What’s in a timber finish?

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Choose right, prepare well and work with the timber’s properties: Peter Smyth delves into the issues to consider when selecting and using timber finishes.

What are we talking about when we say we are finishing timber rather than painting it? Perhaps the most fundamental and obvious difference is that we care what the underlying timber looks like. We have gone from regarding the timber purely as a functional substrate to using it for its aesthetic properties.

This has a number of consequences. The first is that how we prepare the timber for the finish is of much greater importance; this includes obvious points such as not filling holes with an undesirable colour, to more subtle concerns such as how we sand the timber. Second, we are often using the finish not just to preserve the timber but also to enhance its look, so the timber and finish must work in a kind of symbiosis. This relationship is at the heart of what we are trying to do when we finish timber and there are a multitude of ways it has been approached over the years.

Timber selection

Not all timber is created equal and through all of what follows it is worth bearing in mind the importance of appropriate timber selection. This is particularly important in outdoor applications, with some species being more susceptible than others to weathering, termites and other forms of ageing and decay. A wealth of information exists in this area; see links at end.

Read the full article in ReNew 138.

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