Finishing wood allows you to showcase the uniqueness of the wood you are using for a project. As you know, finishing can make or break a project. Hardwood products are finished to enhance or alter the natural beauty of the wood, and to protect the wood from damage by moisture and handling. A quality finish must offer acceptable performance and also meet the project’s aesthetic requirements. A good finish prevents swelling and cracking, protects against stains and enhances the appearance of the wood.
Before finish ever comes in contact with wood, there is a great deal of preparatory work to be done.
PREPARE THE SURFACE PROPERLY It should go without saying that almost no coating or finish can overcome a poorly prepared surface. Prepare the surface with the desired finish result in mind. If an extra smooth surface is specified, then sanding, grain filling, and defect filling of some sort is indicated. The best finish cannot overcome an ill prepared surface.
KNOW YOUR WOOD and how it accepts stain. Unlike metal or plastic surfaces, wood presents a substrate that varies in density, porosity, and stability. Not sure? Check our species guide for guidance. Some woods like hard maple and poplar have a tendency to stain unevenly and blotch. For those woods it is recommended you use a wood conditioner before applying any stain. Other woods readily accept stain and have to be carefully wiped off almost immediately after application.
DETERMINE THE TYPE OF FINISH Although at least 10 varieties and more than a dozen brands of finish are available, all can be divided into two categories: penetrating finishes (those that dry inside the wood) and surface finishes (those that dry on the surface of the wood). Penetrating finishes are easier to apply and leave a more natural look. Surface finishes are more durable but don’t look as natural. Determine the look you want for your final piece and identify the finish that works the best for that application.
In our next blog – determining the right finishing process for you.