Most professional woodworkers and finishers are guarded about the way they finish their pieces. No matter how many articles or books you’ve read about finishing, that’s only a small part of the knowledge out there. Finishing is still a “black art.”
So when Megan and I drove out to John Porritt’s shop in Upstate New York to shoot photographs for “The Belligerent Finisher,” I wasn’t sure what the trip would hold. I have made many similar trips that ended with the woodworker saying: “You know, I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going to tell you how I work.”
Thankfully for all of us, John was incredibly generous with his knowledge and technique. In fact, he showed us exactly how he finished two chairs that he built. Even after three decades of finishing pieces and working with professional finishers, I learned a lot.
And even though I don’t finish my chairs like John does, the methods he shows in the book have been extremely helpful in improving my own finishes.
I can’t give everything away because I really want John’s book to succeed. But here’s one little thing that I think you should try.
One of John’s finishing tools is a chainmail pot scrubber. You can buy these at any good kitchen store. I bought mine for $10. It’s stainless steel.
This tool has many tasks in the finishing process. I have been using it to burnish raw wood surfaces before applying finish. The pot scrubber burnishes the wood, bringing up a sheen. The burnisher consolidates material, turning hard corners into hand-friendly surfaces. And it just generally brings the level of finish up on the piece, making it nicer to touch.
I encourage you to give it a try. I am 100 percent sold. But even if you don’t like it, you can use the scrubber in the kitchen. So you have nothing to lose.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. John now has a website where he sells his chairs. Definitely worth a visit! https://www.johnporrittchairs.com/
18 thoughts on “Burnishing and ‘The Belligerent Finisher’”
I have a chainmail codpiece left over from my Renaissance Fair days. Will that work?
Burnishing and oil application in one!
“I personally burnish all of my pieces with my codpiece” is probaly a questionable sales pitch… but mechanically speaking, it sounds viable.
Painful, but viable.
and now I want to try that burnisher on a guitar neck…
Would you share which banisher you purchased? I looked on Amazon but these looked too course and smaller than the photo. Thank you and the author for this obscure subject. I have absolutely enjoyed this read and I don’t build chairs. There is always something to learn.
I bought it at a local kitchen store. It is basically this:
But I paid $15 or $20.
Ugh, I hate how easy it is to buy stuff on your website! This is a great tip, looking forward to trying it on some chairs and really looking forward to John’s book.
Yeah i thought it was a chainmail head protector, like something Arthur, king of the Britons would wear. But i do think i have one similar for cleaning cast iron pans in my camping gear.
As I recall, Arthur’s headpiece was somewhat soiled, right before his untimely arrest…
I just got my copy in the mail. Looking to try it out on two unfinished cricket tables and my first stick chair that came out straight enough to avoid the burn pile.
I note that the Chainmail Scrubber that Chris linked to has 4mm rings. I found the Taspooke Cast Iron Cleaner, 12”x8” Chainmail Scrubber on Amazon and it has 3.8mm rings, so it should be a good candidate. (Interestingly, under FAQs, ,they say “not recommended for cleaning delicate, softer materials such as wood.”)
Thank you, I have ordered and appears to be superior to the others I looked at. I appreciate your help!!!
My copy came in the mail today. Congratulations, descriptions of the steps are clear, photos are great and I am excited to try this process. Hope it sells out in a New York minute.
How much pressure do you tend to apply?
14 newtons. Or six hogsheads. I forget. Work lightly. Apply more pressure until you get the effect you want.
Interesting.. How does it compare in use and surface finish to the polissoir?
It is gentler.
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