The Language of Finishing
From aniline to witness line, grasp the lingo and you'll soon be a fluent finisher
Synopsis: Do you know the difference between chatoyance and figure? Between sanding swirls and pigtails? Read this first installment of a two-part guide to the language of finishing, and learn to talk about finishing like a master. This part covers surface preparation and the range of finishes available.
One reason many woodworkers find finishing difficult may be because the language is so confusing. If your finish is bleeding, does it need time to cure? If it is blushing, should you be distressed (or perhaps you should be fuming)? Do you call the mob if you need a finish rubbed out?
What follows is the first in a two-part guide to the language of finishing. each installment will explain some of the more common but cryptic words and phrases. We’ll start by covering surface preparation and the range of finishes available. In Part 2, we’ll discuss different methods of applying and polishing a finish.
Surface prep: the foundation of finishing
Surface preparation is the process of using handplanes, scrapers, and sandpaper (powered by machine or hand) to remove surface blemishes left by machines. A handplane and card scraper is the fastest method; sandpaper is typically the last step. Almost all sandpaper now uses the European FEPA scale (a metric system for measuring the coarseness of the abrasive granules), denoted by a P before the number. The older CAMI scale is now mostly confined to grits higher than 600 in wet-or-dry paper used for sanding finishes.
Most random-orbit sanding disks (and some rolls of abrasive) come with a hook-and-loop backing (aka velcro) that can be pricey but lets you remove and reuse the disks. Sanding swirls and pigtails are visible scratches caused by pressing down too hard on a random-orbit sander. The sander’s weight alone is enough to let the disk do…