go past 150 or 180. Just for the record the finer you sand the less stain will penetrate into the wood . I know you may think going through each grit will take longer but it doesn’t ,it’s quicker.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View RogerM's profile


799 posts in 2633 days

#4 posted 12-23-2012 04:36 AM

Pashley – Most good finishes is an art in itself and can best be achieved through experience. As you have already found out, they also take some time. You might start out with getting a good book on finishing (I am currently away from the shop or I could give you some that I have found to be useful. It sounds like you are probably preparing the raw wood OK. After sanding the raw wood I apply either a stain or a dye depending on the wood and the effect I am trying to achieve. After this, I usually rag on a coat of Seal Coat thinned with equal parts of alcohol. After letting this dry a few hours rub it down with 00 steel wool or 600 grit sandpaper (very light on the sandpaper). Remove the dust and rub with a tack cloth then begin applying (I often us a rag) successive coats of polyurethane thinned with equal parts of mineral spirits. You can apply these coats every two hours in most environments. Humidity and cold temperatures adversely affects these drying times considerably. I generally apply at least three coats but more can be applied until the desired sheen is achieved. Let these coats dry at least 8 hours and rub down with 00 steel wool or 800 to 1000 grit sandpaper. Apply finishing wax with 0000 steel wool and buff. I hope this helps. Send me a message if I can be of further assistance.

On the issue of Sander and sandpaper I mostly use the new low profile Porter Cable ROS with Klingspore Stearate Sandpaper discs.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10364 posts in 4286 days

#5 posted 12-23-2012 05:40 AM

The American Woodshop recently played a program… the last one of season 18… where he made an heirloom Clock.

He had a Finishing expert demonstrate the way he finishes most of the time…

1. Spray HVLP light seal coat of shellac 1 lb cut primarily on the hard to paint areas… curved molding, curved areas, where joints meet, end grain, etc.

2. Spray Colored Shellac changing to 2 lb cut… 3-4 light coats.

3. Top-Coat of clear Exterior 450 which is good for interior as well… Satin…

He swears by it… and likes the Exterior 450 very much and has very good luck with it.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3392 days

#6 posted 12-23-2012 05:57 AM

Why is the sanding taking so long? Are your tools leaving severe marks? That’s really the only reason for sanding. Some planers and most jointers leave chatter marks when surfacing a board, but that’s the first place I’d start – finding a way to improve performance with those tools. Then, I’d learn to use smoothing/black planes and card scrapers, if you don’t already.

As Jim said, if you use sandpaper, start at 80 grit. I’d finish to only 120 grit and would begin applying my finish right at that point. I like to apply a washcoat of dewaxed shellac firstt…lightly sanding to a smoother 220 grit or more here. This is the key to faster finishing…shellac dries really fast. And then, like Joe said, I’m a big proponent of delivering my color within the finish, not as a stain (which sometimes I do, before the washcoat, if I want the figure to pop first). The dewaxed shellac is great with TransTint dyes for coloring wood. After a couple of color coats (more coats when I want to sneak up on a color or darkness level) I then finish with a water-borne poly. Regular poly, lacquer, or shellac is sometimes used as well.

-- jay,

View bobasaurus's profile


3546 posts in 3418 days

#7 posted 12-23-2012 06:09 AM

Becoming proficient with hand planing and scraping will greatly reduce the amount of sanding you have to do on flats, though the curves are still annoying (an oscillating spindle sander helps). If you have a decently good surface right off the tool, you can start sanding at a relatively high grit, like 120 or 150, then walk through to about 220 before finishing. If the wood is very course/torn/uneven and impossible to hand plane, start at 60 or 80 grit instead. Be diligent about walking through each grit to remove scratch patterns efficiently.

Finishing is always lengthy process. If I want speed, I’ll use a wipe-on polyurethane so I can apply new coats every 2-3 hours, though the wiping process can be time consuming for large projects. I hear HVLP spraying finishes is quick, but the setup and cleanup overhead is there too.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View pintodeluxe's profile


5815 posts in 3047 days

#8 posted 12-23-2012 06:30 AM

I think Jim is on to something. Start with a coarser grit. Although if I don’t have any surface defects (tearout) I will start with 120 grit. Then I finish up with 150 grit. On sample boards I have made, the only difference noted with 220 grit was the stain came out slightly lighter in color. That was the only difference.
Also brands of sandpaper make a huge difference. Freud and Klingspor make the most durable hook and look ROS disks. They can sand effectively for 45 minutes per disk. Compare that to 10-15 minutes with the standard yellow Norton disks (not the Norton 3X – that product is pretty good). As far as dry times – spraying lacquer is hard to beat. You can spray two coats of lacquer on a large project in half a day. My final recommendation – do as Tommy MacDonald does… get an Ely to sand your projects.
We could all use an Ely.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 4037 days

#9 posted 12-23-2012 11:39 AM

I’m with bobasaurus – I absolutely hate sanding. On many of my projects now, I don’t. I started using hand planes to minimize sanding and found it was actually much quicker on most woods once I knew what I was doing. Even if isn’t, an hour of sanding is torture, an hour of work with a sharp hand plane is about the most enjoyable stage of the project.

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3186 days

#10 posted 12-23-2012 12:40 PM

I am with the hand plane camp; hand planing with a smoother prior to assembly and touch ups with a card scraper will relegate sanding to a rare occurrence. Most of my projects never see any sandpaper. The last times I used it was to ease edges that I didn’t take care of with my block plane. I hate sanding and I am glad I have a way that allows me to go without.

For finishing, I haven’t used anything other than an oil finish and wax for quite a while now. I like how wood looks (guess that’s why I do this) and I don’t like to alter its appearance with stains and polys, and whatever else is put on. I use tung oil or boiled linseed oil and then rub wax on. That method of finishing is exactly what I like. The wood retains its color (BLO will add a little color) yet grain patterns are enhanced and highlighted. Plus, it is an easy application. Obviously if you are making stuff for others you don’t have a lot of options with that outside of their wishes, but maybe you could try it out on your own projects and see if it fits your bill.

When I first started making stuff, I felt I had to stain everything and then cover it with poly or shellac and I found it is just a PITA and simply unnecessary! Now all I do is brush on oil, wipe it down after 30 minutes or so, let it dry, then rub some wax on. Done.

-- Mike

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2520 days

#11 posted 12-23-2012 01:26 PM

People say I’m nuts, but I start with 40g on hardwood to get the patina, scratches, and anything else off. Then you get the most from the 80, 120, 150, 180, 220.
Apply finish then sand with 320.
Another top coat, sand with 600.
wipe with 1200g after its finished.

There is no way around it.

And don’t use BLO unless you want to ruin a project. That stuff ruins every piece of wood I’ve used it on. Might as well use motor oil.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3186 days

#12 posted 12-23-2012 01:52 PM

BLO has been used for centuries. Seems to me if it is on the same par as motor oil, someone would have figured out an awful long time ago that it is not a worthy finish. Yet it is still a viable finish. Ruins wood? The box you see below is finished in the fashion I described above. It is very old chestnut and you know, it doesn’t look even remotely ruined. In fact, it looks pretty decent. Maybe it is just me, but if it looks ruined, please tell me so.

The proof is in the end product.

-- Mike

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3220 days

#13 posted 12-23-2012 01:56 PM

This also may sound silly, but start with new sandpaper too. I do this fairly often – I’ll keep using the same sanding disk through the whole project and it starts to go slower and slower and slower. Just not something I think of a lot. Put a brand new one in and whooosh, I’m done!

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2520 days

#14 posted 12-23-2012 01:56 PM

Mike, I’ve restored a few planes and under the advise of many I used BLO on the handle and knob. They turned into dark wood with no grain and looked so horrible I had to refinish the entire thing. Danish oil made them look great. BLO is a good additive, but I’d never risk it again.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View Gshepherd's profile


1727 posts in 2435 days

#15 posted 12-23-2012 02:29 PM

Finishing for me at one time used to be a horrible experience as well. You spend many countless hours on a project to only mess it up in the end. You look for the easiest and quickest way to finish only to be dissapointed even more cause the easiest and quickest is not the best.

I realized that if went into the finishing process with the same attituude as I did when building it then the outcome would be a rewarding. I bought diffrent books and read them just as I would any other process and now find myself actually enjoying the finishing. I have read through the other replys and there is a lot of excellent information there. I look at it as the finishing process start the moment I start my project. Wood selection, grain orientation, milling marks and so on. Reference material is at a arms reach just as the numerous books on construction. Then you just like your projects get better and better at it and one day you realize it was a great ride.

-- What we do in life will Echo through Eternity........

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