THE wood finisher’s ideal must necessarily be simply that of making the most of what he has to work with, producing the maximum of beauty and serviceability under the circumstances. For no two jobs are alike in all respects and he is seldom consulted in the selection of the wood before erection. In undertaking a job of interior wood finishing there are four factors which must be considered: the kind of wood, the colour decorative plan for the room, the durability of the finish expected^ and the cost or investment of money to be made.
The kind of wood to be finished determines broadly the character of the finish be employed. We may say that in common practice woods are finished as indicated by these groups:
Stain Natural Mahogany Gumwood Hickory Redwood Chestnut Cedar oak mahogany, Ash Walnut, American Holly Walnut, American Walnut, Circassian Bass, Paint or Enamel Pine, White Pine, Yellow Pine, Oregon Fir Spruce, Butternut Oak, white, red Cottonwood Rosewood Cherry Cypress Cherry Rosewood Gumwood Birch, select Chestnut Birch Gumwood Ebony Redwood Cypress Satinwood Fir, select Cedar Redwood.
In addition to the kind of wood, the grade has much to do with the selection of the finish. The cheaper grades, and even the better grades which have not been selected for grain, figure and colour by the mill, often leave one with no choice of finish except as between paint and enamel.
Trim lumber which is not selected is apt to show great differences in colour, contrast, and size of the grain and figure. To finish such surfaces in natural or stained colour to have anything like a uniform colour tone is quite impractical, because of the cost of bleaching, touching-up and blending off-coloured boards. So it pays to have the trim lumber carefully selected and matched at the mill. The increased cost there is less than to have the wood finisher do the matching.
The colour scheme or decorative plan for a room must be considered by the wood finisher if he is to make the most .of his opportunity. It is his function to enhance by his finishing methods the natural color shadings and grain figure of the wood, to subdue too much contrast and harshness of coarse grain and figure of some woods, to carry out the color scheme by coloring the trim wood to become part of the background of the room, to make it match or harmonize with the furniture,to so finish it that the surface will be enduring,and finally, the finish must protect both the color and the wood from moisture and gases which discolor, crack and warp the wood.
Wood trim ought never to be finished with colour or grain figure so strong as to call attention to itself. It is really part of the background, with the walls, ceiling, and floor, the background for the furnishings of the room and not the focal point of interest in the picture. The display of strong, fantastic grain figure in either cheap or expensive woods, except for special novelty finishes, is evidence of poor taste as a rule. The beauty of the natural grain and of the color of wood or stain ought not to be obscured by finishes which lack transparency but Woods finished to subdue strong contrasts of grain color and to reveal only simple, graceful contours of figure are pleasing to behold, and as one lives with them day after day they sustain interest and grow in appreciation of all who love the beauty of harmony and simplicity.
The durability of Finish.
The use to which the wood is put absolutely determines what constitutes a serviceable, durable finish. Wood trim which is never touched by human hands never rubbed with elbows, never sat upon, scuffed with feet or ground by heels is often durable finished by no more treatment than stain, filler, and wax or oil coats. Under other conditions of service stain, shellac and wax are quite enough. But when it comes to floors nothing short of stain, filler, shellac and three coats of varnish, waxed to finish, can be considered really durable and economically finished, and this in spite of common practice to the contrary which puts on only two coats of varnish. The durability of finish must include not only the preservation of colour but also the preservation of the wood from damage by moisture.
In the matter of cost, the wood finisher is in a position to and does give customers just what they pay for. By cutting down the number of finishing operations and coats he cuts down the cost. In the excitement of price competition, however, he ought not to lose sight of the technical limitations, of the fact that a certain number of operations are necessary to produce clear colours, brilliance, and durability. Then the protective coatings of varnish, wax, paint or enamel on top of the colour and surface coats cannot protect the colour from fading or abrasion and the wood from moisture unless adequate in number and quality of the material.
To express this thought in another way, we may say that a schedule of working operations which read, stain, fill and wax, cannot possibly be as durable on some surfaces as one which reads, ” stain, fill, shellac, varnish, and wax.” But the first schedule is much cheaper and may be adequate for a surface which is well protected and which is not subject to wear by abrasion, washing, etc. It all comes down to a question of what is the minimum number of coats and operations for the purpose of decoration and of durability for the particular kind of wood trim at hand.
Nature has woven into the fibre of each kind of wood a richness and variety of colouring which is ever pleasing to the eye. And in the exquisite grain and figure of woods, she has traced patterns far beyond the ability and the dreams of the artist. Each wood has its own peculiar grain texture and figure. The best finishing is that which preserves to view these natural beauties and enhances them with colour. There are but few kinds of wood which lack the beauty of structure when the finisher knows how to make the most of them.
A stain or natural finish which hides any of the natural beauty evident in the wood before finishing is not the best kind of finish, but we must sometimes sacrifice something to gain durability by using varnish coatings which are not completely transparent. And, of course, on cheaper grades of work, the price will not permit the use of the high-class finishing methods which make the most of the grain and colour. In very cheap work we even must go to the point of mixing stain to partly obscure the imperfections of poor wood, knots, resinous streaks, etc.
Considering the close relationship between furniture finishes and wood trim finishes in buildings it is well to note that just as automobile painting represents the highest art in metal painting, so also does furniture finishing represent the highest art in wood finishing.
Consequently, any methods, tools, and materials about which the house finisher can learn from the furniture finishes are often well worth study when within the limitations of cost. The furniture finisher can do many things which the house finisher cannot because his surfaces are smaller, his woods finer and his cost not so limited, but there is much in common between these two craftsmen. As a matter of fact, the demand for natural and stained house trim came as a result of furniture finishes and a desire to harmonize the two elements of decoration in a room.
Furniture manufacturers have spared no time or expense in creating and reproducing fine finishes on wood. They have sent their expert finishers all over the world to study first hand the authentic period furniture and interior room designs of- the so-called golden periods of decoration which are rich in the artistic works of master craftsmen. These experts have reproduced colour, texture, and finish of furniture and interior wood trim in ancient baronial halls, castles, cathedrals and other structures built during the rich historical periods of design and decoration. So, good furniture of modern manufacturer offers a remarkably fine field for study for the finisher whose work is that of finishing wood trim of buildings.