Saturday, May 3, 2008


The Real Deal; this time...

O.k. so the phony headline on the last post was a little mis-leading. You thought you were going to find out some top-secret finishing techniques I have locked away in some old turn of the century wood working encyclopedias, but no, you only got a mellow-dramatic tale of one small Block Planes journey through wood life in my shop.
I felt pretty bad after hearing from the countless readers who wanted the 'Real Truth' behind my wood finishing procedures. What follows is my advice to you; my secret finishing techniques revealed, with a detailed diagram for a unique and truly state-of-the-art Sanding Aid. I urge you to try this technique on some scrap wood first and then let yourself become comfortable with this method. I don't expect anything in return for this information but please, work safely at a pace that is comfortable for you.

Proper Wood Finishing

The first step in fine wood finishing is to go out and buy yourself the nicest Smoothing Plane you can possibly afford. Sharpen it like there's no tomorrow and take a light pass over all show surfaces of the piece in question. Make sure to overlap each pass slightly. Once this step is complete follow with a cabinet scraper, taking care to watch for tiny tear-out in the wood fibres from the last step. When you feel the heat building up in the card scraper, stop. Put it aside because I'd really hate to hear that you burnt the tips of your fingers. Now the secret weapon; the Sanding Aid that will change the way you think and work with wood. I'll include specific dimensions at the end of this post. The Sanding Block. An approximately two and a half inch squared piece of hardwood, ( I used Oak for mine ) take this small off cut and reach down onto the floor of your shop. Scoop up a handful of shavings left over from the Smoothing plane earlier. Place the pile of shavings on the work piece and compress it down with the block of hardwood. Rub vigorously around for as long as you can stand it and step back. Look at the gleam rising out of the wood grain! Incredible isn't it. I usually follow this step with an oil and varnish hand rubbed finish. Amazing eh?
So the specs...about 2 1/2" squared.


  1. now can we expect a shellac 101 post? hehehe!

    i actualyl have a question regarding drawer finishing. lets say one is to make a mortise for a nice carved knob, at which point does one make the mortise in the front for the knob? i've read that you should always install the knob AFTER finishing the front...and other times i hear nothing. whats your take on this?

  2. hee-hee-hee...
    I actually agree with that 100 %. As an example, I tend to use an oil/varnish hand rubbed finish almost all of the time lately; it's nice to bring a piece to a finished state and still have the luxury/convenience or simply the option of altering it after the finish is; with a mortise for a drawer pull, hinges, etc...So, I say finish before mortise providing it's a 'user friendly' finish like oil. Some finishes may not be so easy to work with once applied and trying to cut a mortise after it's on the drawer may leave a line or shadow around the pull.Try it on a scrap piece to be safe...
    Thanks for the comment and good luck with it.

  3. Well, folks, I can vouch for this little finishing secret. The Japanese have done it for centuries and I do something similar myself. I just reach down and grab a handful of beautiful shavings and burnish away. I never thought of using a block, but I will now. Good tip Tom.

  4. o.k.,o.k.
    so, i don't use this tiny block of wood to finish....i do however use a pile of sandpaper to burnish the final sense of humour can get the best of me...and no, the specs for the magical sanding aid are made-up as well... :(