Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexner

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Forum topic by MaroonGoon posted 335 days ago 930 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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280 posts in 591 days

335 days ago

Hey fellas,
I’ve decided I’m going to purchase this book. It has great reviews and I looked through it at my local bookstore and was very impressed. I can buy it over 10-15 dollars cheaper online so I’m about to buy it from Popular Woodworking. I noticed that they have the first edition for 15$ and the second for 25$. I typically buy earlier editions because they are cheaper and they pretty much the exact same. However, were there things added to the second edition to make it worth paying 10 extra dollars for? I’m about to click “buy” but I’d like some input from some of you who have looked through both books and can give me some good advice.


-- "Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone." -- Pablo Picasso

16 replies so far

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962 posts in 1323 days

#1 posted 335 days ago

It’s the cheapest education you’ll get – spend the extra – it’s well worth it!

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "finished"!

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4836 posts in 1209 days

#2 posted 335 days ago

Pearls of wisdom this guy ^

View RBWoodworker's profile


416 posts in 1984 days

#3 posted 335 days ago

If you want a really good book that really get’s in depth and takes the “science” out of how to do finishing.. look into Charles Neil’s new book on finishing..Charles has really taught me how to do extremely fine furniture finishing, and believe it or not all of my customers are talking about how great my finishes are..

-- Randall Child

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Fred Hargis

1730 posts in 1126 days

#4 posted 335 days ago

I’ve not read the first version other than excerpts, so take this with a bit of salt. But I’d get the second edition, there have been some changes in finishes (particularly waterbornes), as well as some of Bob’s opinions on a few small things (I’m told). Regardless of which one you buy, I think it should be required material in any hobbyist shop. Another that has much the same info and is organized a little differently is the one by Jeff Jewitt.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, we sent 'em to Washington.

View mantwi's profile


312 posts in 529 days

#5 posted 335 days ago

I’m with RBWoodworker. I have Flexner’s book and find it is so technical it is difficult to find what I really want to know which is how to get a professional looking finish on my projects. The nuggets are hidden in the accompanying information that I find to be useless to the regular woodworker. If you buy it get a higlighting pen so you can mark what you actually need to know. I got the book at Southeastern Salvage for 4.99 and if it hadn’t been such a low price I would be upset. It’s true you get what you pay for and I got about 4.99 worth of information I can use. It appears that even woodworking has an intelligentsia, it’s promoted by the Gnostic like writings of some woodworking magazines. I’ll be checking out Charles Neals book soon

View a1Jim's profile


112015 posts in 2209 days

#6 posted 335 days ago

Bob Flexner’s books are good but a bit out dated and where I’ve really learned all the in’s and outs on finishing is through Charles Neil,I’ve got his new book on order. Flexner’s books can not be as up to date as Charles ,since how finishes have been formulated has changed and with water borne finishes being more and more prevalent I would spend my money on Charles book for sure. If you buy a half dozen cans of finish you don’t like they can cost more than a book Likes Charles Neil’s

-- Custom furniture

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Lee Barker

2163 posts in 1483 days

#7 posted 335 days ago

I used to read Flexner’s column in the woodworking tabloid…Woodworker’s Business News I think it was. He seemed to have a permanent chip on his shoulder because nearly every piece had some myth debunker or revelation about some scandalous misinformation which he was ordained to set straight. It got tiresome, and occasionally he would get a comeuppance in letters to the editor.

Valid or not, through that experience I came to view him as more interested in getting attention than in sharing information. I stayed with Michael Dresdner and never felt misled. (Dresdner at one time consulted with Breedlove Guitars on their finishes, which are, in my opinion, exquisite. Street cred.)

I cannot say that Dresdner is the top of the food chain; I am not that well read on finishing.

Were I on the quest today, no question, I’d turn to Charles Neil.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Nygiants77's profile


57 posts in 590 days

#8 posted 335 days ago

I am actually reading this book now. I got it from my local library though. i’m not 100% sure but there are changes between the editions one of which I believe is the section on HVLP spray finishing. I haven’t read the Charles Neil books but this book has helped me.Hopefully the book by Charles Neil doesn’t have conflicting information because I may read that one as well.

View woodshop101's profile


11 posts in 513 days

#9 posted 335 days ago

Giants fan…this is woodworking…there’s bound to be conflicting information and opinions about everything. Just take it all in and choose the one that makes the most sense to you.

-- Justin, Ft. Worth, TX

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57 posts in 590 days

#10 posted 335 days ago

You’re absolutely right Justin!

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4745 posts in 615 days

#11 posted 334 days ago

Actually I surprised I have an opinion on this one…. I recommend the extra for the newest version. It’s just more up to date. I checked one out from the library and liked it a lot. Then I bought a used copy of amazon, I was bummed it was an older edition. I didn’t care for it as much. But still great info.

-- Red -- "That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse." W. Whitman

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777 posts in 725 days

#12 posted 334 days ago

Get the second edition. It has a bit more information and it has color photos. It’s a fantastic book. You will learn an enormous amount about finishing from it.

View CL810's profile


1967 posts in 1621 days

#13 posted 334 days ago

What’s the title of Charles Neil’s new book?

-- "It's amazing how much can go wrong when you think you know what you're doing."

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Zack Sedycias

4 posts in 334 days

#14 posted 334 days ago

Really this is very nice post justin..

-- Plantation Shutters Croydon

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280 posts in 591 days

#15 posted 333 days ago

Thanks guys, if I get the Flexners book I’ll go for the second edition. I wanna look into Charles Neil’s book now. I’ll see if I can view them both online through Amazon and decide on which one to buy or both.

-- "Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone." -- Pablo Picasso

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