My position is this: we shouldn't allow questions on every finish that can possibly be applied to wood.

Obviously every conventional finishing option from stain/dye to wax to oil to varnish to lacquer (and all combos) is a yes, ditto unusual things like chemical treatments (e.g. light exposure, alkalis, iron + vinegar) and soap finish and liming. And obviously basic painting we have to include. It's the extremely specialised and/or complex paint options that I'm thinking we should firmly limit.

Here's why. We would, in the fullness of time, have to cover queries on:

  • automotive paint
  • faux painting — fake marble/granite etc., metals — in both water and oil media, and in mixed media
  • decorative painting, in both water and oil media
  • gilding
  • decorative lacquer

I think there's just no way we should try to tackle all of those in addition to all of the established finish options and their possible combinations. These kinds of queries are best answered in a specialist venue dealing with that type of product, or one that commonly deals with a style of painting.

Leaving the door open to this sort of thing and taking it to a logical conclusion, down the line a questioner could legitimately expect to be able to ask about Russian icon painting here... after all, they are painted on wood.

  • Do you have any specific examples? What prompted you to begin thinking about this topic? Do you believe that if a hypothetical good faux finish question were to be asked, then we could no longer vote to close a poor Russian icon question later?
    – Jason C
    Nov 29, 2015 at 11:15
  • Does this question still fit your criteria of acceptable? woodworking.stackexchange.com/questions/1755/…
    – Matt
    Dec 21, 2015 at 18:55
  • @Matt, yep, just a stain question at heart even if it is through a mask. This sort of thing can also be done by laser and I think even if that's what was asked about that's still OK because it's now an established way of marking wood (no different in essence to a question about CNC cutting/milling).
    – Graphus
    Dec 22, 2015 at 13:02

2 Answers 2


While I don't want to agree, I'm afraid you made a compelling argument and I have to agree. I think many of those examples would fit very well in the Arts & Crafts proposal if they could ever get into beta.


I don't think there should be any change in policy on this until it becomes a problem. The slippery slope argument is a strong and well-known logical fallacy and we don't really need to address this particular issue until we go down that slope.

I think for now we should allow questions that build up the knowledge base of the site, and disallow ones that don't really help anybody, as per usual.

If it's about automotive paint on wood then answer it. Now the site has a canonical automotive paint on wood question. This is not an unwelcome addition. If you see a couple more in the future mark them as duplicates if necessary. If you see a ton more in the future then raise a meta topic about automotive paint on wood.

Or heck, if you think you can cover all automotive-paint-on-wood topics in one fell swoop post a self-answered question and we can send them all back there. And if a new one isn't a duplicate, hey, maybe it's something truly interesting and relevant that we can't conceive of at the moment.

Besides, we don't even know how this could play out right now. Perhaps a question about automotive paint (for example) can be transformed into a nice general question with a great answer applicable to, say, all urethane paints, or acrylic paints, or whatever and their use in woodworking. No way to tell.

There's not really much reason to take action on this right now I don't think. Even if a couple questions on each topic in your list appeared on the site right now they would simply add to the woodworking-related knowledge on the site, they wouldn't be problematic.

If the site becomes overrun by unanswerable or off-topic questions then it's a problem that could be addressed but we can only take wild guesses about whether or not that will happen.

And who knows, a few more finish questions on here might attract a few more knowledgeable users to answer finish questions, and the site certainly could use a few more answerers.

I think it's best to focus on building up the user and knowledge base now, and handle questions case-by-case instead of blanket policies based on guesses. Those kinds of things can easily be addressed if they become an issue.

  • "I don't think there should be any change in policy on this until it becomes a problem." I don't see that there's any good reason not to get out in front of this, as with any potential problem already addressed in Meta, rather than wait and then deal with it. IME that's usually the worst way to deal with this sort of thing (online in particular). "The slippery slope argument is a strong and well-known logical fallacy" It's also a well-known real-world problem ;-) The Slippery Slope fallacy is anyway about using it falsely, its validity is dependent on the strength of the warrant.
    – Graphus
    Nov 29, 2015 at 10:58
  • @Graphus But you are using it falsely: What evidence do you have to suggest that the presence of the current finishing questions on the site will guarantee that we have to answer every arbitrary question about finishing in the future? And why do you believe that we won't be able to solve this problem later if it becomes a problem?
    – Jason C
    Nov 29, 2015 at 10:59
  • That's your view, I don't think so. But let's say I were, it could just as easily be argued that you're guilty of the Fallacy Fallacy — the conclusion isn't automatically false because the argument in its favour is flawed. Anyway, I've been active in forums for nearly 20 now and I've seen the slippery slope effect in person a great many times; the problems could mostly have easily (and far more effectively) been dealt with head-on in the early days.
    – Graphus
    Nov 29, 2015 at 11:05
  • Forget the slippery slope thing and just focus on the specific examples given, which currently would all be OK. Are they best answered here? And not on subject-specific forums that deal with that sort of thing as their bread and butter?
    – Graphus
    Nov 29, 2015 at 11:09
  • @Graphus There is a great reason not to get out front with this: You don't know what kinds of questions will pop up. If you start making blanket policies for problems that do not yet exist based on conjecture then you risk killing good content or users right off the bat. The thoughts you are having are appropriate for a mature site but not so much for a beta with 4 users answering > half the questions. Focus on bringing in more users and questions. Big policies later. We don't have grown up problems yet. Just like we don't really limit a toddlers diet to reduce their risk of a heart attack.
    – Jason C
    Nov 29, 2015 at 11:09
  • I cover that in the best to get in front of this early on part ;-)
    – Graphus
    Nov 29, 2015 at 11:11
  • @Graphus I couldn't tell you if those questions would best be answered here because the items in your list aren't questions. I don't see any questions in your example list. There are actually no specific examples there. Which is kind of my point!
    – Jason C
    Nov 29, 2015 at 11:12
  • 1
    For what it's worth, I'm tending to agree with @JasonC here. It's hard to imagine we'll ever be at a place where there's so many obscure finishing questions that it becomes distracting, and we're wishing we had marked the early ones as off-topic. At worst, we'll get a few, no one will know the answer, and they'll just sit there, unanswered.
    – drs
    Dec 4, 2015 at 11:43

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