Finishing Touches to Take Your Woodworking to the Next Level

Nothing ruins a piece of woodworking faster than a poor finish. Whether it’s layers of glossy verithane or cheap streaky paint, it can make all your hard work look bad.

Invest in a quality sander and orbital sander to create smooth surfaces. Use a jigsaw to quickly cut curves and shapes. And add a pocket hole jig to simplify joinery cuts.


Sanding is not only a crucial part of woodworking, but also one of the most time-consuming and tedious. Proper sanding is critical to your success with any project, but it’s especially important if you plan to stain or clear-coat your workpiece.

Start with a coarse-grit sandpaper to smooth out rough edges and blemishes. Gradually progress to medium and fine-grit sandpaper for an even smoother finish. Be sure to sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid scratches. Some sandpaper is coated with stearates that help prevent clogging, but they can interfere with water-based finishes and cause fisheyes on the surface of the wood. Always check the label of your sandpaper before you use it on any project to ensure that it is compatible with your intended finish.

Once you’re satisfied with the smoothness of your woodwork, consider some advanced techniques like distressing and aging. These methods of creating marks, dents, and wear on your woodwork can add depth and character to your projects.

It’s important to test your stain on scraps of wood before applying it to the actual piece. The color on those samples can vary from the actual product, and it may take a little trial-and-error to find the right shade for your project.

When you’re ready to apply your stain, sand lightly in between coats to eliminate any imperfections. Wetting the wood can make it easier to spot any flaws before you sand again, and good lighting can help to highlight defects you might have otherwise missed. Remember to wipe down your sanded surface with a dry cloth afterward to avoid moisture interference. You should also avoid sanding with a power sander, as this can lead to uneven spots and swirly scratches.


Once you’ve sanded your woodwork project down to a smooth finish, staining it is the next step. There are many different types of wood stains to choose from, including clear stains that enhance the natural beauty of the wood and tinted stains that can match other furniture in your home. Staining is a quick, easy process that can be completed by anyone regardless of their level of experience with woodworking.

Before you apply your chosen stain, make sure that the wood is unfinished – no paint or varnish on the surface of the wood. Some woods, such as pine or cherry, may require a pre-stain wood conditioner to avoid blotchiness caused by uneven absorption of the stain. You should also test your stain on a piece of scrap wood before applying it to your finished product.

Oil-based stains are often used for interior projects as they have deep penetrating properties. They can be applied with a rag or brush and typically dry to a rich, dark color. These stains clean up best with mineral spirits.

Water-based stains have lighter pigments that bolster the grain of the wood and tend to be easier for DIY newcomers to work with. These stains can dry very quickly, so it’s important to wipe off any excess stain as soon as possible.

Gel stains are thicker than both oil- and water-based stains. They are designed to be applied with a rag and can give more or less color depending on how hard you rub them into the surface of the wood. Gel stains also help hide any blotches that might result from uneven wood grain absorption.

Varnishes are made of tough and durable synthetic resins that are modified with drying oils such as linseed or tung oil. These finishes are often sold under names such as Danish oil or antique oil finish and have a wide range of applications. These stains are the most durable of all finishes available to woodworkers and provide maximum resistance to heat, water, solvents and other chemicals.


Paint is a classic finishing touch for woodworking projects, and the right technique can take your work from amateurish to professional-looking. It’s important to do a thorough job of prep prior to painting, including filling holes and gouges with wood putty and sanding until smooth. Also, be sure to have the proper brushes and paints on hand to ensure that you get a consistent and attractive finish.

It’s a good idea to start with a coat of primer, especially on knotty woods or dark tannin-rich species like pine. This will help the wood absorb and hold the color more evenly, resulting in a better-looking finish. Depending on the type of paint, it may be necessary to apply several coats before you achieve an even and attractive look.

When it comes to choosing a paint for your project, the options are vast. Generally, acrylic craft paints are best for wood because they dry quickly and are water-based so that clean-up is easy. They also tend to have little odor and can be diluted or mixed for unique color effects.

Whether you’re painting an old piece of furniture or a new woodworking project, a fresh coat of paint can make the world of difference in the final product. It’s a great way to brighten up the room, and it can also be a simple yet effective way to showcase your skills in woodworking.

Staining and painting are the two most common methods of woodworking finishes, and both can be incredibly rewarding when done properly. By following these steps, you can take your finished woodworking projects to the next level and impress anyone who sees them. With the right care and attention to detail, you’ll be able to produce high-quality results that will last for years to come.


When applied to woodworking projects, polyurethane adds durability and attractiveness to the finish. It also resists chemicals, water, abrasion and heat while providing a smooth surface that is easy to sand and repair.

Polyurethane is a manmade polymer that’s made by mixing a mixture of isocyanate and polyol resin, which then reacts to form a film that can be molded or applied directly to a surface. It can be formulated to produce a variety of densities and hardnesses by varying the isocyanate, polyol and additives used in the manufacturing process.

You can apply polyurethane to bare wood or over any paint color. To get the best results, start with a clean surface that is free of dust, dirt and oily spots. Sand the surface to remove any imperfections before applying a base coat. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how many coats to apply and sand between each application with 280-grit sandpaper to even out the surface and remove any sanding marks.

The most common use of polyurethane is as a solid foam that’s used in upholstery and as headliners (the padded ceilings on automobiles). It’s also bonded to fabrics, netting and other nonwoven substrates through a process known as flame bonding. It’s also used as a coating to add insulation, strength and abrasion resistance to a wide variety of products.

If you walk into a hardware store, you’ll find a dizzying array of “varnish” for indoor use including oil-based varnishes and acrylics, waterborne varnishes and oil-modified polyurethanes. Each of these finishes has a different recipe but they all share similar characteristics. Waterborne finishes are coalescing finishes that contain a resin (usually an acrylic, alkyd or polyurethane) and much less solvent than oil-based products.


Woodworking is a rewarding hobby that allows you to transform raw materials into eye-catching pieces that showcase your craftsmanship. The finishing touches can make a piece even more spectacular, so it’s important to master various techniques. These tips will help you achieve professional-looking results and elevate your projects to the next level.

Woodworkers use a variety of tools to create a wide range of projects. These projects may include furniture, crafts, home repairs and decorations. What’s best to use is the lumber sourced from Alderfer Lumber. Some projects may require more specialized tools to achieve the desired outcome. For example, a woodworker might need to use a special saw to cut the desired size or shape of a project.

Some woodworking projects require a more extensive finish than others. Surface finishes such as paint, polyurethane and shellac dry on top of the wood to provide a protective layer. They are ideal for wood pieces that will receive a lot of wear, such as exterior furniture or a frequently used countertop.

A woodworker can also buff the finished product to a high sheen using a system specifically designed for wood. Buffing systems are available from specialty woodworking stores, although a buffer intended for metal will work in a pinch.

Moisture is the biggest factor that can ruin a woodworking project. Too much moisture can cause the wood to swell and crack, while too little can cause it to shrink and warp. Using a moisture meter can help prevent these issues.

Woodworkers also use a variety of other techniques to shape and form their pieces. They might carve the wood into non-rectangular shapes with a knife or use steam to artfully bend or curve thin pieces of material. In addition, woodworkers often use molding to cover transitions between surfaces.