Here's one of the best (and most ignored) tips for getting a great finish: test the stain colors and topcoats you're considering for your masterpiece on its hidden areas. If your piece has no unseen surfaces, use offcuts from the project or leftover scraps of the same wood.
Prepare the areas for your hidden tests as diligently as the parts that show. Record your finishing procedures for each sample. Be sure to topcoat stains and dyes—they usually look totally different under a finish. Aerosol cans of shellac or lacquer work great for this. Be sure to look at your samples under the kind of light the piece will live in— finishes look different under natural or incandescent light than they do under fluorescent shop lights.
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Wood finishing can be tricky and after spending hours on building your project you want to be sure that you get the best outcome possible. In The Complete Guide To Wood Finishing you will learn how to get beautiful, professional results no matter what your project is, even if you have never tried your hand at wood finishing before. You will learn about every step in the wood finishing process from a professional wood finisher with years of experience.