Wood Finishing Systems – A Woodworker’s Options

Wood Finishing Systems – A Woodworker’s Options

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As a woodworker, you probably already know that architectural woodworking finishes are more than just the general perception of a quick final polish. But do you know what all your options are for types of finish, and how do you explain the perception of woodworking finishes versus the reality?



The Purpose of Wood Finishing Systems

An architectural woodworking finish is traditionally used as a way of enhancing or changing the natural beauty of the wood. Another clear purpose and benefit is that a good quality finish provides protection from damage to the wood by moisture, contaminants and general handling.



Types of Wood Finishing

The Architectural Woodwork Standards highlight a range of wood finishing systems, all of which provide protection for the wood, as well as points to consider when you’re selecting a finishing system.

Factory finishing is typically specified for high-quality work where superior appearance and performance is desired. Benefits of factory finishing include consistency, control of film thickness and curing of the finish in a controlled environment.

Field finishing is normally used when there is not a demand for a superior appearance. In this case, the finisher is responsible for accepting the supplied woodwork and for ensuring that the finish meets the specified standards, for example in color, texture, and sheen.


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Considerations When Selecting Wood Finishes

Within these two types of finishing, there are many considerations to factor in including:

    • The specifications you are given versus what is best for the woodworking job
    • The cost of the system versus the benefit it provides for your job
    • Optimizing application techniques so they provide a durable and aesthetically pleasing appearance
    • The curing of finish systems
    • Color matching and color consistency
    • Open and close grains
    • Resistance – against wear, chemicals and the local environment



Wood Finishing: Perception vs Reality

Unfortunately, the general perception is that wood finishing is a simple job – all you need to do is give the wood a coat of protection and you’re finished. As the considerations above show, the reality is more complicated than that:

  • If you’re working on a large project which includes a lot of wood veneer paneling, you will have to take into account many different factors including how to preserve the color of the wood, whether or not you want to add depth to the wood, the different grains, etc.
  • In order to meet the specifications set by the designer, you need to ensure you select the right wood finishing method.
  • Woodworking shops often use two or three different methods across all jobs. These are either chemically cured or use an activator to speed up hardening, but there are actually 13 AWS finishing systems that you could use to best meet the specifications for your job.
  • Even if the specifications you have seem to be written for one particular finishing system, it is always best to consider each of the 13 AWS systems to ensure that you’re using the optimal one for the job.



The 13 AWS Finishing Systems

See page 115 of Section 5 – columns 1 and 2 only

You will find more information about architectural woodworking finishes in the Architectural Woodwork Standards, section five. This section covers types of wood finish, detailed considerations and techniques, as well as compliance requirements.

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Design Solutions, Spring 2014
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