This is the last entry directly about the Medieval Hutch Chest build. If you haven't caught the other posts you can certainly catch up by clicking on the link HERE.
I will admit my Achilles Heel in woodworking is the finishing process. I have devoted a lot of time and study to joinery techniques, to working with power and hand tools, to proportions and design and the flow of grain in a piece. The area of my knowledge that is the most lacking is finishing. I just don't feel sophisticated enough in my approach to it. Maybe I'm comparing myself to other woodworkers who's blogs I read or who I follow in the magazines, but lately I've been realizing that if I want to move forward and get better then I have to learn more finishing techniques than the two or three standbys I have.
The biggest problem is that I have learned most of what I know woodworking by either reading or doing. I have yet to find a really good book on finishing out there, (I have heard really good things about "Understanding Wood Finishing" by Bob Flexner and I will probably be checking that out soon) I think the biggest hindrance for me is two fold.
1. For a long time I really just decided that I hated the finishing process, I really have started to revise that thought in my head over the last few years or so, but for a long time I really thought of it as something I "had" to do, not something I should want to do. It slowed down my shop, it took a large amount of extra planing and time management, it meant my shop work had to stop for a while so dust wouldn't interfere with the polyurethane. If I could have built a piece and sent it off to a professional finisher, I would have.
2. I have never taken the time to experiment with finishes, to learn on my own what looks good and what works well. When I started I was slave to the simple idea that you slap on a stain, put on some polyurethane, and call it a day, I followed directions on cans, the pitiful and short things they are, and was never happy with results. Circumstances have lead me to be cheep, I cannot over buy a lot of stock, infact I almost never have extra wood on hand, I try to buy just enough for a project. yes there are some cut offs and I suppose that is probably another lame excuse.
Either way what I have come to is a couple of options in my limited bag of tricks, The first thing I do is if I use a stain, I use a very light stain, less to color the wood than to just bring out the finish a little, I do like to use a stain conditioner first but I have been reading things about whether that is worthwhile or not lately to. Over a stain I use a satin polyurethane, I like to use the variety packaged in the aerosol cans, more expensive, yes, better results, I guess, right or wrong, I've fooled myself into thinking so. but my latest trick, the simplest thing I have ever found, has been Danish Oil, Watco brand to be exact. A couple of coats a half hour apart, and there you go. couldn't be simpler.
I have one more trick, torching the wood, but I will come back to this one in future posts. The real point is
I feel like I'm in a rut when it comes to this stuff and I'll be expanding my horizon's in the future, but I didn't have a whole lot of time leading up to the delivery deadline on the Hutch Chest so I went with a tried and true - two coats of Danish Oil rubbed in with a finishing pad.
I need to find a good finishing class and make a point of getting my butt there.
So a few more gratuitous pics of the finished product.
Now the big question at the end of every project. What would I have done differently?
1. Well we've nailed down I would have liked to have used a different finish. I'm not unhappy with how this finish turned out, I always seem to get great looking results with Danish Oil. I guess I'm just in a space where I need to expand my horizons.
2. I think it may be the tanin in the oak, (the chemical that makes it possible to ebonize oak) but I made my own wood putty to fill the few finishing nail holes there were. I used a mixture of fine sawdust from the random orbit sander and some of my Gorilla brand wood glue, but I think the tanin in the oak reacted with the moisture in the glue and it looked good to start but after it dried it turned dark, dark, dark. Ugly dark.
3. The only other big thing is making the mistake of trying to measuring to mount the hinges on the front panel of the case instead of the back panel, I caught myself before I made a cut with a saw, but not before I struck the line with a chisel, leaving a mark a little too deep to be sanded out, again the enemy of good is perfect, I left the lines and I think they only stand out horribly to me.
4. It would have been very interesting to try and build this piece with riven, green oak. I understand it is much easier to work and infact the build would have been even more period accurate if I'd had that option. Maybe at some point in the future the opportunity will arise and I will have the chance to take advantage.
What's next on my plate? Well I'm going to knock around the shop a bit, I have a turning project a friend of mine has requested that should be fun once we settle on a design. I do have someone who has enquired about building an Arts & Crafts style sideboard, we looked at some options but I'm thinking the upcoming cover project for Popular Woodworking may be just what she's looking for. If so that will be the first time I've built a piece directly from a magazine plan and I think that will be an interesting experience, look forward to plenty of posts about that journey if the plan goes forward. Other than that I have a few things I want to build for the shop. A modification to my Moxon Twin Screw Vise and a Saw Till are at the top of my list, but I'd really also like to come up with a good way to organize my sand paper. We'll see what I can come up with there.