Has anyone here had good experiences with any of the caulk finishing tools on the market?
No such thing. Your finger is best and most versatile.
Best for water-based stuff is to NOT put too much on, then use a wet finger to smooth it. Keep a moist sponge or rag handy to keep cleaning your finger. The smaller hole in the nozzle, the better. For painting prep, sometimes it's good to have two tubes handy, one with only a small hole drilled into the end for use on very thin cracks - saves a lot of caulk.
If you're using solvent-based stuff, use a roll of paper towels to keep cleaning your finger. For this caulk, it's sometimes helpful to mask the adjacent area first, but be sure to remove the masking tape right away - do not wait for the caulk to dry. For butyl and polyurethane caulks, try to caulk without having to tool at all - it's very sticky, messy stuff. (mask it, sure, but otherwise try to avoid tooling).
If you're talking about tubs, be sure to clean very well and dry the area first. If silicone caulk was used prior, that's got to be removed completely for new caulk to stick properly (do not leave silicone residue, which you can feel with your finger).
Just my opinion. Others may differ.
They are often given away at paint stores but they are not very effective with 100% silicone sealants used for exterior waterproofing. The pros know how to hold the gun and apply the proper pressure so they don't have to touch the sealant after it is applied and that is best for waterproofing purposes. If you are applying common painters acrylic caulk for interior cosmetic purposes you can use your finger.
As what Homebound said. I tried several tools, but my finger does work best (for some reason, that does not sound "proper").
I would also add to make sure to keep the angle of the caulking gun the same for each run. Or stop, and then start again from the other end. This can be an issue when you are doing a vertical run that starts low and ends up above your head. You really don't want to be pushing the caulk, you want to be pulling the gun and leaving the caulk behind. I've learned quite a bit about what makes a mess by watching my husband mess up caulk jobs.
After several years, I no longer let my husband do any caulking in the house. Just like he is not allowed to do anyting with paint. He can cut a board to an exact measure, but he can't caulk or paint as he does not have the fine motor control needed to get a decent finished product (his hand writing is horrible too).
Another tip I use is to use vegetable oil to help keep the caulk from sticking to my finger. But make sure it's just a very fine coating, dip a napkin in the oil and then rub your finger tip on that. But mostly wipe your figure often, like very couple of inches. If the caulk starts going around your finger, you'll have a mess on the wall so you want to wipe the excess off before that happens. If that is happening often, then you put too much caulk on in the first place.
I've never used solvent based caulk.
Thanks for your responses and all of the tips. I guess we'll just go with the finger then.
Cathy - I know what you mean about not letting a spouse paint (at least with a brush) or do any caulking because I'm the one who's forbidden by DH for the same reasons. Strangely enough my handwriting is exceptional (smile).
The nozzle tip should be cut at an angle with the lead edge squared off a bit. You should pull the gun but there should be a small bead of sealant constantly protruding ahead of the nozzle so that the sealant is pushed into the joint and the square part of the tip finishes the joint. Keeping this sealant constantly protruding at the same size is the secret to good installation and stopping and stopping becomes a real art.
Heh, heh, I have one. And it is not my finger. However, I have tried for four years to find another and cannot, so it does you no good.
The finger technique reauires the correct sized bead to be applied---too much results in excess caulk making trails beside the finger. That is really difficult to clean.
Always possible to add, not easy to clean off too much.
I think you posted this in bathrooms as well, but I have fingernails so fingers are not a good option for me. I like this little black and yellow doohickey that I picked up for a few bucks at a hardware store.