Wednesday, January 6, 2010


The last step in the production of most woodwork, is finishing. In the case of architectural woodwork, this step would be followed by installation.
Many if not most small shops in the Vancouver area sub-contract finishing to an outside supplier that specializes in finishing. Sometimes these may be another larger shop that has its own finishing department or it may be a shop that does finishing exclusively.
Most modern finishing today involves a spray finish of some sort. This requires a preparation area, a spray booth and a dust free drying area. It is not generally practical for smaller woodworking shops to commit the required space and capital to a finishing set up that will only be used on an occasional basis. Although many joiners are also skilled finishers, finishing and joinery are considered separate trades, and both require a high level of skill.
As any elementary joinery textbook will tell you, finishing will not make up for a poorly prepared surface. Unfortunately, sometimes defects like sanding marks and glue residue are not always evident until the first stages of finishing. Finishing then, although a separate stage of the woodworking process is an integral part of it. For this reason, the finisher needs to understand his responsibility in terms of the success of the overall project. Not just put a finish on the work and send the bill.
In the Vancouver area it seems that the ratio of finishing shops to woodworkers who use them is very much in favour of the finishers at this time. In fact, I think it could be said that there is a shortage of good finishing shops.
This is an excellent business opportunity for the right people. Setting up and running a wood finishing shop is much less demanding than setting up a woodworking shop. The capital costs are much lower. If you avoid on site work and re-finishing the work is pretty straight forward. There is no need to do any design work or drawings. There is almost no math involved. Like any trade, skill is acquired with practise and you would not want to dive into self employment without skilled help or a few years under your belt working for someone else. One measure of a good finisher is the ability to mix colours from samples both for stains and paint. The other critical abilities required to successfully run a finishing shop are the same as any other, communication and organizational skills. Once you have things established with a satisfied customer base you will do well. Provided you have a broad range of customers, even if things are slow, they will always have work for you.

1 comment:

  1. I have often wondered about the availability of good finishers in the area. Finding a reliable and knowledgeable finisher is incredibly important as the final success of a piece lies in their hands.

    In the customer's eyes, poor finishing only reflects badly on the artist, not on the finisher. Woodworkers need to find someone that they can trust to maintain their high standards as it is their name attached to the piece not anyone elses.

    Great blog Francis. Keep up the good work!