Fundamentals of Fearless Finishing

Fundamentals of Fearless Finishing

Many woodworkers hate finishing, and with good reason. It’s part of the process where a misstep can take hours, or days, from which to recover (if at all). For many, the process is filled with fear and doubt. But it doesn’t have to be that way – it is a process after all.

While you may be working with liquids, finishing isn’t chemical magic. It’s a building process just like any aspect of woodworking. And it takes practice to gain proficiency. Problems crop up when people try to rush things or skip steps (and often both). You wouldn’t skip transferring your dovetails from one board to the other, would you? So, why do so many woodworkers insist on skipping, or abbreviating, steps when it comes to the most noticeable part of any project?

I believe the answer lies primarily in fear. Because the finish (in which I include any coloring of the project) is the first thing people see, woodworkers are afraid to make a simple mistake that will forever stare in the face of every would-be project admirer throughout time.

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4 thoughts on “Fundamentals of Fearless Finishing

  1. Great article, Chuck.
    This is actually one of the most enjoyable aspects of a project for me – having my precious lumber stash all laid out with ruler, chalk and a cup of coffee in hand. Yield vs appearance decisions get made. I think part of an individual’s growth in this craft gets measured by our ability to sacrifice yield to improve the overall appearance of the completed project.

    The idea of waste rubs us the wrong way. The real waste is putting time, resources and talent into a piece that does not represent the maker’s full potential and not in the size of the scrap pile.

    You guys are doing a great job with 360!

    Frank Vucolo

    1. Frank you are so right. I truly struggled with this. Im ok now – but. I have a big sign in the shop. I read it out loud if I begin to relapse.

      (Even bearing in mind good stewardship.
      Your job is not to conserve wood.
      Your job is to make beautiful stuff.
      Ugly stuff wastes all the wood.

      Thanks don

  2. Super article Chuck ! I especially appreciate your opinion of sanding. Too much emphasis is placed on the adherence to “traditional” methods. I love my sanders especially when working with gnarly grain.
    You guys are doing a great job.

    Jerry Olson

    1. Jerry,

      Sanding is a “traditional” method. In the 18th century, they used sand, sharkskin, pumice, rottenstone and lots of other abrasives to smooth surfaces for finishing. We’ve just kicked up the technology on the abrasives and the devices that use them.

      Thanks to all for the kind words on the article.

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