Learn to Finish Wood

As I get more experienced with woodworking, I find finishing to be one of the most intimidating topics. How am I, or anyone for that matter, supposed to be comfortable with finishing when there are so many choices? How to acquire the knowledge and skills to know the proper ways to finish a project, learn which type of finish works best for which woods, and know how a piece will look with a certain finish (before applying the finish to the project), are challenges that many beginners (and some more experienced!) woodworkers have.

Luckily for me, I was able to travel to Dale Barnard’s shop in southeastern Indiana to help shoot his video, “Fearless Finishing” (and get some hands-on experience with finishing.) In it, Dale walks you through the correct practices and techniques while showing you every step of his process while he finishes his tsuba table. (Plus, I was able to ask him questions – it truly felt like I was taking his finishing course!)

This video gave me a real boost in knowledge in understanding finishing, especially as a beginner. We worked with oil-based stains, penetrating stains, glazing stains, lacquer top coats, shellacs and more. I now know when it’s appropriate to use these finishes, and I am looking forward to trying a few practices out myself, such as spray finishing.

Some of my favorite moments while shooting were learning some of the many fun and useful techniques Dale has picked up over the years. One I though was especially creative (thought perhaps not what you’d call a typical fine furniture finish) was working with crackle paint. By applying glue to some wood and painting over it when dry, you can make a board look much older. Of course you can always experiment with adding a different stains to get the exact look you want. You can watch that in the free video above.

Crackle Paint board

— Jacob Motz