Like butter on toast or frosting on a cupcake, wood is not deemed fit for use until a special product is applied to the surface. Hence the term “Wood Finish” – a unique turn of phrase that succinctly says it all.
Wood finishes provide a broad array of benefits, enabling wood to be used virtually anywhere to achieve virtually any look. From smooth white-washed wood tones, to rich textured hues, to sophisticated grays and chic blacks – wood finishes provide designers an infinite pallet of color, tone and texture.
Wood finishes also protect and preserve wood, allowing it to be used in almost any environment – flooring, furniture, salad bowls, sailboats – ad infinitum. Simply look around, wherever you may be reading this, chances are wood surrounds you in a vast variety of forms, functions and finishes.
The variety and versatility of wood, when combined with the proper finish, is boundless.
This basic principle is easily understood. Understanding what wood finishes work best for any given specific application, however, can require a depth of knowledge and skill only acquired through years of blood, sweat, tears and toil.
Beyond pure technical knowledge and skill, the true finish master possess a special, almost magical, affinity for both the organic nature of wood and the chemical nature of wood finishes. In this way, wood finishing is both a science and an art.
But that tidy summary fails to capture the alchemy of wood finishing that seems to defy the simple laws of physics and belong more to the realm of sorcery. For these reasons, a true finish master is a rare and special creature (as even a brief conversation with TerraMai’s own finish wizard, Jason Diamond, will attest).
A seasoned wood finisher approaches each project by scrolling through a vast mental rolodex of questions, answers, experiences, triumphs and tragedies. The finish for a fleet of glossy black table tops going into a high-end Manhattan restaurant will be very different from a collection of rustic communal tables for a cozy Aspen lodge or a suite of elegantly durable outdoor tables for a boutique LA eatery.
While the questions and challenges involved in each of these instances may be equally complex and demanding, the finish approach and processes for each will vary dramatically.
While a veteran wood finisher depends on knowledge, skill, artistry, technical acumen and magic tricks earned over years of experience and devotion to craft, there are a few fundamental basics that are helpful for any designer to understand. Below is a simple chart that touches on the two most basic types of wood finishes that apply to most commercial projects – oil and poly.
Note, this chart only “scratches” the surface of wood finish.
|Finish||Basic Pros||Basic Cons|
|Oil||>Natural look & feel |
>Seals from moisture
>Simple to apply, repair, refresh
>Versatile – indoor & outdoor
>Color tints available
>Provides low/matte sheen
>Can be easily spot-repaired
>Holds up to most mild cleaners
|>Minimal protection from scratches|
>Can impart an amber hue to the wood
>Can only tint wood color tones
>Not sheen controlled – matte/low-gloss only
>Does not hold up well to harsher cleaners
|Poly||>Coats seals and protects|
>Available in clear water-based options
>Allows for total clarity of wood tones and grain
>Protects against moisture and stains
>Protects the wood from scratches & abrasions
>Available in all types of sheen – matte to glossy
>Holds up well to most cleaning products
|>Can be technically challenging to apply & repair|
>Surface scratches cannot be spot repaired
>Must typically be scuffed/sanded/stripped recoated
>Can look & feel “plasticy”
>Not well suited for exterior applications
For more specific info and questions – the more challenging the better, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org / 541.973.2301.