Finishing school

Bob Flexner’s column, “Flexner’s ironclad rules for finishing,” in the current (July 2013) issue of Woodshop News is excellent, as always. But I think I’d like to add another rule.

The rule I’d like to add is “Do what works best for you.” Often, something that works well for others isn’t always the best solution for you. The reasons vary: Your tools may be different. Your shop environment may dictate a different technique due to issues of space, etc. You need to adapt something for a particular use, and so you have to do something that’s less than standard. When finishes are concerned, local temperature and humidity can alter how you work. The list goes on and on.

Bob’s first rule, for example, is “There are only three tools used to apply finishes: rag, brush and spray gun.” He’s generally right, of course, but I’ve had good success applying finish with other tools.

For example, I always keep a small container in my shop filled with Q-Tip cotton swabs, because I use them frequently to dab a bit of stain into deeply recessed or otherwise hard-to-reach spots. Occasionally, I’ll just dip small parts, such as turned wooden handles, into linseed oil instead of brushing. One time, I wanted polyurethane to get all the way down into a crevice and used an eyedropper. I even applied finish once with the rough-cut ends of a bundle of manila rope for the effect it achieved.

The point is, don’t be afraid to take good advice like that offered in Bob’s latest column, and then build on it to suit your individual needs for the task at hand.



  • Scott Enloe says:

    Do whatever works best for you while applying all of Bob’s knowledge is advice to live by!

  • Royce Hughes says:

    One of the happiest days of my life as a really small shop operator was when I located two different shops who did nothing but finish other folks work. Once I understood how they charged I simply built it along with extra handling costs into my pricing and never looked back.
    “Oh what a relief it is!” Do what you do best and partner with those who think the same way and do what they do best.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Terms of Use.