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Understanding Wood Finishing: How to Select and Apply the Right Finish
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Understanding Wood Finishing: How to Select and Apply the Right Finish

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  193 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Taking the mystery out of wood finishing, this completely updated second edition includes the latest technical updates on materials and techniques--from spray guns to French polishing--with detailed step-by-step instructions and explanations. The most practical, comprehensive book on finishing ever published, this guide offers advice for troubleshooting, distinguishing dif ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 23rd 2005 by Readers Digest (first published December 1993)
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Average rating 4.46  · 
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 ·  193 ratings  ·  15 reviews

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Laura (Kyahgirl)
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
4.5/5; 5 stars; A

In the introduction Bob Flexner states that he originally wrote this book because there is so much confusing information out there about finishing wood. He spent a lot of time researching the chemistry of products on the market, going to educational seminars, and applying his knowledge. I was hooked right from the beginning because I too have have tried to make sense of the shelves and shelves of wood finishing products with instructions which all seem to contradict each other.
Koen Crolla
Decent overview of the various finishes available at a typical North American big-box store and how they work. There's not really anything here you won't soon pick up through osmosis if you spend any time at all interacting with woodworking communities, but that's largely because of how influential this book has been anyway.
Flexner doesn't really have a sense of how finishes are used elsewhere in the world or before the late 19th century, is bizarrely bad at using oils to the point that it unfai
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crafts
Comprehensive, a great book to own as you want to be able to read through it front to back but also have the opportunity to reference again later on.

For some reason I found some techniques described in here less memorable than same methods as listed in The Furniture Doctor by Grotz - I know the intentions of the books are not the same, the scope of each is different too. Tone is very different. Best thing to do I think would be to own both!
Robert Joslin
Jan 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
When I first foundthis book, it was more out of curiosity than seeking knowledge that led me to readit. I am pleasantly surprised at the knowledge gained in chosing a finish, protections, care, maintenance, and even stripping. This is a book worth having in your library if you do any sort of woodworking or restoring.
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent information

The author knows his stuff because he has done the testing and research that we don't have the time or inclination to do. He dispels some of the myths and mysteries of finishes and wood and makes it all easy to understand. Highly recommended.
Jun 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A plethora of valuable information. Simplified for all to understand. Pretty much the wood refinishing Bible!
Curtis Jensen
Feb 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Great definitive guidebook.

If I could remember 1% of this book, I'd be an expert like these guys:

Justin Sacher
Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Finally! A book that explains the chemistry of the products I buy and use in my hobby. (Ingredients aren’t actually listed on many products.) Highly useful!
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: woodworking-own
An excellent reference on finishing. It gets a little deep in the weeds if you're not interested in a particular technique, but great if you want to learn to do a particular treatment. ...more
Dave Clark
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: woodworking
I loved the first edition of this book that came out in 1994, & this edition is even better. I love how he goes through & explains how various types of finishes actually work, & meanwhile debunking many manufacturer's marketing claims (some of which are outright lies) about the performance of their products. For example, did you know that some cans of so-called "tung oil" actually contain zero, zilch, nada tung oil? And that "Danish Oil" is just an overpriced wiping varnish that you can make you ...more
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: workshop
I finished reading this book cover to cover and found it not only fascinating (yup, I'm a nerd), but also necessary if you have any hope to finish wood. It is simply too confusing a topic with too much misinformation to be able to do it without the help of an expert. ...more
Mar 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Woodworkers
One of the best of the books on finishing, it's only slight downfall is that finish manufactures reformulate and repackage their products with great abandon, so some of the products have changed or don't exist. ...more
Tim Hagerty
Nov 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The bible for wood finishing.
Mar 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a new stainer, I found this incredibly informative and interesting. (Note that I mostly only read the sections on wood prep, stains, staining, and finish + application techniques.)
Jeff Beland
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: home-yard
I don't know about a perfect finish, but after reading this my project looks a lot better than they used to ...more
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