Share the Experience

For the most part, woodworking has been a solitary activity for me. Over the years, I’ve taught myself most of what I know. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way — and either cursed or laughed about them without any witnesses or commiserators. At the same time, by going it “solo” so much of the time, I haven’t really shared the successes and breakthroughs that also happen as we gain experience. It’s been a pretty quiet life in the shop.

Then the other day a new friend of mine asked me to do a small commissioned piece for him. He’s a pipe smoker and wanted a pipe rack he’d seen online. These racks are made by hand in Europe, and while he was more than willing to pay several hundred dollars for it, his long-distance queries to order one of them had gone unanswered. That’s where I came in.

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What Are Your Favorite Finishes?

Whether we like the process of finishing or not, no woodworking project is really complete without slathering on some protective finish. Years ago, I was a “poly” only kinda guy. Back in the 1980s, oil-based polyurethane is pretty what seemed to fill the hardware store shelf under the “Wood Finishes” sign. So, that’s what I used. It smelled bad and dried slowly, but once the finish finally hardened up, it was fairly tough. And I could count on its consistency and characteristics every time.

I’m glad to say that my finishing palate has expanded some since then. Continue reading

Three Fast Finishes


Three finishes that deliver at crunch time: shellac, spray lacquer and water-based poly.

It’s T-minus ten days till Christmas Eve. How are your gift projects coming along? If you’re planning to finish them with oil-based poly, you’ve still got time for it to dry. But, a week from now? No way.

Nothing says “I waited too long” more than a present that smells like wet varnish.

Now, I’m not advocating “eleventh-hour” finishing…but it can happen. So, if you need a contingency plan, let me suggest three wood finishes to turn to when time is running out. You’ll still come out the hero on Christmas morning.

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Three Cheers for Spray Deft

Here's a blazing-fast, totally forgiving finish to remember next December 23rd, when you desperately need it: Deft in a can.

Here's a blazing-fast, totally forgiving finish to remember next December 23rd, when you desperately need it: Deft in a can.

This past Christmas, I fell victim to an all-too-common seasonal disorder among woodworkers: gift-making procrastination.

Heard of it? If you haven’t—or haven’t caught it yet—you haven’t been woodworking long enough.

In my own defense, it wasn’t complete negligence … the gifts were assembled and the glue was dry; they just weren’t finished. So there I was, T-minus two days till gift opening and not an ounce of finish applied to my projects. To make matters worse, these were two little jewelry boxes intended for my school-age daughters. “Nearly done” wasn’t going to cut it. Once the packages were opened, I’d never get those boxes out of their clutches for a topcoat. And, my wife was counting on me getting these buggers under the tree in time. I promised. But, aside from a certain spousal pressure, I also just couldn’t live with them dry. That’s just not how a respectable woodworker does things, right?

Murphy could be my next-door neighbor, because his Law was in full effect. My shop was busy with other things, magazine related. Wet, slow-drying finish wasn’t going to work this time. It would have to be easy to apply, fast-drying and cured by St. Nick’s arrival. What could I do?

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