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  • Writer's pictureScot Finnie

Why Sudbury River Woodworks doesn't do color- or finish-matching

Updated: May 19, 2023

Matching finish and color to an existing finish is practically impossible.

At least once or twice a month, Sudbury River Woodworks gets a request from a prospective customer looking to have an item stripped and restored, parts repaired or remade, or additional items added (such as crafting a newly made cabinet to match an existing set). In each case, the expectation is that I will apply a finish to match an existing finish. While I can make the replacement or additional wood items, I can't finish them to match. Here's why.

First of all, I don't do finish stripping. Not only are the chemicals noxious but the process is too time consuming. It's labor intensive. More importantly, there are many variables that affect the way a stain looks. Even if you brought me a project that was already stripped: Brand, specific color, luster, application method, number of coats, top coat type/brand, type of wood, ages, sanding method to name a few precludes any finish or color matching to other pieces you may have. I can repair or customize a stained piece if the entire piece is stripped and it doesn't have to match other existing items. Similarly, I can paint an entire piece so long as it's possible to repaint the whole piece to a color you specify and the color doesn't have to match an existing color. The items in question would need to be delivered to my shop or garage.

Let me give you an example of what's possible. Say you want to add newly-made cabinets to match an existing set of white cabinets. You might think I could just use "white" paint on the new cabinets. Matching the trim and appearance of the existing wood cabinets is doable. But there is no such thing as generic white. Paint manufacturers usually offer 15 - 20 different types of white, none of which match one another when viewed side by side. Gloss, semi-gloss, satin, matte are additional variables that complicate the process. One way to handle this is to have all your cabinets re-sprayed in place after the new ones are installed. I am not equipped to do that but other companies do. Another approach with added cabinets is to paint them a different complementary or accent color. That service I can provide.

Here's another example of what can and can't be done. I have been known to take on restoration projects, usually when someone gives or sells me an older piece of furniture with good lines and a design worthy of the effort. I did this with a venerable medium-brown-stained, curved-front dresser left by someone at the curb. It was water damaged and the top was warping. Rather than trying to repair the existing veneered top, I removed it and remade it with hardwood. Then I stained the top a new color. Instead of trying to strip and re-stain the base of the dresser, my wife and I sanded it with 180 grit, primed it, and painted it (see picture above). By following this approach I eliminated all need for color and finish matching. These are the only possible approaches by which I might be able to restore, repair, make replacement parts for existing wood products and either painting or staining them.

So, I don't do color matching, finish matching, "sanding down," or stripping at all. I will own up to the fact that I have broken this rule upon occasion, but only when working on things for myself. Color matching is an art, and I have some talent for it. But because it might not come out right and it would be very expensive because such finish work is time consuming, Sudbury River Woodworks turns away requests of this type. Bottom line: I can't in good conscience take what amounts to a 50-50 chance on projects customers are paying for.

I hope this explanation helps you understand why I turn away color and finish matching. I look forward to your business and will endeavor to take on any work in the realm of the predictably possible and economically feasible.

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