If you’re reading this, you probably do most or all of your wood finishing.

But there’s also a good chance (due to workload, scheduling, etc.,) you may need to find a good wood finisher you can rely on from time to time.

The challenge is, trusting your work (and deadlines) to someone else isn’t easy.

I mean, it’s only your reputation at stake, right?

Today’s tip is designed to make this easier for you.

I’m going to share my thoughts on what to look for and what to ask.

Basically, how to quickly size up and find a good wood finisher you can trust.

This is not necessarily an exhaustive list, but below are some of the most important questions to consider…

Do they have experience with the specific types of projects you work on and substrates you work with? Not all finishers are equal. Some have a long history in working with stains and clear coats, whereas others are more talented in working with pigmented finishes. Drill into what their strong suit is and learn about what type of finishing schedule they are most proficient in.

Examine examples of their finished work. Look at their finished projects from the customers point of view. How does the example communicate to the customer? Does it speak of quality or does it show something else? The first impression is the lasting impression, and nothing speaks louder then quality of the final finish.

Examine their shop and equipment (or discuss your shop/equipment if working at your location): A lot can be learned within the first 5 minutes of walking into a finishing facility. Look at the cleanliness and safety aspects of the space. Review the air flow, the lighting at the prep and finishing stations. Does the finishers space (or your space?..) have an adequate storage area for your pre and post finished parts? and of course look at how the finishing equipment is maintained.

Determine if they truly understand how, why and when to use water based wood finishes vs. oil based finishes (and vice versa). It is not uncommon to have the type of finish specified into a project by an architect, interior designer or by the customer – so the choice of finish being used on the project may be predetermined. You and your finisher-of-choice must communicate on what to use, why it is being used…and when to speak up if you foresee a problem.

Where, when and how quickly the work will be done? Will they work on the project site, at your shop, or only at theirs? How much onsite work is required? Can they accommodate final “touch up” requests at the jobsite? How quickly (or not) can they respond to them, and how much additional cost (if any) will there be? It’s best to get all these – and other common scenarios for your shop — out on the table first…not in the middle of a project.

Ask for references…and call them: Of course the finisher is going to give you names of happy customers (or those he/she THINKS are happy) but you can still learn a lot from what these customers say and HOW they say it. Listen for levels of detail and enthusiasm. You can also learn a lot from what they DON’T say.

I hope the above points help you determine if a prospective wood finisher is the right fit for you and your shop.

What experiences have you had finding and working with wood finishers? Biggest pet peeves? Please share your thoughts or read what other are saying below in the comments section.