Your design is superb and your joinery is first class, but you want more from your woodworking projects. Building a project is only half the work. There’s finishing the piece, too. And for many woodworkers the finishing portion of the job constitutes much more than 50 percent of the job (maybe as high as 75 or 80 percent). And this is why there are so many projects finished with wipe-on polyurethane or a simple oil/varnish mixture applied.
Those are not terrible finishes. There are projects and pieces of furniture that require a clear or semi-clear finish , think inlay, contemporary design or mixed hardwoods. I’ve used an oil/varnish blend on many pieces throughout the years. But when these finishes are used simply because they’re easy, so much of the potential finish of the project is lost. Sure you see the wood grain. And you may even highlight some of the interesting figure in your wood. But if your desire is to have your projects blend well with antiques or with other stained furniture in your home, you’re not often going to make that happen with wipe-on finishes.
What I hear most of the time is that finishing methods other than wipe-on finishes are difficult. I disagree. Since the day I hung out my shingle to earn a living while working with wood, I’ve used the same finishing method and the results speak for themselves. In fact, Popular Woodworking first approached me, so many years ago, due to my finish on tiger maple.
You can read about my favorite methods free on our web site, in “Finishing Formulas,” a story I wrote for the April 2007 issue (click here).
And right now, we’re putting the finishing touches (ha ha) on “Finishes that Pop,” a show-and-tell DVD on exactly the same finishing method that I use on my furniture , pieces you’ve seen in the pages of Popular Woodworking and in my books. On it, I discuss project preparation, shellac, glaze and more. So for now, enjoy the story. And look for the DVD in early September 2009.