Finishing Wood Touches for your Home

Beautifully finished wood products are a joy to behold! They create a sense of warmth and passion for the erudite observer with their richness, depth, and luster. Ugly finishes…well, that’s a different story! Bradco has a very close relationship with Columbia Forest Products, being their Pure Bond Fabricator Network. We only use the urea formaldehyde free Purebond Plywood from them for the custom cabinetry that we build. Read more about wood works from Columbia Forest Products.

Why do finishes sometimes turn out ugly?

Fine wood finishes require not only a systematic process and precise recipe, but also a level of artistry. Accomplishing such a finish additionally requires proper and absolutely necessary wood surface preparation. Ugly finishes typically result when shortcuts omit some aspects of this in an attempt to reduce costs, increase efficiency, or both.

Splotchy finish resulting from inadequate wood surface preparation

Wood is a remarkable material. Due to it’s organic structure, it has all kinds of avenues for a stain or dye to penetrate, including pores, vessel elements or vascular tracheids (depending on whether the species is of the hardwood or softwood group), and various types of wood cells. It is the penetration of the stain, sealing coat, and subsequent top coats into these structures that gives the finished product its appearance of depth. Generally speaking, these openings tend to be oriented in the direction of the grain, allowing stains or dyes to penetrate in a somewhat naturally controlled manner. However, when these openings are concentrated and oriented towards the surface, things start to get a little tricky. This most frequently occurs in the presence of figure, including wavy grain, curly grain, mottled grain, or grain deviation in proximity to knots. When this happens, the openings of the vessels, pores, and cells effectively form a pipeline for stain to penetrate deeper and less consistently. It is important to remember here that wood without figure is the exception – not the rule.

All the above are serious considerations in dealing with any decorative wood component, including solid doors, face frames, or anywhere solid wood is used, and they also apply when decorative panel products, or hardwood plywood, are used.

Barber Pole Effect

Faces for hardwood and decorative softwood plywood also present unique challenges. They are thinly cut either on a lathe (rotary cut) or a slicer (plain sliced, quarter sliced) and spliced together side to side to create a 48″ width. The most common form of pairing veneers from a given log is book matching, which requires turning over every other leaf of veneer to provide a flowing mirror image at the veneer joints. The downside of this practice is that the tight side of the veneer has different absorption attributes than does the loose side. (See Volume 2, Finishing Challenge: The Barber Pole Effect).

In addition to natural variation in wood, other factors that affect finish include insufficient or improper sanding, the nature of the substrate for hardwood plywood, ambient conditions, compatibility of stains, sealer coats, and topcoats, contamination of airlines in pneumatic systems, and many others.

Ok, so how do I get a fine finish in the face of all these challenges?

For purposes of this discussion, we will limit the topics to two concerns: finish preparation and stain color/sheen selection.

Sizing and Filling

In a by-gone era, finishing was done in a much different way than it is today. Generally speaking, today’s finishes are the result of a three or four, sometimes five-step process, including sanding, staining, sealing, sanding the sealer coat, and a top coat. For the most part, this creates an acceptable and often an exceptionally good finish. However, it’s those times when these methods produce a finish that is NOT acceptable that can be very frustrating, leaving the finisher to try to determine the cause. More often than not, that cause is determined to be the surface quality of the wood part being finished. Surprisingly, I actually agree with this finding, but probably not for the reasons you may think. Finish preparation, a process that is sometimes incomplete, is crucial to producing a fine final finish, and that is where we need to look more closely.

Way back when, finishing usually started with either a wash coat (or glue size) or a fill coat, depending on the porosity of the species. A wash coat consisted of a highly diluted sealer compatible with the topcoat that was to be applied. Glue size, a solution of glue and water, could also be used. After this coat was allowed to dry, the entire surface was sanded just prior to the application of a stain. The wash coat had two benefits: first, it would raise the loose fibers on the wood surface allowing them to be removed during preparatory sanding, and second, it would serve as a filler in those end grain regions and figured areas.Once it was sanded, the loose and tight regions of the wood surface would be effectively neutralized so that a stain could be applied more uniformly, and subsequent top coats would not penetrate more deeply into the loose areas of the wood.

Immediately after the wash coat was sanded, the first coat of finish (usually a pigment or stain) was applied, followed by alternately sanding and clear coating until the desired result was achieved.

For the more open grain species like oak or ash, a fill coat was applied at the beginning of the process. This can be best described as similar to a film of diluted putty that would dive into the pores and vessel elements so that after sanding, the surface was uniformly smooth. Following the sanding of the fill coat, stains and finishes were applied with sanding between each application of finish material.

These methods required some trial and error on scrap pieces to achieve the desired color, smoothness, and sheen, but the end result was a flawless and deeply beautiful finish.

Stain Color and Gloss Levels

Hardwood plywood may be produced utilizing a number of materials for the substrate, including veneer core (sometimes called plywood core), and the engineered cores such as particleboard and medium density fiberboard (MDF). I am often asked which core is best, and I always respond, “depends on the application.”

Medium Gloss Level

Where strength is an issue, veneer core has higher physical properties than particleboard or MDF. It has a very smooth surface and normally little thickness variation. However, it is a natural wood component, and as such some unavoidable attributes may show through the very thin decorative faces used today. Slight imperfections in the core surface, machine marks, and even the natural grain of the core may telegraph through the face and finish, particularly if the finish is a high gloss, or even worse if the finish is a high gloss over a dark stain. This finish virtually serves as a magnifying glass to highlight even the most subtle attributes of the core. Again, surface preparation is the key, along with selecting a satin or medium gloss top coat over a light color stain.

Particleboard and MDF may be a better choice in high exposure applications where strength is not so much an issue. Both have a very smooth surface, uniform thickness, and respectable physical properties. This makes them well suited for most finishes. However, even with particleboard and MDF, very dark stains coupled with a high gloss may and often exacerbate even the smallest imperfection in the core or face that may be present due simply to the very nature of wood as a raw material. More often than not, these imperfections defy detection until such finish is applied.

In closing…

A beautiful finish on a piece of fine furniture, millwork, or cabinetry is a marvel to behold. With the proper surface preparation, substrate selection, finishing materials, and finish application methods it is also achievable. The temptation to short cut any of these processes can and often produce less than satisfactory results and must be resisted whenever possible.

– Via the newsletter from our friends at Columbia Forest Products.

Kosher Kitchens in Los Angeles

In the case of many of our clients, kosher living and food preparation is the optimum lifestyle choice. We are taking this opportunity to make it known that we have designed many kosher kitchens, and we want to share our expert design knowledge with all of you to help facilitate staying kosher in your homes.

When preparing food that is kosher, cleanliness and halting cross contamination of all meat and dairy products are essential. To implement these values into kitchen design, we focus on counterspace, appliances, and storage space elements.  Implementing labels for separating stored food items such as dairy and meat are a great way to avoid confusion and help keep your kosher kitchen in tip top shape. Two sinks are recommended for a kosher kitchen however, if budget is an issue, there is also a budget friendly alternative. Double sinks are acceptable as opposed to two separate units. Stainless-steel sinks and steel or granite countertops are the recommended options for those who cannot have distinct discrete areas for meat and dairy.

Function and style do not have to suffer when you opt for stainless steel appliances for your kosher kitchen since they are ideal for cleaning up. Two of each appliance are the epitome of koshered options such as two ovens, two sinks, two dishwashers, etc. However, that is not always an option when you’re looking for a budget friendly selection. All appliances you will need for your kosher kitchen are all available from Bradco.

While there are different rabbinic opinions concerning countertop materials that have the ability to be kashered from milk to meat, vice versa or for passover, we can supply you with your desired countertop material, be it granite, composite stone, etc. Any and all countertops need to be thoroughly cleaned by boiling water in between all meat and dairy operations. No matter what your daily use is, keep in mind that cleanliness is fundamental in keeping kosher.  

Often times an extra set of dishes, utensils, cookware, and serveware are kept in a kosher kitchen. These items tend to be used often because they are utilized when meat or dairy dishes are served. The storage of these extra items is vital and naturally, extra cabinets are necessary for the storage of these items. We can help you design seamless and beautiful storage options to maximize storage. There are a variety of options such as replacing standard shelves and drawers with modular wire shelves and baskets that could be configured in a variety of ways so that the available interior cabinet space is expanded and used to it’s full potential. 

Of course, if there are any questions that arise during the design of kosher kitchens you should seek rabbinic guidance and after that feel free to contact us.

Bradco Kitchens & Baths
6011 West Pico Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90035

Phone: (323) 936-3457
Fax: 323.939.9354

Quick Home Improvements to Impress Those Holiday Guests

The holidays are descending on us fast and if it’s your turn to host the family gathering, you may be weary of the relatives seeing your dilapidated kitchen or bathroom areas. Oh no, is it too late to cancel?! Never fear Bradco is here to help you make a few home improvements that will make your space more welcoming. We have compiled a list to benefit your quick fix needs.

Bertazzoni Master Series Gas Burner

Kitchen appliances sparking? New stoves and ovens are easy to replace and can be switched out in as little as one weeks time, from order to installation. We recommend selecting energy efficient appliances for a budget friendly monthly bill. You can often get a special rebate from your local utility company for purchasing these products; there’s nothing better than thrilling your holiday guests with your delicious culinary creations straight from your new oven.

Fisher & Paykel Double Dishwasher

Still washing your dishes by hand? Sounds like you need a new dishwasher in your life, out with the old and in with the new. This is definitely a major tool in making life easier, especially if you are having house guests.  Save yourself from slaving over a pile of dirty dishes and Simply load and press a button to add convenience to your life. All dishwashers are guaranteed to be scald and splash free.




Caroma USA nvisi™ Series II Cube

Toilet tanking? There is almost nothing more embarrassing than explaining to visitors all the restrictions and rules to using your commode in order to avoid overflows and mishaps. You should never again have say anything like this  “Sorry, our system is a bit old so jiggle the handle then wait 30 seconds and if that doesn’t work shake the tank.” Opting to go with a low flow toilet will cut down on the water bill, as they say what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Bradco offers an assortment of styles to choose from and the installation will take no more than half a day. What an ideal way to help all of your guests get comfy on your brand new throne.


Pendant Lighting

Lights on the blink? Update your out of date track lighting by choosing a modern pendant light design or recessed lighting to open up a room with low ceilings. Replace an entire fixture or simply replace coverings and/or bulbs. LED light bulbs are a long lasting and energy efficient option, which in turn is also a money saver. Even minor adjustments to accent lights will turn out illuminating results for your home. Lighting can drastically change the feel of any room for the better. These improvements can make your home feel warmer and easier for guests to admire your entire space.

Before and after shots of cabinets refacing

Is your kitchen in need of a face lift? Cabinet refacing may be the answer to your cosmetic problems. If your kitchen is well built and functional there is really no reason to tear out existing cabinets. Refacing is less costly then remodeling an entire kitchen and is the most time saving option. Cabinet refacing is also eco friendly because there are less resources used in the process. Best of all you can select from tons of colors and styles at Bradco that complement your home’s decor and the installation will only take two to four days. Holiday guests will stare in awe at your fancy “new” cabinets.



For more ideas on quick fix improvements contact Bradco Kitchens and Baths at:

Bradco Kitchens & Baths
6011 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035

Phone: 323.936.3457
Fax: 323.939.9354
Toll Free: 866 4 Bradco ( 272326 )