A furniture finisher revitalizes and restores damaged, worn, or used furniture to a specified finish. Grinders, sanders, chisels, steel wool, pumice, and sandpaper are used for finishing, and materials used can include varnish, shellac, lacquer, stain, and/or paint.
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Furniture finishers must evaluate furniture to appreciate the extent of any damage and then decide upon an optimal method for restoration and the equipment that would be required for the job. They would then estimate the cost of a job and sometimes have a blueprint to follow.
When repairing damaged furniture, areas which are not to be finished are masked. Old finishes and damaged or deteriorated parts must be removed, possibly using hand tools, stripping tools, dip baths, solvents, abrasives, steel wool, or sandpaper. Excess solvents are also removed. Broken parts are repaired with screws, nails, glue, or putty. Cracks and depressions are filled and imperfections removed. Metal surfaces can be painted electrostatically or with a spray gun or other painting equipment. Usually, at least three coats are required.
Furniture finishers select and then mix ingredients to produce the required finish colors. The ingredients required depend on such factors as the surface type and hardness of the wood. Possible ingredients include wax, stain, oil, or paint. They spray, brush, or manually apply these ingredients to the wood. Items are sanded lightly between coats. Warped or stained surfaces are treated to produce the desired colors and contours. Surfaces are sometimes distressed with abrasives or woodworking tools to create an antique appearance and lacquer or other sealants are applied as well.
Employers will generally be furniture manufacturers, suppliers of wood, or construction companies but self employment is an option some people proficient with furniture furnishing skill consider. Furniture finishers typically work indoors, usually in a shop where light and ventilation should be ample. The noise levels are usually high and there is likely to be airborne sawdust and chemicals. Temperatures can be very hot (more than 90°F) or very cold (less than 32°F). Working with high speed woodworking machinery carries some risk of injury.
A furniture finisher may have to lift or push weights of as much as 55lbs, so lower back and abdominal muscles should be strong. Most of the day is usually spent standing and it is often necessary to bend and twist the body frequently. Hand dexterity is also important to hold objects and tools.
In the workplace, furniture finishers deal with chemicals that might be explosive, and there may be high voltage electricity. A protective mask and clothing may be necessary on the job; some lacquers emit unpleasant fumes and toxic chemicals could present a health hazard. The work is difficult and messy. Job satisfaction can be derived from working with one's hands, working as part of a team, having a wide variety of tasks, and performing good workmanship.