Crossing the Chasm

A question I now must consider in the progression of learning the CNC.

Do you finish a product less if you are giving it away to a family member, friend, neighbor, etc.opposed to finishing a project for sale and profit?

I find myself spending a great deal of time on finishing. Part of that is inexperience and a less than ideal group of tools.

I haven’t sold a thing but I am planning to move to that in October of this year. Right now I am just making samples, gifts and requests.

I only speak for me. I finish everything to the best of my ability. Sometimes I will ask the friend if they want to finish it themselves, especially if they want a flag or something else that I don’t love to do. But each time I finish something I get better, and that’s rewarding. It’s your call… but giving things away is a time honored method of becoming known in you community. I laser engraver my contact information on every piece that leaves the shop.


I would suggest finishing. Sometimes those gifts, even items sent to friends and family, can get you new customers so if there are flaws or obvious things that are incomplete, folks may not want to purchase from you in the future. It is your call, but just remember there can be hidden customers out there that see the items your friends and family have that could generate profit!


My mantra is that you’re only as good as the worst thing you show someone…so always put out your best effort. People love to touch products…and the finish is so important. Fit and finish go together.


I’d also ask though…what are you finishing (wood?) and what are you using to do that? There are some finishes that are easier than others…and some that feel really good but don’t require a dust free environment and a lot of worry about sagging, etc.

To me gifts are a great time for me to practice finishing. It is my least favorite part of the whole process but each one helps me get better. It is frustrating to spend so much time on finishing sometimes but I only want to share items that are to the best of my ability. The only time I don’t finish something is when they person getting it wants to finish it themselves.

I like trying new techniques on items for myself or gifts for others and then it gives me that chance to make the mistakes for someone who is not paying me and therefore also usually on a deadline. I come up with a gift idea and then try a few iterations for someone and those help me decide if I want to try selling it later. In fact I expect I will finally purchase Carbide Create Pro soon and the first 3D carved item will be a gift for my parents. I know they would love a topographical map of their area as a cribbage board topper. I get to try it for them and see how long it takes, work involved and therefore how much I would need to charge if I decide to sell them.

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I am in the corner of finish it to the best of your abilities and strive for better.
For me, it’s relaxing to slowly work on something that will be talked about as something beautiful.

I am the guy who used to make Old Glory stars with a 1/64 carving bit and a dremel :smile:

Yes, takes a bit of time.

Thank you for sharing.

Thanks for all of the ideas and thoughts. 100% replied that finishing everything to the best of one’s abilities is the way to go. I agree.

However, I should have worded my post better. When I used the word “finish”, I was referring more to the sanding as opposed to stains and OB Juice, and poly. I work only with wood and am still experimenting with many different finishes.
Thanks. JC

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My take:

I’m a HUGE fan of letting the machine do the work and sanding is my least favorite part of the job. :smiley:

So I spend more time than many getting my machine and toolpaths dialed in so that I spend a lot less time sanding to get to my desired finish. In a perfect world you have no ridges in pockets and no fuzzies in your vcarves, and in reality you can get pretty close. So make sure your machine is nicely trammed for pocket floor finish. Make sure you use sharp tools and the proper tool for the material/process. This is hard for me since I typically run an endmill until it gets so dull it ruins jobs. And practice finishing strategies in your toolpaths. Leave some stock and run light finishing passes. On vcarves run the vcarve again to help clear out fuzzies. On a lot of wood jobs downcutting and compression bits are time savers.


Great tips and advice! Thank you

If your name is on it, think of how you will be remembered.
“Oh, he did a nice job…. But the finish stinks!”

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My 2 cents - Consider what your goal and market - Quantity or Quality.

I work part time in a hardwood lumber shop with 2 others - one has a successful side business making vaious boxes. He has a reputation within the shaker community for his boxes and is frequently approached for advice by box makers considering themselves his competitors. They want advice on how thay can gain sales and increase thier sales prices. He explains to they are not competitors and then goes no to compare his produce to theirs. There are also some design and assembly differnces. They tend to save time/money by cutting corners using lesser quality materials and on the finishing. His pieces end up in museums and museum gift shops (with higher profit margins) thiers end up at street fairs (going for quantity).

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I guess for me the difference is I am 70 years old and just entering a new, creative space. I’m using mostly tools I had from years ago but still can get the job done along with the CNC machine and a couple other power tools. The CNC was a retirement gift from my 3 sons and my wife. Since December of 2021 I’ve learned a lot but have not made anything that would ever get into a museum. It would be satisfying to me if I could at least present my best work with 8 months experience but if I made them museum pieces, I’d still be fine tuning them. I guess I am the smuck that took the road most traveled by and will end up at my first presentation this Fall at a church craft fair.

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Happy retirement! Your family provided you a great gift. Whatever path you follow should be enjoyable (and rewarding).