|These photos show the staining technique, starting with the raw wood, top left, wiping on and wiping off the stain, and the finish after the application of clear coats.|
|Glazes are one of the fine finishes that have been around for decades. The tried-and-true five-step technique is shown in these photos. Top to bottom: Prepare the panel, apply sealer coats, wipe on the colored glaze, brush out the glaze and seal it. The final glaze finish is shown at the bottom.|
I recently attended a finishing school and a touch-up workshop as a guest of the company for which I worked for 30 years. This was a perfect opportunity to see some of the changes that have occurred over the past 50 years.
In these classes, students were taught how to mix colors, both for touchup and for a total finish; how to do a stained finish and a glazed finish; how to make up colored toners, and how to make and use a shading stain. Each of these techniques has been around longer than my 50 years.
In addition, the instructor demonstrated a new HVLP spray gun, and each student was able to spray his or her own panel, learning to spray with three newer coatings — vinyl sealer, pre-catalyzed lacquer and catalyzed conversion varnish. They also learned about new abrasives, like sanding discs, nylon rubbing pads, sanding and polishing pads with much finer microns, and various grades of rubbing and polishing compounds.
I thought the breadth of the training was impressive, and that the students who attended probably were shown and learned more in those few days than many finishers learn in a lifetime.
The ‘Good Old Days’ — Learn as You Go
As I reflect back to the beginning of my 50 years, I remember that it was very difficult to learn this business at that time. Unless you had a relative in the business, it was “closed shop.” If you did get a job, in most cases it was only to strip off old finishes, do some sanding and fill in damage with wood filler. If you ever got to learn how to spray, it would be all you did the entire day.
If you were allowed to stain, you did not learn how to mix the colors — you had to observe the finisher to see how it was done and then try to figure out what chemicals or colorants were used in the process. Then you had to sneak a look at the containers to learn the names of what was used to make up the materials. It was the owners, their sons or relatives who did all the other work, such as toning, shading, gilding, faux finishes, etc.
There were no finishing or touch-up workshops to attend, and if there were any, chances were that you could not afford to attend. Most of us learned touchup and finishing the hard way — ÂÂthrough trial and error. If you got very lucky, you found a finisher who mentored you and gave you some help from time to time. In many respects, I would say that it is pretty much the same today unless you are lucky enough to use a finishing supplier that has knowledgeable salespeople and a good customer service department that offers schools or workshops.
I am sure that there is nothing being done artistically today in fine and faux finishing that was not done years ago. If fact, there are some arts that are not being done any more. Because they are not being passed on to others, they will be lost (until some future finisher reads about it in an ancient CWB article and brings it back to life).
I don't live in the past, but I am looking forward to the future to bring us more new advances in finishing technology. I think it will be the environment that dictates many of the changes to come. I look forward to seeing some of those changes, for I know they will be better for everyone, especially future finishers.
Mac Simmons is a freelance writer and 50-year veteran of the furniture finishing, refinishing and restoration trades. Mac has written articles for woodworking magazines in the U.S. and in the UK, Austria and Canada. Reach Simmons c/o CWB, 400 Knightsbridge Pkwy., Lincolnshire, IL 60069 or c/o email@example.com.
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