Chris Schwarz's Blog

Finishing for the Rest of Us

Here’s some tough love: Most good woodworkers are terrible finishers.

I know this because I have seen hundreds – probably thousands – of pieces of furniture that have been entered in competitions or in juried shows during the last 15 years. And while the design, wood selection and joinery might be excellent, the finish is usually terrible.

It is rough. Or has runs and sags. Or just looks mottled, blotched and awful.

And this is why we have enlisted Bob Flexner as our finishing columnist for Popular Woodworking Magazine for the last 13 or so years. No one – repeat, no one – is as passionate or knowledgeable about the topic as Flexner.

He has devoted his life to dispelling the finishing myths that have been perpetuated by manufacturers and false gurus in books, magazines and on the Internet.

And while that has been a noble quest, Flexner’s biggest challenge yet has been to educate the casual woodworker, the first-time finisher, or the person who wants excellent results without learning the science behind the different kinds of finishes.

And that is why I am pleased to recommend for every single reader of this blog a new book by Flexner titled “Wood Finishing 101.”

This short book is like a lightning bolt of insight for everyone who has ever been befuddled by too much finishing information from too many sources. It cuts through all the science – heck it eliminates the science. It eliminates the jargon. It simplifies the processes. It focuses instead on one single thing: Getting your project finished with the least amount of time, hassle and mistakes.

Flexner does this by presenting step-by-step instructions for every single type of finish you will find at your local home center, from the misnamed “Danish Oil” to polyurethane to spar varnish to boiled linseed oil.

He explains the advantages and disadvantages of every commonly available finish. And he shows you how to use each finish with step photos that prove every single one of his points. And that, my friends, is no small affair. Photographing the steps of a finishing process is difficult. But Flexner has become an excellent photographer during the last decade and can show you what other finishing books fail to show you, or merely gloss over (sorry about the pun).

So who should buy this book? Everyone who has ever struggled with the day-to-day application of common finishes. In other words, almost everyone who works with wood. This is the book that all of us have been crying out to have. It offers simple instructions for great results.

Very rarely do I issue such a blanket recommendation for anything. But Flexner has hit the ball out of the park with “Wood Finishing 101.” It is the right information in the right format and presented in a way that is extremely helpful.

Nice work, Bob.

You can order the book directly from our store using this link. As of this writing, it’s on sale. Hurry before they get wise….

— Christopher Schwarz

8 thoughts on “Finishing for the Rest of Us

  1. Andrew Yang

    I have his first(?) book Understanding Wood Finishing, which has also been highly recommended in these “pages”. The only criticism of it would be that it jumps rather quickly into finishing for the serious finisher. Finishin 101 sounds like a great concept, the equivalent of an “I Can Do That” but for finishing.

    @Tom
    I would think the phrase “for the rest of us” pre-dates Seinfeld and Festivus.

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