Finishing Makes the Difference

How do people engage with your furniture? They look at the form first of course. If they like the shape of a piece, then they approach it. They eye it to see the wood and the sheen of it. The very next thing they do is touch the piece. Everyone loves to put their hands on wood because it’s warm, it’s inviting. And if there’s a finish on the wood, then what folks will be touching is that finish. You have to pay attention first to how that finish looks and next how it feels in order to win over a client, a buyer, or an admirer.

The problem is that finishing is part chemistry and part alchemy. It is neither simple nor intuitive. Most furniture makers, when they finally complete their piece that was supposed to take a weekend but instead took three months, all they want to do is put a finish on it and walk away from it. But what they usually do is put on the wrong finish in the wrong way and don’t like how it looks or feels. So what they do next,instead of backing up, instead of admitting they goofed, they press on! Brave stalwarts, they put something else over the first bad stain or topcoat and now they have a bastard child by two discordant parents/ finishes. Do they admit defeat now? Start over? Never. They continue the charge and apply another finish over the first two until such time as they finally can say, Enough. It is enough and the finish sucks so I’m done with it.

Another triumph.

Join us Wednesday Feb. 29 from 5 to 8pm for a lecture entitled 3 Simple Finishes. Learn how to demystify all the information swirling about on finishes. You’ll hear about simple surface prep techniques, how to protect your work with finish and to make it beautiful. These are hand applied finishes that provide luster from low to high sheen, protection for your wood, and finishes that are easy to repair as well as beautiful. There is a ton of information to share with you so come and learn how to put on a great finish for your masterpiece.

Published in: on January 28, 2014 at 7:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Shameless Commerce

April 23, 2008

It’s what we do of course. Try to make a living out of this stuff. So, to work:

I want to alert you to some of classes both for Spring and Summer that we have coming up on Finishing.

Now I understand how furniture makers feel about the subject. Open the can, oh right, read the can, close the can up first, read the instructions, re-open the can, put on the finish, complain about how that’s not what you wanted, and then try to fix it, and then give up. All the while making up new excuses for that color or shine when you show the piece to people. I know how this works for furniture makers. You love finishes; you hate finishing.

First, there is my lecture on 3 Simple Finishes come this May 27th. In it I hope to demystify some of the confusion about oils and varnishes and shellacs that the finish manufacturers love to manufacture. Just so you’ll open a can and it can start to gel over. There will be lots of useful and practical information on hand applied finishes. It is a 3 hour session, and it is only about hand applied finishes. I’ll lecture in Portland May 27th and then in Seattle at the Woodcraft Supply Store on May 31st.

I also highly recommend Roland Johnson’s Restoration Class this September 8th and then his Finishes Class September 15. Rollie is a spray guy, a lacquer and varnish guy, a restorer with 25 years of experience tearing things apart and then rebuilding and refinishing them so that they act and look as good as new. This class wowed me last year when we just did the Restoration class because there was so much to be learned. Not just learning about how to knock things apart which is fun of course, but also how old things got built. Figuring out how the makers 50 or 100 years ago put something together. One thing I learned is that finishers aren’t afraid to start over which is what restoration is all about.

Restoration will be the first week: taking an old piece of yours, examining it, figuring out how it went together, what needs fixing, tearing it apart, stripping it, and then putting it back together. Learning about strippers, hide glues, joinery, patching mistakes, fixing broken pieces, veneers, hardware, fabric and leather treatments. It’s great stuff.

The second week will be about finishes, and I can tell you that one week barely scratches the surface of finishes, pun intended. First there is surface prep including sanding, planing, and scraping. A week alone could be spent on colors, glazing, stains, tints, and dyes. The differences between mordants and chemical dyes. How to darken wood, how to lighten it, how to show things, how to hide things. Oh, I forgot filling, grain filling, filling with color added, leveling and detailing. Surface treatments will include oils, varnishes, special mixtures of oils and varnishes including Rollie’s hot mix varnish, lacquers: both brushing and spray lacquers. It’s a huge amount of stuff but it only gets us to the application of a finish.

The killer, what everyone forgets about, [perhaps it’s not forgetting but a willingness to overlook] is that once a finish is put down, then the real work starts, rubbing it out. Giving it the look you’re after from a matte and restrained oil finish to the high gloss of a piano finish and everything in between.

A ton of stuff to cover in these two classes and it’s finishing which is regrettably not like furniture making. It really bears little resemblance to furniture making. Their only point of commonality is that they both use wood. So these classes I recommend highly. Come and learn about the stuff that people will see and touch first, the finish.

Published in: on April 23, 2008 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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