Flexner on Finishing Blog


Bob Flexner is a contributing editor to Popular Woodworking and the author of woodworking finishing books, including “Flexner on Finishing,” “Understanding Wood Finishing,” and “Wood Finishing 101,” available at ShopWoodworking.com. Also available are his DVDs on “Repairing Furniture” and “Refinishing Furniture.” Bob is probably best known for defining the products used in wood finishing and organizing them into categories that make them easily understandable.

He’ll also be writing here about furniture restoration – another of his areas of expertise.
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Why You Can’t French Polish with Polyurethane

I got a question from a woodworker about French polishing. He wanted to know why he was having so much trouble French polishing with Wipe-on Poly. He had made his pad as instructed, putting a wad of cheesecloth inside a cotton cloth. But the pad was taking off as much finish...

A Short History of How Shellac Became Known as a Sealer

Here’s a short history of shellac, some of it from my own experience. Shellac was almost the only finish used on furniture from the 1820s to the 1920s when nitrocellulose lacquer was introduced. Shellac continued to be used widely as a complete finish by painters working in buildings until the 1950s....

Turbine Solution: Use a Remote Control

There are two sources of air to power a spray gun: a compressor and a turbine. Compressors are much less irritating; simply plug them in or turn them on and leave them. The motor will come on only when the amount of air in the tank gets low (after you have...

Illustrating Metamerism with a Digital Camera

I can remember very frustrating times in my shop when I worked like crazy on a refinished piece of furniture to match the color on a sample piece of furniture, only to take the refinished piece to the client’s house and find that it didn’t match. But it matched perfectly in...

Wipe, Brush or Spray: Pros and Cons of Finishing Tools

Here’s a question that comes up often. What is the best way to apply a stain or finish? To begin with, all stains and finishes can be applied with one of three finishing tools: rag, brush (including paint pad, roller, etc.) or spray gun. Each is easy to use. Even a...

Smart Cars Need Smart Paint

I’m sure you’re aware of the research being done to produce smart cars and trucks that drive themselves. But it may be more complicated than simply designing the sensors for the vehicles. What if there’s snow on the road? Or if the road markings have been worn off, or if it’s...

Wood Stain is Not Wood Finish

I often come across people who are confused about the difference between a stain and a finish. They’ll use a phrase such as “I want to stain the wood,” or “would you stain the wood for me?” when what they really want is some color added to the wood and a...

Witness Lines: A New Name for an Old Problem

A woodworker asked me recently, “What the heck is a witness line?” Well, this opens up an interesting discussion. One of my pet peeves since I began teaching finishing, has been people creating new terminology when quite adequate terminology already exists. There’s no better example than “witness lines,” which is a...