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Hand-Applied Finishing

Achieve flawless finishes on all your woodworking projects. Learn to choose the right materials and apply them by hand using the most effective techniques.
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Elevate the quality of your projects as you learn wood finishing techniques alongside the founder of Philadelphia Furniture Workshop, Alan Turner. In this class, you'll build the knowledge to select and apply shellacs, oil and varnish mixtures, gel varnishes and even waterborne finishes. Start by mastering surface preparation to set yourself up for success. Then, Alan will teach you easy, effective techniques for applying beautiful finishes by hand. Plus, find out how to remove any excess finish and ensure your projects have a clean, streak-free appearance. Build the skills to hand-finish every project flawlessly!


Alan Turner


Alan Turner is a lifelong woodworker and the founder of Philadelphia Furniture Workshop, a nonprofit, full-service school, teaching everything from basic courses for beginners to advanced courses for highly experienced woodworkers. Along with teaching woodworking, Alan also enjoys taking on the occasional furniture commission.

By This Expert

Introduction & Surface Preparation

01: Introduction & Surface Preparation

Meet your instructor, professional woodworking teacher Alan Turner, and learn how to properly prepare wood surfaces in advance of finishing. Learn how to sharpen and use a cabinet scraper to smooth surfaces, then pick up tips for sanding, including end-grain, as well as a technique for raising the grain.

34 min

02: Shellac

Learn why shellac is a great choice as an undercoat or a topcoat as you explore how evaporative finishes work. Alan will share his favorite pre-made shellac and then show how you can make and store your own. Learn how to apply your finish two ways -- with a brush and with a pad-- to apply even finishes free of streaks or runs.

32 min
Sanding In an Oil/Varnish Mixture

03: Sanding In an Oil/Varnish Mixture

Discover when you would want to finish a piece of wood with an oil/varnish mixture as you learn how these reactive finishes work and how to make your own. Then, Alan offers detailed instruction on how to sand in your finish, creating a slurry that is worked into every grain of wood.

19 min
Building a Finish With an Oil/Varnish Mixture

04: Building a Finish With an Oil/Varnish Mixture

Now that you've laid in your base coat, see how you build up your finish one layer at a time. Learn which brushes work best when applying this finish and find out when you would want to pad in your finish using a soft cloth. Finally, learn how to safely handle and dispose of this volatile substance.

11 min
Gel Varnish

05: Gel Varnish

See why gel varnishes are a great finishing option, allowing woodworkers to apply them all over or to a small, damaged area if desired. Then, you'll learn the proper techniques for applying gel varnishes, pick up troubleshooting tips and see how to remove excess varnish for a smooth, even finish every time.

13 min
Waterborne Finishes

06: Waterborne Finishes

Dive into waterborne finishes as you learn why these low-VOC products are a safe alternative. See how to apply the finish on a variety of woods, even on cabinet doors with molded details.

25 min
Rubbing Out Your Finish

07: Rubbing Out Your Finish

Once you've applied your finish it's important to rub it out to remove any excess finish and ensure a clean, streak-free appearance. Learn how long you should wait before rubbing out your pieces and discover the proper technique, using steel wool and paste wax.

9 min