Flexner on Finishing: My ‘Half-right Rule’

flexnerKnowing which half to believe is why finishing seems so difficult.

by Bob Flexner
pages 62-63

Many years ago I coined what I call my “half-right rule.” That is, half of what you read or hear about finishing is right; you just don’t know which half.

You may suspect that I developed this rule in response to all the contradictory information published in woodworking magazines, but I didn’t. The rule originated from my experience with the elderly clerk, Glen, at the paint store down the street from my shop, where I bought most of my supplies.

I always enjoyed my trips to the paint store because I was greeted warmly, and I knew I was going to learn something. Glen had been around paints and finishes all his life, and he gave me many tips that helped me raise the quality of my work. He also led me astray just about as often.

He wasn’t misleading me on purpose, of course. He was merely passing along tips and explanations he had picked up from painters and finishers who he came in contact with. A lot of nonsense is passed around in these circles, and some of it has become deeply embedded.

Here are a few examples that may sound familiar.

■ Thin the first coat of finish by half for a better bond. On the contrary, full-strength finishes bond perfectly well. The purpose of thinning is to create a thinner build that is easier to sand.

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From the August 2016 issue, #226
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