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Top 10 Wood Finishing Tips & Tricks

Have you been struggling to achieve that silky smooth finish you see on shop floors? Want to get satisfying, professional-grade results on your next woodworking project? Then, this article is for you. Here are some of our favourite wood finishing tips and tricks that will give you pro-level results.

What is wood finishing and why is it important?

Wood finishing is the last process in woodworking and what convinces clients to buy your creations. It involves applying a protective coating to wood surfaces to prevent damage and improve their aesthetic appeal. To achieve this, finishing products such as stains, paints and varnishes are often used.

It’s possible to compensate for a mediocre design with a pleasing finish, while a mediocre finish will detract from a well-designed and constructed product.

The challenges of wood finishing

Several factors can make wood finishing a challenging task, including:

  • Wood is a porous material that can absorb and react differently depending on the type of finish.

  • The environment in which the wood is finished can also influence the final result, as temperature and humidity can affect drying times and the overall finish.

  • Imperfections can make it difficult to obtain a uniform finish over the entire surface of the wood.

Proboard’s wood finishing tips & tricks

There’s no doubt that wood finishing is part art, part science and, above all, good technique. So here are our top 10 tips and tricks for wood finishing and varnishing:

1. Always sand in the direction of the grain to avoid scratches that will only become visible after the stain has been applied. Sand curved surfaces manually.

2. When sanding, treat all areas equally. Use the same sanding grit progression for both hand and power sanding. First remove deeper scratches and imperfections with 80 or 100 grit sandpaper. Then, progress in steps with medium (120-150) and finer (180-220) grit sandpaper to achieve a smooth and blemish-free surface.

3. Use a tack cloth to remove dust from the surface before applying stains and finishes. The tack cloth will gently pick up dust and grime from surfaces.

4. Before applying any product, inspect the wood for imperfections. You may shine light at a low angle across the surface to reveal blemishes. Use masking tape to mark areas to be sanded.

5. Consider conditioning wood before staining it. Some woods are harder to stain. For instance, pine, birch or maple sometimes absorb stain unevenly. When this happens, dark blotches often appear and are difficult to eliminate. Applying wood conditioner can reduce the likelihood of this problem. Experts recommend to wipe off any conditioner that doesn't absorb.

6. Test finishes before using them. Colours may vary according to the wood type, so it’s not advisable to just rely on the store samples. Use scraps from your project that have been through the same sanding process to test stains and varnishes. Don’t be afraid to intermix stains to create custom shades, especially when it’s necessary to match an existing colour.

7. Always stir finishes before applying them but never shake them. Otherwise air bubbles may appear and leave marks on the surface.

8. Invest in quality brushes. Apply finishes with long, straight strokes in the direction of the grain and use the bristle tips to reduce brush marks. When loading a brush, avoid dragging it over the edge of the container, as this tends to remove most of the finish. Instead, gently tap the brush against the sides of the container.

9. Try a polyshade combination product to change the colour of an existing finish or to deepen the colour of a previously stained surface.

10. Finally, when using polyurethane varnishes and other slower drying materials, make a simple drying tent to protect the wet surface from falling dust particles.

We hope you enjoyed our favourite tips and tricks for wood finishing. With these simple techniques, you’re sure to take your project to the next level. And if you need help on the different types of wood to use, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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