Conquer Finish Fears
By David Mathias
I don’t know many woodworkers who enjoy finishing. We will gladly spend an eternity devising a jig to help with an operation that we’ll perform only once. Time stands still when we’re at the lumber mill looking for that elusive, perfect board for a project so far down on the “to do” list that it may never be built. And I’m sure I’m not the only woodworker who endlessly tweaks a new design, agonizing (my wife says obsessing) over every insignificant detail. At the mention of finishing, however, our eyes glaze over and we go to that happy place in our minds where solvents don’t exist and a magnificent French polish magically appears on our furniture.
I’ve felt exactly this way about finishing and I don’t know why. I don’t have any nightmarish finishing experiences in my past. In fact, most of my finishing has been successful if not professional quality, so it isn’t negative reinforcement causing my lack of enthusiasm. And yet, there it is – a nearly unshakable, negative attitude toward a vitally important part of a hobby about which I am passionate.
I recently completed a Stickley-inspired kitchen table. I spent an eternity devising ways to cut the joinery for the top and to create the tile inlay. My friend, Jim, and I drove two hours, each way, to Frank Miller Lumber then spent a couple more hours searching through pallets of quartersawn white oak.
Another friend, Tom, looked at numerous versions of this design, patiently offering his critique of each.
Construction on the table proceeded quickly and without incident. I enjoyed every hour spent in the shop jointing, planing and cutting joinery. Even the glue-up went smoothly and with a minimum of perspiration.
From the August 2013 issue #205
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