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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Learning from our Mistakes

I was teaching a class once for the Triangle Woodworkers Association in North Carolina. This was early in my traveling/ teaching career and I had made a simple mistake. I was living as I do now in Oregon, on the West Coast, and I had not started to practice for East Coast time. On the day of my flight, I got up at my normal time and traveled. I flew out from the West and got out to North Carolina later that evening. No problems yet.

The next day I started my workshop at a reasonable 8AM start time. But it was 5AM my time and I was a wreck at first. Eventually the caffeine kicked in, the guys in the front row kept me awake with comments, and all seemed well. I did okay I thought. I felt reasonably lucid and coherent and everyone there seemed to think the same or else the people in North Carolina are always extremely nice. The assembled were all very polite throughout the morning and lunch hour as I lectured and demonstrated.

I felt coherent until the afternoon. It was around 3pm when my brain started to fade. I was routing some grooves in a mitered box so I could insert some keys. I had made a cut and turned the box, and made a cut and turned the box, and made a cut and turned the box the wrong way and before everyone assembled I made the wrong cut. Everyone saw it, everyone sat in silence as the guest of honor made the cut in the wrong direction on the box. I called a time-out right then and took a break.

The people there were so sympathetic to me. They came up and said, “Boy I saw you were gonna do that, but I didn’t know why.” or “You know I’ve done the same thing in my shop.” Or “Man, when you screwed up, I thought I was looking at me.” All sorts of lovely and kind comments, no doubt meant to make me feel good.

But what ended up happening was that everyone felt relieved. Instead of seeing something go together perfectly each time or hearing how it took the craftsman 20 years to learn how to do that right, here was somebody, who just like you and your buddy and everyone else, knew how to screw up. The chagrined look on my face was the tip-off that this was no set-up. It was real. It was a mistake. We had a laugh about it and then moved on. What else can you do?

The thing I learned that day, besides getting to the East Coast one day earlier to acclimate, was that the mistake meant more to these folks than anything. It made everyone there feel less alone, less like they were the only ones who screwed up. Everyone makes these bonehead moves it turns out. The real difference between the amateur and the professional is that the professional is so used to making mistakes that he recovers more quickly. It happens, walk outside, shake your fist at the sky, forgive yourself, get over it, move on and get back to work.

Now I haven’t made that same mistake ever again. I learned from it and that’s the point. We learn from our mistakes, and then get back to work.

Published in: on April 9, 2008 at 8:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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