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Finishing Sculpted Furniture

Professional woodworker Victor DiNovi captures wood's true beauty and protects it with a finish he calls a "compromise."

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Wood Preparation

Wood Preparation

In his Santa Barbara, California, shop, Victor DiNovi makes the wood he works look as stunning as the one-of-a-kind furniture designs he's created for the last 30 years or so. That's not such an easy task, considering all the different wood species he employs.

"I use lots of American hard maple and black walnut, Honduras mahogany, imbuya and iroko from Africa, Hawaiian koa, East Indian rosewood, and teak," says Victor. "Because the majority of what I make is for certain people -- and people normally have a preference for either light or dark woods -- I use the wood that works best for the commission."

Wood requires preparation -- and perseverance

Preparing any wood for a finish always takes time, but it's especially true for penetrating (oil) finishes, according to Victor. "The key to success with a penetrating finish is preparation. In other words, it requires a lot of work.

"Take sanding," he continues. "You can build a beautiful piece of furniture that's very smooth to the touch. But when you apply the finish, little sanding scratches appear that detract from it. That's because when you sand, the abrasives not only cut, but abrade the wood. The finish then travels into the abrasions to make them visible, especially on light woods. So very often you have to sand on faith. That is, you know you've sanded enough but you sand some more anyway, realizing that some abrasions may show up."


To a professional woodworker, though, lots of sanding prior to finishing becomes a matter of economics. He says, "It takes too much time, especially because my furniture has few straight planes. So I use an auto-body grinder, power planes, and power chisels to get the wood to rough-sanded shape. Then I go over my pieces with a random-orbit sander down to 220-grit. I rarely sand any finer than that before my finish goes on." But as you'll find out, there's plenty of sanding to come.

Continued on page 2:  Stages 1 & 2


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