Furniture Finisher

Furniture finishers sand furniture with sandpaper to obtain a smooth surface. Cracks in the wood are plugged with either agglutinant or putty. The article is then stained and varnished (for example, pine) or varnished only (for example, imbuia).

To stain the article, it is dipped into a solution which provides an even layer of colour over the entire surface. When dry, the bottom coat of sealer is sprayed on rapidly and accurately with a spray gun, care being taken to ensure that it is evenly sprayed and does not form drops.

The article is dried rapidly in a room equipped with fans which blow warm air directly onto it. The article is sandpapered again by hand and the lacquer or varnish is sprayed on. Usually three or more coats are applied and between coats it is sanded lightly.

Furniture finishers may specialise in sanding, staining or varnishing furniture.

Furniture finishers work with: different grades of sandpaper; stains and varnishes in various colours; tools such as spray guns and drying fans; agglutinant, putty and sealer.

Furniture finishers work indoors in workshops that are usually provided with ample light and ventilation. The work involves standing most of the day. The use of stains and varnishes necessitates the wearing of protective clothing. Furniture finishers may also wear masks to prevent the inhalation of wood dust.

Personal Requirements

  • at least 16 years old
  • average physical strength
  • good eyesight
  • good eye-hand coordination
  • manual dexterity

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

A certificate or a statement of attainment issued by, or on behalf of the school attended, reflecting a pass at Grade 8 level in Afrikaans or English

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics and at least two other subjects are required, as a minimum level of education.

Attainment of the specified grades in the battery of technical selection tests of the Furniture Industry Training Board (FITB), is also required.

What to Study

There are three ways to qualify as a registered artisan:

1. An apprenticeship is a fixed contract between company and apprentice, ranging in duration from between 18 months and 4 years. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test leading to professional certification.

2. A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from about a year to 3 years. A learnership comprises theoretical and practical
training. Practical training is conducted on site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets experience whilst training.

3. TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools. They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.

All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a TVET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest TVET College. TVET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MerSETA or ChietaSETA. They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.


  • furniture manufacturing companies
  • construction companies
  • suppliers of wood
  • self-employment, with enough initiative and capital, can start own business
A good trade qualification is essential for advancement from basic furniture polisher or machine operator to designer and senior levels of management in the furniture industry. A polisher can, with hard work and ability, reach the position of supervisor or workshop foreman.

Further Information

  • try to obtain vacation work at a furniture manufacturing company
  • speak to a furniture finisher about this career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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