Furniture finisher

What they do

A furniture finisher applies stain, lacquer, paint, oil and varnish to furniture, and polishes and waxes finished furniture surfaces. Other tasks will be to:

  • examine and disassemble furniture to determine the extent of damage or deterioration and the best method for repair or restoration
  • repair broken parts and fill cracks and imperfections
  • follow plans to produce specific designs.
  • remove old finishes and damaged or deteriorated parts
  • design and decorate entire pieces or specific parts of furniture, such as chairs and draws for cabinets.
  • create an antique appearance
  • recommend woods, colours, finishes, and furniture styles.

Working conditions

A furniture finisher will need to have minimum allergic reactions to dust and spirit based products such as turpentine and shellac. All timber furniture finishers work indoors, generally in a shop environment, and are exposed to a high noise level, some airborne sawdust and chemicals from painting and stripping products. There is some risk of injury involved in working with high-speed woodworking machinery. You may be required to lift equipment or supplies weighing up to 25 kilograms.

Tools and technologies

Furniture finishers use a variety of tools and materials including: wax; shellac; nitro cellulose lacquer; stain; paint; solvents; bleach; sanding blocks; steel wool; rags; brushes; automated sprays; stripping tools; wood fillers; dip baths; nails; screws and tacks; hammers; chisels, screwdrivers; planes and saws. They may also use wood lathes, drill presses, routers and other machinery.

In mass production many of the traditional hand processes are automated and include a conveyer or overhead conveyer system.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become a furniture finisher, you usually need to undertake an apprenticeship in timber furniture finishing. The apprenticeship usually takes 36 months to complete and is available as a school-based apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend  time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.

You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.