Flexner on Finishing: 5 Tricks for a Silky-smooth Finish

01pwm1304flexnerAchieve great results with the least amount of work.

By Bob Flexner
Pages 62-63

Think about it: What’s the first thing you do when judging someone else’s woodwork? You run your hand over it, of course. If it feels really smooth, you admire the work. If it feels rough, you aren’t as impressed – even though the woodworking may be spectacular.

The way to get the smoothest and best-feeling finish is to “rub out” the last coat using sandpaper and abrasive compounds. Methods of doing this are written about often. It’s a mechanical procedure that doesn’t differ all that much from sanding the wood.

Begin with coarse enough abrasives to remove the problems efficiently without creating unnecessarily large scratches. Then work up through the abrasive grits until you get the sheen (shine) and look you want.

But rubbing out is a lot of work. You might be willing to do it on a critical high-end tabletop, but it’s not likely you’d want to go to the trouble on a set of kitchen cabinets, for example.

So how do you get the smoothest results possible without having to go through the rubbing-out process? Here are five methods of achieving a smooth finish with the least amount of work.

Step by Step
You can’t get a room entirely dust-free, nor can you get your finish or application tools totally dust-free. But you can come close. So the first trick is getting everything as dust-free as possible. Here are some easy-to-do suggestions:

1. Wait several hours after sanding a surface before you begin finishing to let the dust settle.

2. Remove settled dust from the surface, ideally with a vacuum. Tack cloths also work well on flat surfaces but shouldn’t be used under a water-based finish because the sticky residue hinders bonding. Don’t brush off the dust or you’ll need to let it settle again.

3. Strain the finish unless you have just opened the can. Always strain water-based finish.

4. Be sure your cloth, brush or spray gun is clean. Clean it if it isn’t.

5. Just before beginning to apply the finish to a horizontal surface, wipe over it with your hand to check for cleanliness and to remove any small dust particles that may have settled.

Waiting for dust to settle and then removing it from your project also applies when sanding between coats.

Articles: You’ll find many free finishing articles on our web site.
In Our Store: “Flexner on Finishing” – 12 years of columns illustrated with beautiful full-color images and updated, and “Wood Finishing 101.”

From the April 2013 issue #203
Buy this issue now