Understanding Wood Finishing
by Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher

I began my career in antique restoration waaaay back in the early seventies while in college. I needed a part time job to help out with expenses and landed in an antique repair and restoration shop as an all around gopher and quite often, the brunt of many practical jokes that actually turned out to be rather worthwhile learning experiences. Needless to say, having hands stained for weeks on end leads one to believe there has to be a better way.

Fast forwarding to the early eighties, I found myself starting my own restoration business and realized very quickly there was still a huge amount of information I needed to know in order to deal with all of the different situations coming through the door at the time. Since there was no Internet then, (the Dark Ages) I had to rely on the info on the product labels, which were basically of no help, or pester my colleagues for advice when I got stuck and didn't know the right answer. With the help of others and shear tenacity, I managed to muddle through to the first half of the nineties having developed my own methods of finishing, utilizing only a couple of finishing systems.

All of this changed dramatically after I met Bob Flexner for the first time in Las Vegas at a gathering sponsored by a publication we were both involved with, Finishing And Restoration Magazine . He gave me a copy of his book, Understanding Wood Finishing that evening after the day's activities, and I went back to my room and virtually devoured the entire book in the first evening. Not only did I finally understand what I was doing right in my self-taught world of finishing, I understood much more than I even realized but didn't know the correct technical terminology for, since I had no real formal training in chemistry or any science for that matter.

So many mysteries were finally cleared up and the overall picture really started to come into focus. I can say with certainty that I was very happy, no, ecstatic , to finally have a reference book that not only gave me the answers to all of my finishing problems but the HOW AND WHY the materials perform the way they do, plus the compatibility of which materials will work together and which ones will not.

Not only is this book worth its weight in gold, it has saved me as much as it has made me in my restoration business.

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