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A Great-Looking Finish Starts Long Before Application

Applying finish to a project can be intimidating, because a great finish can make any project look better, while a bad finish can ruin the looks of even the best-built project. It is key to properly prep your project, and then set up for finishing success. Read on for tips to help you master this process.


Perfect Projects Start Here Header
Perfect Projects Start Here No matter how good you are at staining or finishing, you must start with a well-prepared “canvas.” The final surface of a project is achieved through sanding. You want to smooth and refine all the surfaces so that when the finish goes on, the project will looks its best. As much as possible, you want to do this before assembly, while the surfaces are easy to get to.

Get the Right Grit Header

Get the Right Grit Image For most boards, you’ll start out with 120-grit sandpaper. Rough lumber with noticeable marks or scratches may require a coarser grit first. If the project will be painted, 120 should be adequate. If you’ll be applying stain or finish, continue sanding with a finer paper. Progress through 150-grit and then 180, and that should be sufficient for most finishes. Plywood can usually start at 150 or 180; just be careful not to stand through the thin veneer. Regardless, consistency is key. Parts sanded to different smoothness may look and feel different when finish—and especially stain—are applied.

Bye-Bye Blemishes Header
wipe project ImageAfter sanding, the important next step is to check for blemishes. A great way to find scratches and glue marks is to wipe a rag dampened with mineral spirits across your work. This helps highlight imperfections, but evaporates without residue.

wipe project ImageDents can happen during assembly. A handy and easy way to get rid of those is to steam them out with an iron and wet rag. If wood is missing or the surface has a natural defect, filler is a good solution.


Set Up for Success Header
Custom Project Panels, Just a Click Away Image Most of us don’t have a dedicated finishing area, so we need to prepare our space for the job. Start by cleaning up to get rid of dust. Give dust in the air time to settle, too. Add some good lighting, and make sure your space is well-ventilated. When you’re done, be sure to dispose of everything (i.e. hazardous materials) properly.

By preparing your materials and your space, you will be well on your way to a great-looking finish. And when the finish goes on, the wood will shine and your efforts will be rewarded.


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From Kreg and Woodsmith Magazine
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