Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Woodworking Book Review : Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing, by Jeff Jewitt

Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing By Jeff Jewitt

It's not how you start, it's how you finish! OK, couldn't resist that, but for many woodworkers the finish applied to their work is the crowning glory for their efforts. However, achieving that perfect finish isn't always easy.


The Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing by Jeff Jewitt is now ten years old but continues to be the reference guide for finishing techniques from the ever-popular stable of the Taunton Press. Though the book is written as a dip-in-and-out guide and a long-term reference to be used in the workshop, it makes no assumptions and is helpful for woodworkers whatever their skill level.

Much of the most important information is where you would expect it, at the start of the book with detailed instructions about setting up a suitable environment. Fortunately, the author recognises that, for most of us, a purpose-built spray room, in a separate annex wing of our extensive workshop is, though desirable, not always feasible, and he gives simple instructions for the mortals amongst us to achieve an effective working space within a reasonable budget. 

After the obligatory section on suitable tools required for finishing, where the general rule seems to be one more than you anticipated for your last project", the author gets into the meat of the subject.

Surface preparation: there is no easy way round this folks, if you want the very best result from your work before applying any kind of finish you have to prepare the surface thoroughly. For me, this is probably the best part of the book. All the basic techniques are covered, using both hand and power tools together with some great tips and techniques that on your own would take years to figure out.

The section on fixing defects will be invaluable for those of us who might be a little over-zealous with the glue pot or have to make do with less than perfect stock to make our projects. Recognising that a blemish must be hidden well before applying a finish coat is an important lesson and there are some excellent techniques here to help the woodworker master the art of concealment.

Using stains or adding colour, artificial or natural dye to your work can have a dramatic effect on the outcome especially for decorative / art pieces. Getting the dye to take with the shade you expect can be a trial and error process but this guide gives clear instructions helping you get closer to your goals with fewer experiments" on the way. 

The remainder of the book is a terrific work of reference to help you choose the right finish for each job, the materials you require and the application technique particular to each skilled operation. Not something to read cover to cover, but worth a browse as you contemplate how to finish that prize project you have been slaving over for months.

Would I buy this book? The short answer is yes; I can find no other reference with quite the depth of information on such a range of techniques in one place. Sure, there are books just about French polishing or applying a stain but this volume pulls all of the best information into a single place. Although it has been ten years since it was first published, this guide is as good as ever.


Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing (Complete Illustrated Guides (Taunton Press))by Jeff Jewitt is available from thegmcgroup.com  and other retailers online.  ISBN-978-1-62710-767-9