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