The Language of Finishing: Part 2
Applying and Polishing
Synopsis: In part two of The Language of Finishing, learn the terms used to describe the process of preparing a surface for finishing, and applying the finish itself. From French polish to natural bristles, from orange peel to witness lines, learn these terms and you’ll not only finish like a pro, you’ll talk like one, too.
In FWW #229, I wrote about the often bewildering terms that woodworkers and finishers use to describe the task of preparing a surface for finishing, and for the finishes they use. As it happens, there are more linguistic land mines when describing how to apply a finish and how to give the surface a final polish. Understanding these terms will make you a better finisher, helping you understand your problems—and the solutions given by experts, too.
Wiping on a finish is a relatively simple process, but it’s not without pitfalls. I wish I had a dollar for every finishing article I’ve read that suggests using a lint-free cotton cloth. Many cotton items from socks to underwear contain lint—residual flecks of fiber that gradually come loose and disappear after multiple washings. That’s why an old, much-washed T-shirt makes a great application tool.
To check a cloth for lint, use it to dry a wine glass or clean a mirror with glass cleaner. any lint will show up on the glass and will mar your project if you use a linty cloth to apply a finish.
Aside from lint marring a wiped-on finish, you may also encounter a problem known as bleeding. This occurs with oil finishes on open-pored woods such as oak when excess oil oozes from the pores long after you’ve wiped the surface dry. If you don’t repeatedly wipe the surface, these droplets will dry into small,…