Nordy Rockler founded our vendor partner, Rockler Woodworking and Hardware,
in 1954. Over the last half century, Nordy has spent thousands of hours
in the workshop, building projects and perfecting his finishing techniques.
He is regarded by many as a finishing expert, and has developed a number
of Rockler exclusive finishes. Below Nordy discusses the art of finishing
and some of his favorite products.
Woodworkers often say that finishing is the part of the process
they struggle with most. Do you share that struggle, and why do you
think that is?
Nordy: Years ago it was more of a struggle because there wasn't a variety of
good products available. In the earliest times a person would just use an oil
pigment, wipe on stain, maybe a coat of shellac as a sealer, and then a varnish,
which maybe took 24 hours or more to dry. Because it was so slow to dry you'd
get a lot of dust particles settling in it. Today we have such a multitude
of products available it is much simpler, especially once you get familiar
with the products and use the ones you like. Finishing is the culmination of
doing a project. You can put a lot of time and money into the material, and
you can botch the whole thing with a bad finishing job. Finishing is a critical
part of the whole project.
When did you develop such a strong interest in finishing?
Nordy: Well, when we started the business. Finishes are a crucial part of doing
woodworking, so it was just sort of a natural process that I became interested
in it. Through looking at various lines and talking to different salespeople,
I learned a lot about finishing. I tested a lot of products, and I still
am today. To keep on top of it, you really have to keep on trying them and
What is the main key in getting a great finish on a woodworking
Nordy: Two things. First of all, you have to be very patient; don't rush it.
And the crucial thing is to test it on some scrap wood and make sure you get
the desired effect you really want. Another reason for testing is you have
a schedule of finishing materials; test them all the way through the whole
process, from beginning to end, and you will get a really good feel for what
the end result will be.
How do you decide which finish to put on a particular piece?
Nordy: The type of project really dictates what type of finish you put on it.
If you're building cabinets or a bookcase, an oil-type finish is very simple
and pleasing, and very easy to repair. I wouldn't recommend an oil finish
for a dining room table, because you need more protection. You need something
harder, more durable, and waterproof. It all depends on what you're building.
It also has to do with personal preference. Do you want a gloss, a semi-gloss,
a flat finish? Does the piece need a lot of protection? Does the piece need
to match another piece in the room? There's a lot of considerations.
What are the benefits of shellac and Rockler's shellac kits?
Nordy: Shellac is a different type of material, and not necessarily used as
a top coat. It's a multi-purpose product. It was very popular in the 1700s,
and a lot of the antiques were finished with it because that was the only
finish available at the time. It has its advantages. It dries very fast and
gives you a nice appearance. But it does have its drawbacks. It is not completely
water resistant, and it can be brittle. Sometimes it's the finish you have
to use, especially for the furniture restoration people who want to get a
piece as close to the original as possible. The pre-mixed stuff you buy off
the shelf in a hardware store has a limited shelf life. It's usually only
good for six months after you open it up. If you buy shellac in flake form
you can mix it yourself very easily just by mixing with denatured alcohol
in different proportions. If you want to use it for a sealer, or wash coat,
you use a thin solution, what they call a two-pound cut shellac. If you're
using it as a top coat or finish you want it a little thicker, you want a
four-pound cut. We came up with our new shellac kit because we had previously
been selling it by the pound, which is a lot of shellac flake for the average
consumer. So we packaged it into a smaller 2 oz. size, and they can make
a two-, three- or four-pound cut, whichever they want, and it has a graduated
scale on the container showing what proportions of denatured alcohol to shellac
to use. It simplified the use of it. We're also going to be offering it in
a half-pound container.
On what projects does a woodworker want to use a polyurethane
Nordy: You can use it anywhere you want a urethane finish. Urethanes give you
a hard, durable, tough and, in most cases, waterproof finish. A lot of people
prefer the gel type for application as opposed to the liquid type you have
to brush on. It's just a question of personal taste.
When did you develop a relationship with Sam Maloof, who is
regarded as one of this country's greatest woodworking craftsmen?
Nordy: I met Sam about 20 years ago at the Southern California Woodworkers
Association. They had a big event. That was the first time I met him, and I
visited his home, which is really like a museum. He's a great collector himself.
He collects Navajo rugs, and he collects pottery. He used to trade some of
his stuff for Navajo rugs and pottery. We have a nice relationship. Rockler
packages Sam's poly/oil finish. The mere fact Sam Maloof still uses it gives
credence to the product.
Another highly-regarded finishing expert is Michael Dresdner.
How did you meet him?
Nordy: I knew him because of his work. He's a very popular writer and has written
a couple of books. I met him a few years ago at a trade show. We sell his books
and he writes articles for Woodworker's Journal. He's a contributing editor
to our finishing department.
WunderCote, a water-based, wipe-on polyurethane finish, is one
of Rockler's newest products. What are the benefits of WunderCote?
Nordy: It's so easy to use. It's in a flip-top bottle, and you just pour it
out and use a foam rubber brush over the surface. It dries in about 20 or 30
minutes, although our label says one or two hours. It doesn't require much
sanding (with 220 grit paper) between coats, then you can re-coat it. I've
done that in half an hour after I applied. it. What's nice about a water-based
polyurethane is it dry's faster, is very easy to apply, and easy to clean up.
What's different about our finish is others tend to have a plastic look to
them when they're finished. Ours has a slightly amber cast to it so it looks
more like a varnish finish.
Is there anything else you'd like to add about the finishing
Nordy: Like any skill or acquired labor, the worst part is fear of doing it.
Half the battle is just trying it. There's such an abundance of products out
there that there's something for everybody. There's just no end to products.
There should be something anybody can apply for a very professional-looking
We're constantly on the lookout for new products that we're testing.
We try to have a real wide selection on the internet and in our stores.
Usually in each store there's someone that specializes in finishing,
and then we have classes at our stores. Mostly it's getting up the nerve
to try it and getting used to the products you're using. In a lot of
cases it's fun, especially when you have a beautiful project and you
want to put the finishing touch on it that enhances the whole project.
Whether you're a seasoned pro, a home-improvement enthusiast or a craftsperson,
we believe you will find all your woodworking supplies on our
web site. People who pursue carpentry all concur: it is a challenging,
yet fun and rewarding hobby. The quality and durability of homemade wooden
projects simply cannot be beat, regardless of cost.
We are committed to helping you choose the best woodworking tools (such
as machinist vise, routers, lathes, saws and mitres), finishing
chemicals, plans, carpentry books, hardware (hinges, knobs, handles, screws)
and more. Along with woodworking products, we offer helpful tips and
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to the serious carpenter, we have a selection of products to
suit a person's level, goal, and experience. We have partnered ourselves
with some of the Internet's largest woodworking suppliers to to bring
you the very best equipment and supplies, which are also affordably priced
and backed by solid customer service.
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Router Table FAQ
Will my router fit the table?
This table will fit virtually any router. There are a variety of pre
drilled plates to choose from when you order. If your router model is
not listed, you can order the blank plate, and drill your own mounting
holes to match your router.
What size is the mounting plate?
The mounting plate is 8 inches by 11 inches by 1/4 inch thick aluminum
machined to within .010 inch flat.
What size is the hole in the mounting plate?
The hole is 3-1/4 inch in diameter.
What if I want to use a raised panel bit in the table?
Since the hole is not wide enough to accommodate many horizontal raised
panel bits, we recommend using vertical raised panel bits. We believe
this is actually a safer bit and will give a better cut.
How thick is the table top?
The table top is 1-1/8 inch thick. top of page
The Complete Illustrated Guide to Woodworking - Three Volume Set:
The Complete Illustrated Guide to Shaping Wood, The Complete
Illustrated Guide to Furniture and Cabinet Construction, and The
Complete Illustrated Guide to Joinery by Lonnie Bird, Andy Rae,
Gary Rogowski. back to top
The Complete Book of Woodworking: Detailed Plans for More Than
40 Fabulous Projects
This is a step-by-step guide to essential woodworking skills, techniques, tools
and tips. For the beginning woodworker or the most experienced hobbyist, this
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project plans. More than 1200 full-color photos are included in this guide
with tips for shop set-up and safety, how to use tools, make jigs and joints,
applying finishes and wood selection. this guide was a main selection of Woodworkers
Book Club. back to top
Understanding Wood: A Craftman's Guide to Wood Technology
by R. Bruce Hoadley
Understanding Wood is the definitive reference on wood technology,
and is a keystone of every woodworker's library. The first edition (1980) sold
over 128,000 copies: this new edition updates the classic text with new information
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Up-to-date and Comprehensive: revised and updated edition of a woodworking
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using the woodworker's raw materials.
In this essential reference for woodworkers, R. Bruce Hoadley explains everything
from how trees grow to how best to cut, season, machine, join, bend, and finish
wood. Why do miters open and glue joints loosen? How do you get a really sharp
edge? Examples of problems and solutions help woodworkers puzzle through their
own projects, while 325 full-color photos and helpful tables illustrate key
points. Updated information on composite materials, adhesives, and finishes
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Book Recommendations and Reviews
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