Tips & Techniques
Useful information for successful wood projects.
Helpful Wood Finishing Terms
Ambering - The tendency of a clear protective finish to take on a warm, yellow appearance as it ages.
Bleeding/Bleedback - A staining phenomenon occurring when the stain seeps back to the surface of the wood.
Brush Marks - Lines or ridges left by the brush and dried in the finish.
End Grain - The wood surface exposed when a board is cut across the grain, opening the elongated pores so that they absorb more liquid than the other parts of the board.
Ferrule - The metal band used to hold the bristles to the handle of a brush.
Flagging - Tips of bristles that have been intentionally split to carry more liquid from the can to the wood.
Gloss - A surface shininess or sheen, ranging from satin to semi-gloss to high gloss.
Grain - The arrangement or direction of the fibers in wood.
Graining - A technique that uses stain to duplicate the grain pattern of a type of wood on a non-wood surface.
Grain Raising - A condition that occurs on the surface of wood when its fibers absorb water, causing them to stand, and giving the wood a rough surface.
Grit - The numbering system that reflects the relative coarseness of the abrasive particles on sandpaper. Lower grit numbers indicate coarse abrasives; higher grit numbers, finer abrasives.
Hardwood - Wood that comes from broad-leafed trees, such as oak, walnut and maple.
Knot - The hard cross-grained mass of wood that forms where a tree branch meets the trunk. In a sawn board, it is darker and harder than the surrounding wood.
Lacquer - A clear or pigmented protective coating, formulated with cellulosic or synthetic resins to dry by evaporation, forming a solid film.
Leveling - The "flowing out" of a freshly applied finish, during which brush marks disappear.
Mineral Spirits - A distillation product of petroleum used as a thinner for oil-based paints, varnishes and stains.
Oil-Based - A stain or clear protective finish comprised of resins dispersed or dissolved in a solvent such as alcohol or mineral spirits.
Overspray - Finish, propelled by aerosol cans that lands and dries on surfaces other than the target.
Polyurethane - A synthetic resin used to formulate durable varnishes.
Polyurethane Finish - An exceptionally hard and wear-resistance varnish noted for its overall balance of high performance properties including durability and abrasion resistance and household chemical resistance.
Pores - Cell-like cavities that characterize the grain of the wood.
Run - A finish defect resulting from too much finish on a vertical or tilted surface.
Shellac - A varnish made by dissolving lac (a natural resin) in denatured alcohol.
Softwood - Wood that comes from trees that bear needles such as pine and fir.
Solvent - Any liquid that can be used to dissolve other substances. The most common solvents in wood finishing are water, mineral spirits, denatured alcohol, acetone, turpentine, and toluene.
Spar Urethane - A durable varnish formulated for exterior use; it remains slightly softer and more flexible than interior varnish allowing it to expand and contract with changing weather conditions.
Stain - Any of several products containing dyes and/or pigments to add color to wood.
Topcoat - A clear protective finish, such as polyurethane, that is applied over bare or stained wood.
Varnish - A preparation for coating wood surfaces, consisting of resins dissolved in oil, denatured alcohol or water.
Water-Based - A stain or clear protective finish comprised of resins dispersed, dissolved or emulsified in water.
Wood Conditioner - A liquid applied prior to staining to obtain even stain penetration and uniform color. In the case of water-based products, wood conditioner also controls grain raise.