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How To Determine Wood Texture Feel On Finished Work

How Smooth Should Finished Wood Texture Feel?

Many wood products and finishing come with an expectation of a smooth wood texture. When a project is complete some can feel as slick as glass.

Is this always desired or wanted? How smooth should the wood texture be? While there is no universal answer for this, there are guidelines one can follow.

Texture itself is an element of art which can be specific to some arts more than others. In wood art it is a uniquely natural element which can be chosen depending on the intent of the project.

What Determines The Feel Of Wood Texture?

Clearly the feel of the wood texture is determined by the grain. Yet the end product is not always as simple as continuing to sand the raw lumber.

As finishing products are placed onto the surface the wood texture changes. This change takes place due to the grain “raising” as the finishing dries.

This is commonly seen in polyurethanes in all product lines. The solution to obtaining a smooth wood texture is to sand then reapply the finish. This can take multiple applications.

Different wood species will by nature have different wood textures. How tight the wood grain is will help or hurt the process depending upon how smooth you desire it to be.

Hardwoods typically are easier to get a smooth wood texture while some softwood can be more difficult. Other factors which come into play are knots, sap, and how well the wood was cured.

Some prefer to use wood conditioners as part of their process. This can have its benefits but is not required.

When Do You Want A Smooth Wood Texture?

If you are working on items such as doors or handrails within a home, it is expected that the wood texture be smooth. You will still feel the grain yet the finish should never have a rough touch.

Furniture is another item where smooth wood texture is expected. Often here the finish can be more like glass or nearing that state. Less wood grain is felt on many pieces.

Custom wood tables are quite popular. These trend here often dictates a smooth epoxy or resin type finish. In this way minimal wood grain texture is felt.

These standards and expectations have become set in stone within industry. The feel of the wood texture can become a mark of quality.

It is often best to stay with these standards on such items. There can be exceptions to this rule depending upon period pieces of history or similar items.

When Is It Okay To Allow Rough Wood Texture?

Allow me to preface this by stating a rough wood texture is not truly rough. Rather it can often feel like sanding was not fully completed during the finishing process.

The point to this process is allowing the wood to maintain a natural feel in the hands. In this case the slick and glass like feel takes away from the tactile aesthetics of the piece.

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The natural “rough” finish is often desirable within many pieces of wood art. This is true with wall art, box art, and other similar visual pieces.

Functional items which see consistent use may not fit this profile. While wood art is not often utilitarian in terms of function, there are pieces which serve people as well as being art.

Instances where the natural wood feel is desired goes back to the elements of art. Specifically texture in art is what is desired.

This texture becomes a part of the whole work speaking to the artists vision and intent.

How To Achieve The Best Results For Natural Texture In Wood

Sanding is always a part of the finishing process especially for wood art. We all want our pieces to have a nice smooth finish.

Nevertheless the protective top coat like polyurethane will raise the grain and add a bit of roughness. Sanding and re-coating as needed is the tried and true method for smoothing this.

When you wish to maintain a natural feel yet still have this protective finish there are options. A matte or satin finish from various polyurethanes can help you here.

Not only will this allow for a natural texture to the wood, it gives a more natural visual appeal as well. There are other instances where this is certainly desired.

Wall art pieces will reflect light and shine more than desired from the wood surface. Here the visual texture needs something other than a shiny surface.

The goal is to sand and reapply the protective top coat to achieve a balance between tactile and visual texture. Each wood species will have that happy medium where it is maintains this natural appeal.

This happy medium is subjective to each artist or woodworker. Nevertheless you will discover what pleases you after a few attempts at achieving this.

Why Is Wood Texture So Unique?

Wood texture is unique for it is naturally present within the wood. Other arts do not enjoy this benefit.

Painting for example does not possess a natural tactile texture. Arts such as stone carving, pottery, and others which use natural mediums will enjoy this benefit of texture.

Anytime ones art can posses a natural tactile texture as an element of art it is perfect to incorporate it into the piece. It is far better than merely having a visual appearance of texture alone.

Using things like epoxy resin removes this natural texture of the wood and is a reason why I personally prefer to not use resins. While there are instances where resin is desired, such as damaged wood, generally it is best to avoid them.

Each artist will have their own take on what is best for their wood art. While there is no right or wrong approach to this matter of texture, our medium does provide many options.

It is for these options that wood becomes such a unique medium. It can be presented in its natural state or modified so that the natural textures are no longer present.

The value of wood art may be affected by perception of the potential client alone. This is personal preference as to how the piece is finished.

More often than not I have discovered more clients enjoy the feel of the wood in their hands.

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