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All Replies on Do you need to finish both sides of a table top?

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View Rich's profile

Do you need to finish both sides of a table top?

by Rich
posted 10-09-2018 03:29 PM


40 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5804 posts in 3035 days


#1 posted 10-09-2018 03:42 PM

I rarely do, and this just confirms the “not needed” side of the argument.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

8787 posts in 3119 days


#2 posted 10-09-2018 03:44 PM

I finish all six sides.

View Mark's profile

Mark

1014 posts in 2516 days


#3 posted 10-09-2018 04:02 PM

I didn’t…but wish I had.

-- Mark

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5560 posts in 2893 days


#4 posted 10-09-2018 04:04 PM

I usually do both sides, but the bottom not nearly to the degree that I finish the top.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

4101 posts in 1929 days


#5 posted 10-09-2018 04:07 PM

it seems like if you use a water based finish, the same logic might apply as when using a water based glue to apply veneer?

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Robert's profile

Robert

3558 posts in 2022 days


#6 posted 10-09-2018 04:12 PM

Yeah, I do.

How much extra effort does it take, especially seeing you don’t use as much or need to finish it as well?

Plus, it gives me a “preview” of what the top will look like so I use the bottom to experiment a bit.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View lumbering_on's profile

lumbering_on

578 posts in 1032 days


#7 posted 10-09-2018 04:24 PM

I always thought that you had to finish both sides, unless you’re using plywood. However, as RWE points out, it does give you a chance to see what the finish will look like before you finish the top.

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

2534 posts in 2340 days


#8 posted 10-09-2018 04:27 PM

I do the same as rwe the bottoms gets a finish because it’s a preview. It’s one step ahead of the top.
In the past some tables I have made have some pretty wacky experiments going on. I bet someday someone is going to take the top off and say what the heck is is. It looks like someone barfed on this and just barely wiped it up. :))

-- Aj

View Rich's profile

Rich

5001 posts in 1131 days


#9 posted 10-09-2018 04:29 PM

rwe2156, lumbering_on, Aj2 — That’s what test boards are for!!

View 000's profile

000

2859 posts in 1441 days


#10 posted 10-09-2018 04:32 PM

You never know what the clients may be doing on the floor :>/

To me it depends on the construction of the top.
Also the use of the top and the size of the top.

So not always!

Solid glue up’s I usually do. I figure it can’t hurt.
Plus it’s more impressive if/when the client looks underneath, which they do!!

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5804 posts in 3035 days


#11 posted 10-09-2018 04:40 PM

Jbay, you make a point that is sometimes overlooked in these type of discussions. If I was doing this for pay, I would finish the bottom just to look more professional….but I’m only a hobbyist doing things for myself.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View diverlloyd's profile

diverlloyd

3686 posts in 2399 days


#12 posted 10-09-2018 04:52 PM

I finish both,it shows you have pride in your work not to skip something. Like a painter that doesn’t paint the tops of door frames and says “no one will see it”. When you make a finished product it isn’t finished if it’s not fully finished.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6702 posts in 3736 days


#13 posted 10-09-2018 05:01 PM

Yep….I always finish everything….and everywhere…! I feel like the project is not finished until it is all finished….Like was pointed out, if a customer is paying good $$$ for an item, they deserve the best I can do to satisfy them with the build, finish, and questions…..That’s what keeps them coming back for more….!! That’s what you call a repeat customer….!!

-- " Old age will sneak up on you too quickly, so stay as active as you can".

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

2534 posts in 2340 days


#14 posted 10-09-2018 05:06 PM

Yes that’s true always test on scraps when you have some. I’m so glad I’ve grown out if the need to stain everything and have the confidence in my work to tell someone no I cannot make your pine look like mahogany or java coffee.
I really believe some people think wood comes in one color.

-- Aj

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

6002 posts in 3355 days


#15 posted 10-09-2018 05:16 PM

Finish all surfaces of a project. Not because someone told you to, but because we are hand crafting furniture. Do it because you are a craftsman. Do it because your projects stand above mass produced pieces. If not, just go buy from IKEA and be done with it.

One rare exception is the inside of a cedar lined chest. Enjoy the cedar smell and leave that part unfinished. But on absolutely everything else finish it! You seriously want someone touching the edge of your new dining table, and feeling the texture change on the unfinished side under the table???

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View pottz's profile

pottz

6732 posts in 1526 days


#16 posted 10-09-2018 06:03 PM

yeah im with the majority finish the bottom,it doesn’t need to be perfect but it shows you do quality work.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View Rich's profile

Rich

5001 posts in 1131 days


#17 posted 10-09-2018 08:00 PM

I agree about sealing the bottom and, like others here, finish the bottom of table tops just so it looks like a completed project. I put maybe two coats on there, just to seal it and make it nicer to look at and touch. Nothing like the multiple coats I put on the top surface for as perfect of a finish as I can achieve.

However, the gist of the article is whether you have to finish both sides in order to prevent warping.

Finally, those test boards are important. I’d never substitute the underside of a table top for one. They don’t preach in every finishing book out there to make test boards for nothing.

View AandCstyle's profile

AandCstyle

3223 posts in 2799 days


#18 posted 10-09-2018 09:59 PM

My rule of thumb is to completely finish anyplace where it will be visible or might be touched. However, when I do a smaller table top, I completely finish the entire underside because it is no biggie. On larger table tops, I don’t sand the center to the same degree as the other parts, but I do apply the same finish with one less clear coat.

I had the opportunity to see some original Stickley pieces in San Diego years ago and he had tried various stains on the bottoms of a number of pieces, drawers IIRC.

-- Art

View Redoak49's profile

Redoak49

4239 posts in 2530 days


#19 posted 10-09-2018 10:24 PM

Like others, I finish the bottom but not early to the same degree as the top.

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

4153 posts in 1116 days


#20 posted 10-09-2018 10:36 PM


Yeah, I do.

Plus, it gives me a “preview” of what the top will look like so I use the bottom to experiment a bit.

- rwe2156

My thought exactly. I usually prep at least a part of the bottom to the same schedule as the top, and use it as my test piece. Saying that I have to use Fred’s thought of it maybe looking more professional if the entire thing looks very good. I am usually only concerned with getting past that, NEVER TEST a finish on the actual project, instead use scrap, so my scrap is the bottom of the project, because I only have to please myself, and or LOML. We don’t look at bottoms once something is done, but I can understand a paying customer might.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Kazooman's profile

Kazooman

1380 posts in 2494 days


#21 posted 10-09-2018 10:50 PM

I clicked through to the link, but I am not certain that I can see everything since I am not a subscriber. My question, as a scientist with enough grey hair to show for my years of skepticism, is where is the data? Perhaps I should go back and read the article again (PS: I did). I know that the author is a renowned expert on woodworking and finishing in particular, but my take away message was that the “finish both sides” mantra is just a throwback to problems encountered when veneering just one side of a piece. Apples and oranges, in my book.

Where is the reference to actual data from situations that actually test the concept? How about this: make a table top. Cut it in half crosswise. Finish one piece on all sides and finish one piece just on the top and edges. Expose the resulting panels to some realistic changes in humidity. Does one stay flat and the other cup? I would bet that this experiment has been done (many times) but I can’t search for it right now. However, anecdotal experiences from veneering with water based glues doesn’t seem like the proper test in my opinion.

View Woodknack's profile

Woodknack

12928 posts in 2922 days


#22 posted 10-10-2018 12:43 AM

Don’t get to the 5 yard line and fumble, finish both sides equally.

-- Rick M, http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11871 posts in 3970 days


#23 posted 10-10-2018 12:47 AM

Both sides because I like it.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View diverlloyd's profile

diverlloyd

3686 posts in 2399 days


#24 posted 10-10-2018 11:20 AM

Kazoo here is a better more thorough article.Still no real tests with data a better explained theory.
https://www.popularwoodworking.com/article/finish_both_sides_not_necessary/
Don’t know why the author of op just wouldn’t link to the better article. Must be to much work.

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

4101 posts in 1929 days


#25 posted 10-10-2018 12:30 PM



Kazoo here is a better more thorough article.Still no real tests with data a better explained theory.
https://www.popularwoodworking.com/article/finish_both_sides_not_necessary/
Don t know why the author of op just wouldn t link to the better article. Must be to much work.

- diverlloyd

I’ll buy the arguments that finishing the bottom of a table won’t make much if any difference related to warping, though it is still probably a good idea for other reasons mentioned above, but I have seen enough old decks to question his description of deck warping in the article. I am not arguing that finishing both sides of deck boards would prevent the warping, just that ring orientation in the board is the best predictor of how a deck board warps. I’ve seen deck boards cup in the direction of the rings regardless of whether the heart is facing up or down on the deck, not to mention the bowing and twisting when there is some juvenile wood or grain running at an angle through the length of the board. Living in Texas where we get crappy lumber and fluctuating extremes of heat and moisture might be a factor in my observations.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Rich's profile

Rich

5001 posts in 1131 days


#26 posted 10-10-2018 02:14 PM


Don t know why the author of op just wouldn t link to the better article. Must be to much work.

- diverlloyd

Because that was the post of the day on the Popular Woodworking blog and I thought it would be interesting to ask what folks here thought. I wasn’t researching the topic.

BTW, the correct grammar would be “too much work,” not “to much work” as you wrote. Must be too much work for you to be as educated as a third grader.

View MJClark's profile

MJClark

36 posts in 426 days


#27 posted 10-10-2018 02:30 PM

For a table, I do. For a coffee table, I don’t. If there is the ability for someone to see under it than I want to make sure it looks good.

View BroncoBrian's profile

BroncoBrian

875 posts in 2500 days


#28 posted 10-10-2018 04:13 PM



Yeah, I do.

How much extra effort does it take, especially seeing you don t use as much or need to finish it as well?

Plus, it gives me a “preview” of what the top will look like so I use the bottom to experiment a bit.

- rwe2156

Same logic for me. I use the bottom as the sample or at least the final sample. A simple wipe on works well and might keep junk from sticking to the bottom, especially for a dining table.

-- A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.

View 000's profile

000

2859 posts in 1441 days


#29 posted 10-10-2018 05:12 PM


Don t know why the author of op just wouldn t link to the better article. Must be to much work.

- diverlloyd

Because that was the post of the day on the Popular Woodworking blog and I thought it would be interesting to ask what folks here thought. I wasn t researching the topic.

BTW, the correct grammar would be “too much work,” not “to much work” as you wrote. Must be too much work for you to be as educated as a third grader.

- Rich


Don’t swoop to his level Rich,
He is just trying to instigate an argument with his sarcastic remarks.

View Rich's profile

Rich

5001 posts in 1131 days


#30 posted 10-10-2018 05:16 PM


Don t swoop to his level Rich,
He is just trying to instigate an argument with his sarcastic remarks.

- jbay

You’re right. Never wrestle with pigs; you both get muddy but the pig likes it.

View pottz's profile

pottz

6732 posts in 1526 days


#31 posted 10-10-2018 05:42 PM


Don t swoop to his level Rich,
He is just trying to instigate an argument with his sarcastic remarks.

- jbay

You re right. Never wrestle with pigs; you both get muddy but the pig likes it.

- Rich

LMAO-now thats funny rich.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View diverlloyd's profile

diverlloyd

3686 posts in 2399 days


#32 posted 10-11-2018 07:51 PM

Don t know why the author of op just wouldn t link to the better article. Must be to much work.

- diverlloyd

Because that was the post of the day on the Popular Woodworking blog and I thought it would be interesting to ask what folks here thought. I wasn t researching the topic.

BTW, the correct grammar would be “too much work,” not “to much work” as you wrote. Must be too much work for you to be as educated as a third grader.

- Rich

So you was posting a question to the other members of the forum, it was hard to tell without the proper punctuation. For the above third grade education we must have both failed. Sorry you feel like you need to attack my intelligence over a auto correct from my phone. But thank you for pointing it out.

Jbay there wasn’t any sarcasm in my post it. It must have been too (fixed for you rich)much work to link the better article from popular wood working and by the same author.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

16239 posts in 3160 days


#33 posted 10-11-2018 08:01 PM

I do not finish the undersides, insides, or backsides of projects. Makes no sense to me at all, given it was not historically done and I look to pieces 100 years old or so for most of my inspiration. Others may disagree, but that’s my .02, worth exactly what you paid for it. ;-)

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View diverlloyd's profile

diverlloyd

3686 posts in 2399 days


#34 posted 10-11-2018 08:16 PM

Lazyman I thought about the same thing. At least it was nice to read the full theory.

View Rich's profile

Rich

5001 posts in 1131 days


#35 posted 10-11-2018 08:38 PM


So you was posting a question to the other members of the forum

- diverlloyd

“So you was posting a question…” How about “so you were posting a question.” Autocorrect again? LMAO

Keep trying. Maybe you’ll figure it out someday, although I doubt it given what I’ve seen so far.

View bandit571's profile

bandit571

23978 posts in 3225 days


#36 posted 10-11-2018 08:55 PM

IF that section will be seen…then it gets a finish….whether it “NEEDS” it or not. Makes it easier to clean the blobs of chewing gum off, anyway..

About like asking about putting hot sauce on scrambled egg dishes….some do, some don’t…YMMV.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

1937 posts in 1756 days


#37 posted 10-11-2018 11:25 PM

From LJocks 2011-
http://lumberjocks.com/topics/32784
What I find on this 2018 and the 2011 topic and the internet- are only theories and opinions.
Therefore, no you do not have to finish the bottom.

-- Desert_Woodworker

View Cricket's profile

Cricket

2665 posts in 2134 days


#38 posted 10-12-2018 03:13 PM

Anyone that feels they are unable to reply to someone without being snotty, please let me know so that I can go ahead and lock your account. Enough is enough. http://lumberjocks.com/CricketW/blog/42535

-- LumberJocks.com Community Manager

View TDHofstetter's profile

TDHofstetter

4 posts in 404 days


#39 posted 10-12-2018 03:19 PM

I most definitely give all exposed surfaces an equivalent seal against humidity changes. Surfaces which are fully enclosed by other sealed surfaces don’t get their own seal because it’s redundant.

Then again, the humidity swings where I live can be substantial. If your stuff will never be exposed to strong humidity swings, that’s not so important.

-- -- Tim --

View ColonelTravis's profile

ColonelTravis

1976 posts in 2436 days


#40 posted 10-12-2018 04:24 PM


Finish all surfaces of a project. Not because someone told you to, but because we are hand crafting furniture. Do it because you are a craftsman.
- pintodeluxe

Just wanted to say, because it wasn’t clear from the title of the post, that if you click on the article link, the question there was practical and not philosophical:

Is it necessary to finish both sides of tabletops to prevent warping?

The answer is clearly “no”. If you consider yourself to be a craftsman, and if that definition includes finishing the bottom of a table top, then the answer is “yes.” At the same time, the reason why mass producers began to finish table bottoms is the reason why an individual craftsman would do it: Do I ever want a table owner to feel the bottom and be disappointed that it doesn’t feel as nice as the top?

Unless you are making a table that is never to be used for anything but a looked-at piece of art, the craftsman and the mass producer both take a certain amount of pride in their work as it relates to the user. I’d say that the level of pride is completely different for each kind of builder. Some guy on a factory line will not be able to feel like some guy in a garage who does the whole thing himself. But if customer satisfaction isn’t on your radar, what’s the point of selling?

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