How to Finish Wood

By Martin Hart on Thu 05 March 2020

Whether you are putting down a new wooden floor or just hanging a door, you should make sure you leave enough time for finishing. But why do you need to finish wood anyway? Wood tends to look in good in its natural state even with nothing applied. 

The reasons for finishing wood are to:

• Keep it hygienic – The holes in the wood can attract dirt and grime and potentially be a breeding ground for bacteria. A good finish will seal the porous surface and enhance the look as well as make it easier to keep it clean.


• Minimise movement – Wood responds to the moisture around it and causes it to shrink and swell. This movement can put stress on the wood and cause it to warp or split, so applying finish to all sides is important as it reduces the moisture absorption.


• Make it look good - the finish on any project is crucial as this is what the customer sees on a regular basis. Your customer is likely to notice any imperfections and incorrectly perceive the work to be substandard. Your work is promoting you and could potentially lead to further business through recommendations.

To get you started, here are three things to consider for best results.


Are You Using The Right Sandpaper?

Sanding and smoothing wood is an essential step, although most consider it to be the most time consuming and disliked. Ironically, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to over-sand: your aim should be to just sand enough so the wood is smooth and defects cannot be seen. There is no need to continue to sand once you’ve reached this stage.

Using the correct sandpaper will make your task easier and there are several types of sandpapers available to you and come in a variety of grades, from fine to coarse. The grit size will range from 40 to over 400; the lower the grit size, the courser the sandpaper.

You should start by using a medium or coarse grade paper e.g. 80 or a 100 grit and change the paper as you go along. You will rarely go past 220. Follow this guide to make life easier:

• Start by using a medium or coarse grade paper e.g. 80 or a 100 grit and change the paper as you go along.

• Let the grit do the work. Do not need apply too much pressure as this will just wear out the paper quickly. And don’t use ‘hand sanding’ paper in a power sander.

• Move sandpaper along the grain and if there is no grain, move the sandpaper in small circular motions. Do not sand across the grain.

• Remove the scratches left by the sandpaper using finer grits, move down the grits until you see change.


Have You Rectified Any Damage?

 No matter how careful you are, there is always a possibility of dents, scratches or holes in woodwork. To get rid of any dents, you can steam them, if the fibres have not been broken. This swells the wood fibres and can fill out the dent or depression. If the hole is particularly large a wood patch may be best as it will be much easier to disguise. A patch would also be ideal for gaps left in joints.

Wood putty can be useful in certain situations. You can use it effectively to fill smaller defects, and when used as a glue and a part of another solution. Wax crayons can also be an appropriate solution if the hole is small.


Have You Got The Correct Brush?

A decent quality brush is important if you are applying a high-quality finish. There are generally three types of brushes: sponge, synthetic bristle and natural bristle. There are also pad applicators, which can work similarly. You can judge how high quality a natural or synthetic bristle brush is from three factors:

• The arrangement of the bristles forms a chisel shape and is not cut off square

• Every individual bristle is thinner at the top

• The tip of each bristle if split into several separate strands

Chisel-edged brushes (the centre bristles are longer than each flat side bristles) are useful for applying wood treatment or bleach, where smoothness is not a priority. Tapered Bristle brushes are better for a smoother finish as it holds more solution. Natural bristle brushes do not perform well for water based stains or finished, however synthetic bristle brushes do. Both perform well with solvent based stains although most painters prefer to use natural bristle brush.


These are just three things to consider when perfecting your woodwork finish. If you would like to get more information about wood finishing and the best products to use for your project, you can get in touch with Hart Wholesale.


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