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Wood Finishing’s Scariest Situations

If you’ve been a finisher long enough, I’m sure you’ve run into some absolutely horrifying situations — those times when you pause to look at your work and realize something has gone very, very wrong.

The look on your face when confronted with one of wood finishing's scariest situations

With Halloween recently upon us, all the images of screaming faces reminded me of how I must have looked in a few finishing situations like this.

Today I’ll share a story of a situation that forever has me spooked, and then I’d love to hear yours.

OK, so early in my career, I used to do a lot of professional painting, and a customer once contracted me to paint two metal garage doors and requested purchasing the materials to help keep costs down.

I was never fond of this, but they agreed to purchase my preferred paint, and because they were referred to me from a reliable customer, I agreed to the arrangement.

When I showed up on the day of the job, I was shocked to see two unfamiliar gallons of paint waiting for me.

Apparently, the customer had done some research, and their choice of paint was less expensive and rated higher according to a well-known consumer magazine (which will remain nameless).

Annoyed, grumbling on the inside, and despite warning bells going off in my head, I agreed to use this new and unfamiliar product. After all, I was already on site and prepared for the day.

So, I read the instructions and everything seemed standard: no special primer or application procedure needed for this consumer-oriented, DIY product.

The weather checked out, too: warm enough during the day for painting latex and no threat of frost at night. The doors were oriented to receive sun in the early morning and shade the rest of the day.

My plan was to paint until an hour or two before sundown, allow the paint to set and finish drying overnight, then apply a second coat the following day.

So, I went about my job with the same procedures and application methods I had always used. Little did I know what horrors awaited me.

As I’m painting the doors, I begin to notice something strange:

The paint was remaining very soft and tacky for a long time. Being young and naive at the time, I shrugged it off without thinking much about it.

I finished the first coat in plenty of time before sundown and I stood back to admire my handiwork and the deep green doors.

Happy, I left with every confidence this job was in the bag and I would be wrapping up early the next day.

Well, that night, as I slept, a damp and humid fog rolled in and settled into the valley where this housing development was located.

It was gone before I awoke the next morning, so I gleefully drove to the jobsite, admiring the weather and basking in the amazing day I was about to have.

As I turned the corner into my customer’s driveway, my eyes almost popped out of their sockets and my stomach fell to the floor.

There, in front of me, stood something right out of a horror movie: bright green paint sagging and running down two metal doors like blood from an other-worldly monster. Some of the paint had reached the ground and was running down the driveway. All I could do was stare in shock.

Here is a rendering of how I remember it…

One of wood finishing's scariest situations as recalled by the author

Needless to say, what was supposed to be a short and easy day enjoying the autumn weather became one of shame and embarrassment as I had to clean the doors and driveway of green “blood” and start my project anew.

All the while, people in the neighborhood were passing by and staring at this spectacle. I knew I wasn’t getting any more paint jobs in THAT development.

In the end, the job turned out great and the customer was really happy. I had cleaned everything so well that the only trace of the horror show was the one that continues to live in my memory…it really stuck with me.

I would never again let a customer purchase paint with which I had no prior experience.

OK, now over to you.

Have you had any horrifying finishing experiences like this?

Please share your thoughts or see what others are saying in the comments below.

Seth Kline has been a woodworker, wood finisher and business owner for the past 25 years. After helping grow his family’s home remodeling firm — Roy B Kline & Son both as a craftsman and business operator, in 2013 Seth became the co-owner, lead woodworker, and shop manager of Stor Handmade Furniture, a highly successful solid wood furniture shop specializing in bespoke, hand-made and hand-finished pieces. In 2023, Seth launched SBCraftsman, which offers spray finishing and small business consulting to private clients. Originally from Pennsylvania, Seth now resides in Aberdeen, N.J., and is a proud member of the Central Jersey Woodworkers Association.

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