Many woodworkers love creating things with wood, but when it comes to finishing they lose patience AND technique. The results of these projects are beautiful and innovative woodworking pieces, poorly finished, which then tends to spoil the overall look of the piece. Some woodworkers have found the solution, passing their work along to someone else to apply the finishing of the piece. This is a perfect solution, but not always available to all of us. So .... what are some solutions??
Well, just taking your time and understanding finishes is a big help. Some time ago some of the finishing manufactures developed something called "pre finish" of "wood conditioning" products. If you have never used these, depending on the wood you are working with, these can save a life time of grief.
Essentially what a pre-finish does is prepare the pores in the wood so that when the finishes are applied there is a more even absorption of the finish. Which is often more economical too. Different species of woods and even different boards can absorb higher or lower amounts of the finish depending on how they were milled. Within a board you can also have heartwood and sapwood, both of which absorb finish differently which can account for a mottled or blotched look of the finished work.
Even if you do take your time finishing a product, it can look like you rushed through the finishing just by the way the wood absorbs stains and finishes. There are primarily two kinds of pre-finishing or wood conditioners, one is for water based products, the other for oil based products. It is wise to use one type of manufacture for the pre-finish and the final finish to avoid any possible incompatibilities that could occur.
The final word on finishing is an old standby ... sandpaper. Not enough can be said about using ever finer and finer sandpaper BEFORE you begin applying your finishes. I have learned more recently that even using 320 and 400 as the final finish or raw wood does make a difference to the finishing. If you want your woodworking project to stand out, it needs to be finished properly, so take the time to enjoy the final steps of making a project a masterpiece.