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Woodworking Finishing
Do You Want a Simple Process?

Numerous "experts" state their method of woodworking finishing. Most of them recommend a different method — using different abrasives to a wipe-on top coat. Which one is right for you?


I have tried most of the methods over the years. The one I like best is relatively simple, and it gives professional results! Does that make sense?

Try This Simple Method of Woodworking Finishing:

1. Use 120 grit sandpaper for final sanding. This allows the stain to penetrate the wood. Use 220-grit sandpaper on the edges. This tends to make the end-grain take the same color as the face-grain.

2. I like using an orbital sander for final sanding. It doesn't leave gouges and scratches like other sanders. After trying different types of sanders, I settled on the Makita B06030. It gives consistent results and is variable speed. Hook & loop sandpaper is easy to change. See the Orbital Sander Page for more detail.

3. Hand-sand the edges with 220-grit using a sanding block or your hands depending on contour. See the Sandpaper Tips Page for more details on a quality sanding block for woodworking finishing.

4. Use a scraper in tight places where there are glue spots. It is easier to use than sandpaper. Once you have experience, the scraper gives you a nice surface.


Important Woodworking Finishing Tip:

  • Clean the air. Allow a day for the dust to settle after sanding. If you have an air cleaner, use it during sanding and during your finish coats.

  • Remove the dust from your project prior to staining. You can vacuum it or you can use a tack cloth. I prefer using the Tack Cloth, since it removes all of the dust.

  • Woodworking finishing requires that you use a high quality stain. I like MinWax penetrating stain. You can mix stain to get your desired color. Example: A mix of Golden Oak (which is a little darker than I like) and Ipswich Pine (which is a little lighter and has some bright color) gives my color of choice.
    For more Great Information on Woodworking Stains, please visit the Stain & Finish Coat Page.

  • You want to protect your hands from clean-up later. Get some quality throw-away gloves.

  • Use a quality brush or rag to apply the stain. I tried an expensive paintbrush to cheap foam brushes. The best ones are high-quality foam brushes.

  • Cover the floor and work area with some plastic. Apply the stain with a quality foam brush.

  • Let the stain penetrate for around 30-45 minutes. Then wipe off with a lint-free cloth. This gives a uniform color to the wood. Sometimes you can wait longer; it depends on the project. Allow the stain to dry for a day, and then apply another coat. Rub the second coat off around 20-30 minutes or so. The second coat gives the project a richer finish than one coat. Let it dry for another day. After it is dry, you may apply a third coat. It just depends on the color you want to achieve.

  • Now let the stain dry for several days. It should be thoroughly dry prior to the finish coats. It is better to wait a little longer than apply the finish coat too soon.

  • Take the tack cloth and remove any dust that may have settled. If the project is not too big, you could enclose it in a box. Then seal all edges of the box. That will keep most of the dust off.

  • I like using MinWax Fast Drying Polyurethane. It gives an excellent finish and dries in about four hours, depending on humidity. I do NOT like water-based finishes for my projects. Once again, use a quality foam brush. There are extra tips on the Foam Brush Page, such as how to store for multiple uses.

  • Brush in one direction and make sure that you keep the surface "wet". If the project is not too large, make very light strokes down the entire length. Just make sure the polyurethane is not drying. Two coats are normally sufficient. For rougher use, such as table tops or drawer fronts, try using three coats. Use 220-grit sandpaper on a block to lightly sand between each coat.
    Just remove any bumps on the surface. Of course, after the light sanding, you clean up with a tack cloth.

  • Once you have the desired finish, wait three days prior to final finish. This extra step makes your project take on a professional look. This is needed for quality woodworking finishing.

  • I do not like steel wool, since it leaves a residue on the surface. Some of the other recommendations use different types of pads, but they are not foolproof either.

  • Squirt some Formby's Lemon Oil Treatment on the poly-surface. Using 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper and a block, gently smooth out the finish. If the sandpaper gets "dry", squirt on some more Lemon Oil Treatment. You can squirt the Lemon Oil Treatment directly to the sandpaper.
    This is especially good in hard to reach places. This final treatment removes any blemishes. It gives a professional touch to your project without a lot of work. You will be amazed at the results.

For more great ideas, please visit the Woodworking Finishing Tips Page.

For ideas on Finishing Tools and accessories, please visit Woodworking Finishing Tools Page.





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Unsolicited Testimonials

Subject: Sanding

Thanks. I had tested the stain on some scrap and you were right.
Where you sand with higher grit sandpaper, the stain doesn't penetrate as well.
I've learned a lot from your site.

Thanks for the help!
Syd G.



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