A furniture finisher requires:
- good eyesight to select woods and look for surface imperfections
- good eye/hand co-ordination, ability to colour match and manual dexterity
- ability to visualise a finished product from drawings, blueprints or other specifications
- a desire to do a precise and thorough job
- keenness to use tools and equipment to perform tasks requiring precision
- the ability to follow established procedures and solve problems by experimenting
- the ability to select the kind of tools and equipment needed to do a job
- good judgement and decision-making skills - able to consider the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one
- knowledge of the history of furniture and the materials, methods, and the tools involved.
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.
While completing an apprenticeship, a first year apprentice furniture finisher will earn at least $410 per week, increasing as they progress through their apprenticeship. They may also be entitled to an allowance for tools.
Once qualified most furniture finishers work as independent subcontractors, running their own small business. Earnings will depend on the level of demand for their services, as well as their level of skill and experience.
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.
To become a furniture finisher, you usually need to complete an apprenticeship. A timber furniture finisher apprenticeship 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. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.
If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.
If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.
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If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.