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S4S MAPLE AND FINISHERS4/8
I seriously do not like maple anymore.!! I sell maple to a builder who uses the cheapest finisher he can find. The finisher takes the s4s maple and never touches it with sandpaper and does his stain and clear. The builder then comes to me and says he is not happy with how the material turned out finished. That the s4s should be ready for finish and this is showing machining marks etc etc. I tell him that if the finisher would have sanded it we would not have this problem. Who should take the blame on this..?? Do I need to start sanding all of my material before I deliver it and hope it doesn't get a shiner in delivery transit..?? Need some help...
You are to blame for listening to the builder. He is barking up the wrong tree. Tell him to take a hike - all the way over to the finisher and bark at him.
Seriously, you even need to ask that question?
Look if the builder wants it sanded before it's installed, and you have to capability to do it, then give him the cost to have it done and run it through the sander for him. It'll still look like crap in the end, but at least you'll make a little more $$$.
Builders aren't always the brightest, if you have to explain to him how to do his job then there's a problem right? Direct him to one of the hobby forums so that the weekend warriors can explain to him how to do his job.
What did the builder order? Did he specify whether the material was to be sanded? Did you ask or offer?
Old style, traditional planing mill materials were as is - the buyer had to deal with defects, sanding, etc. At the other end, some shops will defect, and finish sand and foam wrap each piece.
It is the seller's responsibility to spell out what is being sold if the buyer does not offer the specs. Quite often the buyer does not know what they want, or how to order it, especially in this business.
If you were to tell a waiter you want 'lunch' and offer no specifics, then you take what is brought to you. If you want something specific, you need to communicate it.
Understanding the customer's expectations is key. Some folks think everything is "ready for finish"(which in itself does not describe a product).Offer pricing for sanding at 120 grit and provide a sample for the finisher. One policy to consider: you will allow returns on any stock they don't like as long as it is rejected within a short time period. This will prevent damage and improper storage at the site. Any stock that is cut up and installed is not returnable.
I notice the last two responses seem to put the burden on the seller to be responsible for making sure the buyer knows what he is buying? I'm not sure how I feel about this. In my personal experience I always try to educate myself and ask questions before I buy. If I spend money and don't know what I'm getting, I'd be hard pressed to blame the person or store I bought from.
If material was sold as S4S as the OP described it, then I wouldn't expect it to come sanded. Unless it's different in different parts of the country, S4S around here means it's surfaced 4 sides, not sanded. If the buyer wanted it sanded then in my opinion he has to ask for it to be sanded. And if he ordered it wrong or misunderstood what he was getting, he should at the very least have resolved it before installation.
I agree the buyer has to bear some responsibility and know or ask what he is buying. However, if you look at retailers as a model, Wal-mart and Starbucks put the product on the shelf and offer it. A buyer can choose to read the fine print or not.
But in this business, I do not think it is possible or wise to assume the buyer knows what they are asking for since the product is not a commodity. Therefore, it is always best to state what you propose to sell, and then compare that with their expectations. If the maker sets the specifications: 1. it is easier for the maker to match such specifications, 2. the maker will then have more info on the transaction out in play, and the buyer can ask questions or add or delete from there, 3. the maker also come out as the professional. I don't go to the dentist and tell him how to repair a filling.
In the OP example above, we don't know if this Maple can from a beat planer with chipmarks, nicks, etc, or a spiral knife Austrian finish planer.
And if someone says 'sanded' - what does that mean? Machine and hand sanded? One face or two, or all four sides? And to what grit? More room for conflict.
This goes right to the heart of why there is such disparity between woodworking shops and the experience of their customers. Few people are specific enough in their language or knowledge to set mutually agreed expectations.
"...a builder who uses the cheapest finisher he can find. The finisher takes the s4s maple and never touches it with sandpaper and does his stain and clear."
I think the problem lies right there.
This person is not a finisher - although they may be on the way to becoming one when they see the results of not doing things properly.
No real finisher would consider finishing un-prepped wood like that - unless they were directly ordered to by the boss.
It is true the problem lies with the builder/finisher.
The next problem is that the builder or finisher will likely refuse to take responsibility for their lapse and try to blow the blame back to the woodworker.
It is still a situation that does not make for either a good day or good business. If the seller specifies what they are going to provide, then there is no gray area for the customer to dance in.
It would not be the wholesalers responsibility to sand the product.
They are ones claiming to be qualified in their respective trades.Typical it's not my fault mentality, no accession of individual or professional responsibility.
Amazing anyone would suggest that we as business owners-individuals, should have to pre-quantify all potential quagmires and ramifications based on the blatant ignorance and stupidity of others, before making a simple sale.
I had a Mom and Daughter get some vanities from me. The mom wanted it raw, to save money, so she could finish it. The Daughter, a long time client of mine wanted me to finish her vanities. So I put a beautiful chocolate brown finish on the vanities for her. She was extremely pleased with them. The Mom on the other hand used an all in one finish. You know the one, stain and finish in one can (not MinWax though). I told her to at least use a stain and a clear. She would have more control. But she assured me that she had used it before and it never failed her.
So I get a call from her telling me that the maple I used on her vanity was bad and the finish came out horrible. I asked about the finish she used and she said she used the one step. I told her that I recommended against that. She still insisted that I used bad wood. I referred her to her daughters cabinets and to go take a look at them. And that they were both made from the same lot of wood.
She called me up a week later and said that the daughters vanities looked beautiful and she painted hers, problem solved LOL.
It is all in the finisher on how the final product looks. There are occasions where the wood will be hard to make look nice. But usually it can always be done.
The seller has done what was asked of him. He got the s4s product to the builder. His job is done.
I know they are a bit old fashioned, but how about a rubber stamp and red ink reading "Needs sanding before finishing" to go on the invoices of everyone who you do not know does not need it.
It is not really your responsibility to tell customers how to use your product (unless it is a safety issue) but sharing something that you know, something that may even seem obvious, may be helpful to your customer and reduce misdirected ill-feelings.
And another stamp that says:
"Wood may need cutting before assembly"?
Typical of the building trades today these guys are not 'finishers', they are just painters! Everyone thinks they can 'finish', you just open up a can and 'go'. Even if the material is sanded from the supplier it still has to be gone over by hand for a proper job, unless you are priming the material.
Tom in PA