Wood finishing is the process of protecting or improving the look of a wooden surface. A good finish makes a wood item good looking, no matter how good, or bad, the item is. Wood finishing is very much about getting the preparations right. Here is a short wood finishing overview.
Safety is important when working with wood finish. Already short exposure to some finishing products can cause irritation to the skin, eyes and throat as well as headaches and dizziness. Longer-term exposure may cause serious health issues. Not only are some products health hazards, they can also be highly flammable. A few of the oil-derived products may combust spontaneously in room temperature. Safety is not to be taken lightly when working with wood finishing products.
You can prepare the wood manually but it takes a lot of time and is seldom fun. You use a plane or scraper first and then use a sanding block to get a smooth surface. But using a power sander is a much faster solution. A random orbit sander is very versatile and does not leave any swirl marks. A palm orbital sander can be necessary for surfaces that can’t be reached with a larger sander. Even if you use a power sander, you may need to do some manual sanding but the sander will do most of the work for you.
Unfortunately, a coat of finish will not only make the wood look better, it will also magnify flaws. This means that you need to get rid of flaws and blemishes before you apply finish. Small blemishes are generally easy to remove by using wax or shellac sticks. Larger blemishes can often be concealed with wood filler or with a patch. The latter requires that you create a mortise and glue the patch into it. Needless to say, this requires a fair bit of experience.
You have a huge number of different wood finishes to choose from. Sometimes, finishes are divided into three different types, evaporative, reactive and coalescing. Evaporative finishes are dissolved in materials that evaporate once applied, leaving only the finish on the wood. Reactive finishes react with other materials, for example oxygen.
Staining is used to change the appearance of the wood. Typically, cheap wood is stained so that it looks like expensive wood. For open-grain woods you can use grain filler to produce a high-gloss finish.
Bleaching is a way of lighten the color of the wood. Bleaching is used for a several different purposes. Note that bleach can also affect your tools, so be careful. Pickling is the art of making new wood look like aged antique wood.
Wood finishes can be applied in a number of ways but the quickest and most efficient way is to use a spray gun.