In this post I will cover how I manage my finishing materials. Here I am talking about Salad Bowl Finish from General Finishes but these tricks can be applied to most finishes.
Before I open a new can of finish I turn it over and write the day's date on it. Also, when I have closed the can after use, I turn it upside down and leave it at a slight angle by putting a piece of wood under the edge.
By leaving the can at an angle, the finish inside will slide off of all surfaces and collect in the main body of the tin. Turning the tin upside down will ensure that no air gets in and there will not be a build up of partially dried finish on the top or the bottom.
I use 2" sponge brushes for almost all of my finishing. I generally use one a day and I buy them in bulk, usually 100 at a time from Lee Valley. (You can find contact information for Lee Valley here. Scroll down to find it.)
I keep a plastic bag, marked as shown, so that I can keep the brush moist during the day. I use the newest finish for final coats, which I do at the beginning of the day, and older finish for first coats. I mark off sections of the grid so that I won't put the brush in a section that has old finish in it.
I wipe back my finishes with a cotton pad. My wife, graciously, cuts, folds and packs the pads in bags of 1 to 2 dozen. I keep the used pads in a separate bag and I only throw them out when the bag is full. It is amazing how many times you may need a damp pad to touch up a spot on a finished piece. I purchase the cotton scraps from Lee Valley. See the link above.