Finishing the Work

The finish on the wood is always dependant on the function of the piece. When the final decision is made, the level of protection and the enhancement of the beauty of the wood need to be balanced to choose the right finish. The oil/varathane mix is our finish of choice on many pieces of wood art & custom furniture, as well as refinished furniture. This finish brings out the natural beauty of the wood, as well as being a delight to touch when applied properly. This involves many coats of hand-rubbed oil, with sanding between coats, and drying between coats can take one or more days. Although tedious, we feel that the final result is worth the trouble, as these pieces require minimal maintenance as they grow more beautiful over time. When we decide that a non-toxic, food-safe finish is necessary, as with our salad bowls, we will coat them with natural mineral oil. Although the initial coat will raise the grain, a nice soft feel can be achieved by sanding between coats. Maintenance is easy by simply wiping them occasionally with cooking oil, olive oil, or butcher block oil. Wipe-on polyurethane is the finish we use on kitchen table tops, yacht tables, or other surfaces that take a lot of daily abuse. This built-up finish protects the wood from scratches and water damage, and is easy to wipe clean. The down-side to this finish is that it has a limited life span, and will eventually break down and peel off, at which time it will need to be refinished. It is also useful in sealing our acrylic painted art items, and numerous thin coats give them a luminous, glass-like appearance. Lacquer finishes are seldom used in our shop. They are very environmentally unfriendly, as they leave a lot of particles in the air, and also they need to be applied in a very specialized spraying booth. We have chosen to use other products. Food-safe waxes are excellent as a final finish on bowls and art items. We apply them with a power buffing system that attaches to the lathe. The three that we use are Tripoli, Diamond, and Carnauba in that order from softest to hardest. Although time-consuming to apply, the final result is fantastic, with a soft, shiny glow being produced that feels like silk. Coloring the wood is a procedure that we will undertake when it seems appropriate, although we usually prefer to enhance the natural beauty of the wood instead of changing its color. Some hardwoods do take a stain very nicely, however, especially oak and elm. There are many types of stains on the market with misleading names such as “maple” or “walnut”. It is always a challenge to try to match a stain that a customer wants reproduced on a piece of custom-made or restored furniture. When it comes to art objects, air-brushing and painting are limited only by the imagination of the artist, and we find that our creative energy can have free rein.

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