Follow-up For Fundamentals of Fearless Finishing

IMG_4955For 360 WoodWorking subscribers my latest article, “Fundamentals of Fearless Finishing: Part II” (log in and read it here if you’re a paid subscriber), published today. In it I discuss different methods of coloring wood and some of the reasons you might consider moving beyond just a clear oil finish for your projects.

But even if you’re not a subscriber (Let’s get serious, why wouldn’t you be? There’s three times the real woodworking information in one of our issues compared to print magazines and it’s brought to you by authors with tons of real-world, everyday spent in the shop, experience.) you might want to add color to your projects. The biggest challenge for budding finishers is getting past the fear. Most woodworkers don’t understand finishing. And you always fear what you don’t understand.

One of the most important tips I give in the article is to save every scrap from your project. I’ve seen lots of people wrap up projects and grab a can of stain and start slopping it on, only to be disappointed. Or worse, they grab any old board and make a color sample out of it. Different logs have different pore structures, absorption rate and don’t start out the same color.  How can you expect any old scrap and have it give you a true representation of what you want your piece to look like?

By using the scraps from the specific project you are working on for your color samples you’ll know instantly whether or not you’ve got the right color. And here’s the key, you need to prepare the surface of the scrap exactly like you prepared the surface of the actual piece. If you don’t, you won’t get the same color on the real thing. I know this sounds like I’m pointing out the merely obvious, but I’ve seen lots of woodworkers ignore this common sense approach.

Finishing, like planning and building the project itself, is a process. There are a few more variables, but if you start by choosing wood that start out the same color, and take some time to match the grain of the various parts, prepare and use the actual scraps from the project to produce your finish samples (and this assumes you want to test your finishing process on something other than the actual piece), you should reduce the potential for finishing drama substantially. Understand the wood and how it reacts to various colorants and topcoat finishes and you can be fearless too.

— Chuck Bender


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