True Grain Wood Crafting
True Grain Wood Crafting
If you can Dream It We Can Build It
If you can Dream It We Can Build It
If you can Dream It We Can Build It
©2012 "True Grain Wood Crafting"
All Rights Reserved.
True Grain Wood Crafters is pleased to provide you with this handy guide to buying and finishing wood
furniture. As always, our knowledgeable staff is available to answer any questions you may have. Just give
us a ring or come by!
First, Let's look at some definitions of the terms you will see when shopping for wood furniture:
Solid Wood Furniture - means that all exposed parts of the furniture are made of solid board, either
softwood or hardwood lumber. No veneers or particle boards are used. When solid boards are used in
furniture construction, they are glued together side by side along the edges. Often, a number of boards are
used to make the wood more stable and reduce the chance of warping. Solid board can always be identified
by following a seam to the end, where you will find the "end" grain. Many times veneers are glued over the
edges to look like solid wood, but they will always be faced on the end and show no end grain. There are three
types of glue-up in most solid wood furniture:
Plank - is made of pieces that have the same length but varying widths.
Laminated - is made of pieces that have the same length and width.
Butcher Block - is made of pieces with varying length but the same width.
All-wood Furniture - is not necessarily solid wood. A veneer can help you achieve the look you desire at a
cost lower than solid lumber. Veneers can be overlaid on plywood or particle board. A plywood core is
lighter, less expensive and more forgiving if damaged, but it can swell if it gets wet. If damaged, particle
board will often fracture because the material is so hard it cannot absorb a shock.
Veneer - is a thin layer of wood applied in sheets over underlying layers of wood, plywood or particle board.
Plywood - is made of thin layers of solid wood glued over each other with grains running at 90-degree angles
to produce a strong core. A veneer is often glued on top.
Particle board - is made by gluing chips and particles of wood together and pressing them into sheets, upon
which a veneer can be glued. Hardness is determined by the specific density of the wood, not by whether a
tree is classified as a "hardwood" or "softwood."
Hardwoods - come from deciduous trees. (e.g. maple, oak, alder) Some hardwoods, such as balsa wood, are
actually softer than some softwoods, such as pine.
Softwoods - come from conifers. (e.g. pine, spruce, fir, cypress)
Next, here's a handy tip for determining the quality of a piece of furniture :
Drawer construction is generally a good indication of overall furniture quality. Some drawers have no
guides. The lack of guides allows more "play" and can cause the drawer to bind when it is opened and closed.
Others have wood-to-wood center guides, nylon-to-wood center guides, side-mounted roller guides or
center-mounted metal guides. Roller guides and center-mounted metal guides normally have built-in
drawer stops, and some have lifetime warranties for drawer operation. Many drawers have glue-blocks to
strengthen the bottom. Most ready-to-finish chests have wood drawer bottoms, but this is not always the
case with pre-finished furniture. Now, as in the past, doweled and dovetailed drawer joints indicate a high
degree of craftsmanship. However, modern machine technology, good bonding glue and pneumatically
driven staples coated with resin have afforded savings in construction while providing durability.
Now Let's list the types of wood from which our fine furniture is made and tell you a little about each:
Alder - is a hardwood from the Pacific Northwest. It is very consistent in color and takes stain well. It ranks
third behind oak and pine as the wood most commonly used for ready-to-finish furniture. Alder gives the
look of many fine hardwoods at a reasonable price.
Ash - is a long-fibered, light-colored hardwood with a tight grain much like birch or maple. It is good for
bending, takes stain well and is used mainly for chairs and stools.
Aspen - is a softer, light-colored, even-grained hardwood. It accepts most stains well, but may need a sealer
or a coat of mineral spirits to achieve an even stain. Non-penetrating stains work best on this wood.
Beech - grows primarily in the Northeast and Canada. It is a cream-colored hardwood often used for sporting
equipment, such as baseball bats. It has an open grain pattern similar to that of oak, and takes stains well
Birch - is fine-grained hardwood that grows primarily in the Northeast and Canada. White in color, it takes
any color of stain well.
Maple - is especially abundant in the eastern U.S. It is a very light-colored hardwood with a very even grain
texture. Eastern maples are generally harder than western maples because of the colder winters and
shorter growing seasons. Both are very durable and take any color of stain well.
Oak - is the wood most commonly used for ready-to-finish furniture. It is a very hard, open-grain wood that
comes in red or white varieties. Red oak, which has a pinkish cast, is the more popular of the two. White oak
has a slight greenish cast. Both woods stain well in any color.
Parawood - from the Far East is used for much of the furniture made in that part of the world. The wood is as
hard as maple or ash and takes a very even stain. It is yellow in color, with a grain similar to mahogany.
Pine - is a softwood that comes in many varieties from various parts of the world. In the U.S., Eastern white
pine, ponderosa pine and sugar pine are some of the varieties used to make furniture. All have yellow
coloring with brown knots and are excellent for staining. With some stains, a sealer helps prepare the wood
to achieve a more even look.
Radiata Pine - is a plantation-grown wood from South America that is harder than other pines and has
fewer knots. This variety of pine has a beautiful grain pattern.
And finally, once you've purchased that piece of quality furniture in the desired wood type, it is time to
finish it. You can paint, varnish, or finish your furniture in a number of other ways. That is one of the
beauties of unfinished furniture. One of the most common finishing processes is known as "staining and top
coating". Here are some tips to help you do the job using this method:
Preparing the surface
Most unfinished pieces need additional fine sanding before finishing to avoid surface fuzz or roughness that
will show when the stain is applied.
Always sand in the direction of the grain.
Oak should be sanded to medium smoothness with medium-coarse 120-grit sandpaper. Other woods should
be sanded with medium sandpaper, generally no finer than 150-grit.
If wood fill has been used to cover nicks or holes, be sure the residue has been sanded well. If not, the area
around the fill will not stain properly and may have a blotchy look.
Stains contain colored pigments that often settle to the bottom of the can and must be thoroughly mixed
before application. It may take as much as five minutes to thoroughly dissolve the "mud" so that the color
remains consistent as the contents are used up.
To apply stain, you can use almost any type of rag (cotton works best) cut approximately 10 inches square
(larger ones sometimes get in the way). Foam brushes also work well. Stain can be applied in any direction,
usually cross-grain first.
Read and follow the directions on each container. The manufacturer knows its products and will tell you
how to get the best results.
Do a test "doodle" on the piece first on the back, bottom or other inconspicuous area check the stain color
before proceeding. Once the stain on the test area has dried, apply a coat of the clear finish on it. If the stain
looks evenly coated and you like the look, one coat staining is adequate. If the stain is too light or uneven, a
second coat of stain may be needed before the top coat is applied.
Pine, aspen and some other woods stain more evenly if a sealer coat is applied before the stain. Check with
your dealer to see if this is right for your application.
Stain one surface at a time, and do the corners and uneven areas first. Do these areas when the applicator
has the most stain on it so you can get full penetration. You can then spread the rest on the flat areas.
As you stain each area, wipe with the grain to remove excess stain, then move to another area. As you
finish, go back over the entire piece with a clean rag to pick up all excess stain and wipe the surface dry.
The Top Coat and Sanding
Most clear top coats are designed to be wiped on. You can use a brush, but wiping helps prevent runs. Apply
at least one coat of clear finish to all surfaces, both seen and unseen, to prevent cracking as the piece
continues to dry out over the years.
Do one small area at a time, applying the top coat with the grain. In corners, you may need to pat the
coating on or apply with a circular motion to get full coverage. Just be sure to wipe off any excess
immediately with the grain.
Allow coating to dry. The surface will feel gummy if not fully dry, and drying time will vary depending on
Sand the dried coating with very fine #400 or #600 wet/dry sandpaper to remove any fuzz. Wipe sanded
piece with a tack cloth or a rag dampened in mineral spirits to remove debris. (Be sure to dispose of the rag
Feel the piece with your hands and sand any areas that still seem fuzzy. Fuzz must be removed before
applying additional coats. It will not go away until you take care of it.
You are looking for a consistent sheen. If after two coats you have it, and if water protection is not a major
concern, the job is done. If you have uneven sheen, apply additional coats, sanding lightly and wiping with a
tack cloth between each application. If water resistance is a goal, we recommend four coats of finish on the
surface area of concern, usually the top. Remember to always sand and remove debris with a tack cloth
And that's it! A beautiful piece of furniture you can truly be proud of for years to come. Feel free to call the
experts at True Grain Woodcrafting at any time during the process - we're always glad to help.