Finishing processes for wood turning

Turned work, like most other woodworking projects, has to be glasspapered in order to prepare it for polishing or other type of finish. Before glasspapering, or sanding as it is more often called, the tool rest should be removed from the lathe bed.

Sanding is done with the work revolving, but fingers can be trapped if the tool rest is in position.

The glasspaper is held under the rotating work so that the frictional pull is away from the worker; if held the other way a sudden snatch from the work could break finger nails, or fingers. Medium pressure is applied and the glasspaper is moved slowly along the wood. In the case of spindle turning, too rapid a lateral movement could result in spiral scratches appearing on the work, as this sanding is across the grain. Progressively finer grades of paper are used until a smooth, scratch-free surface is produced.

Polishing is also done on the lathe. A simple way of polishing is by waxing. However, as in the case of cabinet work, it is helpful to give a sealing coat of french polish first and allow this to dry. Do not overlook the fact that this polish will have the effect of darkening the wood, so for light woods use white or very pale polish. Button polish gives a nice glow to darker woods.

Canauba wax is popular with turners. This is a very hard wax which is held, in block form, under some pressure against the rotating work. Frictional heat melts the wax surface and the wax sinks in and coats the work face. This is then burnished with a soft cloth, the lathe rotating at a slowish speed, until the polish is achieved.

Plastic type lacquers are useful for turned work as the effort in rubbing down and the burnishing required are done by the lathe itself. It is not too difficult with plastic lacquers to obtain an extremely high-gloss finish which is hard-wearing and resistant to most domestic hazards. If a tough finish without the gloss is required then fine wire wool, dipped in wax polish and held against the revolving wood, will leave a satin-like surface.

Only the basic outline of woodturning has been covered in this section. Many turners create their own designs as they turn the work, while others follow printed designs or copy items. If you intend to copy, make a card templet and check the work with it as you go along; alternatively, special templet formers can be purchased from craft suppliers.