Finishing wood allows you to showcase the uniqueness of the wood you are using for a project. Finishing can make or break a project. Unlike metal or plastic surfaces, wood presents a substrate that varies in density, porosity, and stability. It should be handled accordingly. Here are the steps to making it the best that you can:


Before starting any wood finishing project, it is important to have a proper workspace and supplies. When creating the ideal area, keep the following in mind:
· The work station must have adequate light.
· Always work in a well-ventilated area.
· The workspace should be dry and warm. If the area is cool or damp, it may alter the dry times indicated on the labels.

Fill in any holes, cracks, splits or loose joints that need to be repaired. These are always best done prior to staining and finishing your project.


One of the most important steps in wood finishing is sanding. A thorough sanding is often what separates “acceptable” results from “professional looking” results. For softwoods such as pine, aspen, or alder, sand first with a #120 grit sandpaper, and finish sanding using #150 or #180 grit sandpaper. For closed grained hardwoods such as oak, maple or birch, start with #100 sandpaper and finish with no finer than #120 sandpaper.

Sand in the direction of the grain for a smooth, uniform finish and remove all sanding dust using a vacuum, dry paint brush or cloth. Look out for dried glue, especially in joint areas. If it’s not thoroughly removed by sanding, it will interfere with the staining process. Watch stain absorption on any end-grains (areas where the wood has been cut against the grain), such as the front side of a table, tend to soak up more stain than surfaces cut with the grain. With additional sanding to end-grain areas, you can better control the absorption of stain.


To sand between chair spindles, wrap a strip of sandpaper around the spindle and work it back and forth like dental floss. You can also purchase rope sandpaper from most woodworking supply shops for more detailed areas.
· For bigger jobs, use a power sander, but first practice on a spare piece of wood.
· To check your work, run a sock over the sanded wood. If it snags, you’ll need to re-sand the area.


Depending on the type of wood and the finish you have decided on, you may need a pre-stain wood conditioner, stain sealer, stain controller. Determine whether this is needed before moving forward with staining and/or finishing.

Decide on whether you want a natural finish or what color stain you will be using. Follow the specific application instructions for the product you are using. Be sure to read directions fully before you start! Application techniques differ between oil based products and water based products. Oil based gel products require different application techniques than liquid oil based finishes. All produce beautiful, lustrous wood tone finishes.

?The first coat of finish applied on new wood seals and evens out differences in porosity and density. On softer woods and on face grain this sealer coat may require 2 applications to provide an even base for the build coats. If an area shows little or no sealer build by comparison to the surrounding surface the build coats then have to make up for the lack of a proper sealer or primer foundation.

When applying additional coats of a protective finish, the bottom coat must be dry before recoating. Sand between coats to improve coat-to-coat adhesion and carefully remove all sanding dust before recoating. Failure to follow these steps may result in adhesion problems.