When it comes to interior decoration and architecture, nothing beats the elegance and timelessness of wood. Whether it is used for furniture, hardwood floors, or front porches, wood has the uncanny ability to infuse character into a home.

Unfortunately, just like all things natural, wood is prone to decay. The only way to protect wood surfaces for long-term use is by applying wood finishes.

In this article, we will be discussing the different types of wood finishes, how to use them and why.

In a hurry, here’s a quick summary of the types of finishes for wood.

Different Types of Wood Finishes

  • Oil finishes for wood furniture
  • Shellac
  • Wood lacquer finishes
  • Wood stain finish
  • Wood paint finish
  • Varnish finishes for wood
  • Wax
  • Polyurethane
  • Wood dye

What is a Wood Finish?

Wood Finish

Wood finish is any chemical substance applied on the surface of wood to provide a protective layer. Depending on the type of finish, it can protect the wooden object from drying, cracking, fading, or rotting.

They may also protect wood from the adverse effects of the weather, including UV light and humidity, water damage, and mold.

Besides environmental impacts, different wood finishes can also protect the surface from scratches, stains, and other abuses humans and animals inflict on furniture daily.

Wood finishes, also known as wood furniture finishes, can be applied to bare or stained wood. Some finishes can also be applied on top of others.

In order to maximize the benefits of a wood finish, you have to choose the right one per project, and that begins by adequately understanding the different types of wood finishes.

Wood finish types

There are two main types of wood finishings:

  1. Penetrating wood finish
  2. Surface finishes for wood

As their names imply, a penetrating finish goes into the wood while the surface wood finishes types stay on top of the wood.

Of course, some finishes have a combination of the two, but each one will still be classed underneath one of the two broad groups.

Under each of these types is a range of different wood finishes, each with its unique pros and cons.

Penetrating Wood Finish

Penetrating finishes have been used for thousands of years to protect most of the antique furniture we have today.

These wood finishes types are usually made from natural oils, which is why they are absorbed by wood easily and offer protection against the forces of nature.

A lot of research has gone into improving the penetrative finishes we now use today to make them easier to apply and more durable.

These types of finishes are highly coveted, especially for high-end furniture, because it yields a more natural look and feel. They can also be applied quickly and are generally eco-friendly.

Some of the most popular ones are:

Oil finishes for wood furniture

Please don’t confuse these ones with oil based wood finishes.

1. Tung Oil

Tung Oil

Tung oil is one of the oldest finishes in the world and is derived from the seed of the tung tree, which is native to China. As a result, it is also called Chinese wood oil. Nowadays, tung trees are also grown in South America.

Tung oil is environmentally friendly and non-toxic during and after application. In addition, it is a non-darkening oil, so when it penetrates the grain, it brings out the natural beauty of the wood.

Unlike many other oil-based finishes, tung oil dries clear and does not yellow as much over time, which is why it is highly regarded in the furniture industry. However, it is rare to find 100% pure tung oil, as it is very expensive and takes a long time to dry.

All you need to do is explore methods of making tung oil dry faster to expedite the drying process.

Fast facts:

  • Ease of application: Moderate
  • Cleaning and thinning: Mineral Spirits or Paint Thinner
  • Sheen: Pure tung oil has a low sheen, but resin-modified tung oil options are sold in satin, semi-gloss, and gloss
  • Solvent: None
  • Recommended use: Household furniture, boat decks
  • Unique Property: It is environmentally friendly and has no VOC emissions
  • Application tools: Clean cloth or natural bristle brush

2. Linseed Oil

Another penetrating finish that has been used for centuries is linseed oil. This natural oil finish is derived from flaxseed, hence why it is also known as flaxseed oil.

Apart from being the best gun stock finish, linseed oil is one of the most versatile ingredients in the construction industry, as it can be used on its own or in other finishes such as varnish, wood stains, and paints.

To get the most out of linseed oil, it needs to be applied directly on bare wood or wood finished with other oils. Otherwise, it won’t penetrate the surface.

One note of warning is that linseed oil is highly flammable, and papers soaked in it might spontaneously combust if not disposed of properly. Linseed oil can also go rancid.

Fast facts:

  • Ease of application: Easy
  • Cleaning and thinning: Mineral Spirits or Paint Thinner
  • Sheen: Low sheen (satin)
  • Solvent: None
  • Recommended use: Gunstocks, furniture, surfboards, and outdoor furniture
  • Unique Property: It can be used with different oils, and it is eco-friendly

3. Danish Oil

Now, we come to the first factory-made penetrating finish. Once a popular fixture in Scandinavian furniture makers in the 20th Century, Danish oil is made by mixing a natural oil with varnish and thinner.

The varnish may be exterior varnish or polyurethane, while the oil is usually boiled linseed oil or tung oil. As a result, Danish oil provides the wood-penetrating benefits of oil and the enhanced protection and durability of varnish.

Just like linseed and tung oil, it is best to apply it on bare wood or previously oiled wood surfaces.

Fast facts:

  • Ease of application: Easy
  • Cleaning and thinning: Mineral Spirits or Paint Thinner
  • Sheen: Satin finish
  • Solvent: None
  • Recommended use: Wooden utensils and worktops
  • Unique Property: It acts as both a penetrative finish and a wood surface finish

4. Cedar Oil

As you have rightly guessed, cedar oil or cedarwood oil is derived from the cedarwood tree.

The needles, leaves, bark, and berries of some conifer wood species produce this indispensable oil that is useful in both the woodworking and healthcare industries.

Besides prolonging the life of wooden furniture, cedar oil has the distinct advantage of being a natural insect repellent. The oil also has a sweet, woody aroma that is used in aromatherapy.

Cedar oil is not as popular as any of the other products on our list as a wood finish, as it is more revered for its medicinal uses.

Fast facts:

  • Ease of application: Easy
  • Cleaning and thinning: Mineral Spirits or Paint Thinner
  • Sheen: Low sheen
  • Solvent: None
  • Recommended use: Furniture and floor polishing
  • Unique Property: It can resist or even kill some insects

Wood Surface Finish

Shellac Wood Surface Finish

As mentioned earlier, wood surface finish provides a protective coat that sits on the wood, almost like a film-forming finish.

In general, wood surface finishing last longer, offer better protection from the weather and moisture but require more skill to apply.

Let’s take a loook at a few wood surface finishes;

P.S – some furniture finishes listed here might have both properties i.e surface and penetrating capabilities depending on the type.

1. Shellac

Shellac is an amber tone finish derived from the excrement of the female lac bug, found on trees in Thailand, Burma, and India. For it to become a workable wood finish, these secretions are mixed with alcohol.

The result is a product that has been very popular for centuries because it yields a glass smooth finish and high gloss. Shellac is also durable and resistant to UV light, so it doesn’t darken over time.

Shellac gives a gorgeous amber tone finish that is desirable in high-end furniture. However, it is brittle, susceptible to heat, and can be stained by household chemicals.

It can also be dissolved with alcohol, so it should not be used in kitchens or any objects likely to be handled a lot.

Learn more here on staining over shellac.

Fast facts:

  • Ease of application: Easy
  • Cleaning and thinning: Denatured alcohol
  • Sheen: Glossy
  • Solvent: Alcohol
  • Recommended use: Fine furniture
  • Unique Property: It can be used as a protective coat on non-wood items and comes in a variety of colors

Read more: How to strip shellac.

2. Wood lacquer finishes

Lacquer is a popular finish used on cabinets and a lot of high-end furniture. Despite being a very thin finish, it dries hard and is very durable.

However, to get that finish, you require a fair bit of skill. The best way to apply wood lacquer finishes is with a high-volume, low-presser (HVLP) sprayer.

Lacquer is made by combining different solvents and resins. Even though it was initially made from the secretions of the lac bug, it is no longer necessarily the case.

Given the wide range of manufacturers, one type of lacquer could be drastically different from another.

Given the high quantity of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released during application, lacquer is not environmentally friendly.

As a result, we see more water-based lacquers, which some argue shouldn’t be called lacquer because they can’t be dissolved by lacquer thinner.

Wood Lacquer Finishes Fast Facts:

  • Ease of application: Difficult
  • Cleaning and thinning: Lacquer Thinner
  • Sheen: Low-Satin, Satin, Semi-Gloss, and Gloss
  • Solvent: Lacquer Thinner
  • Recommended use: Cabinets, commercial furniture, and fibreboard
  • Unique Property: Best applied with a High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) Sprayer 
  • Drawback: It yellows over the years, so it is not ideal for light-colored woods
  • Requires spray equipment

3. Varnish finishes for wood

Now, we come to the most confusing wood finish of them all – varnish wood finish. Depending on who you ask, lacquer, shellac, and polyurethane are all different types of varnish for wood.

But what is wood varnish?

According to Britannica, Varnish is a liquid coating material containing a resin and dries to a hard, transparent film. As you can see, this description fits all of the others.

However, for the sake of simplicity, we are going to use this term to refer to spar varnish or marine varnish. This is the most durable type of wood finish there is and is best suited for outdoor furniture and on ships.

Varnish is an excellent finish even for indoor use, but it can be tricky to apply and, if it’s not done correctly, is prone to cracking, bubbling, and peeling.

Varnishes for Wood Fast Facts:

  • Ease of application: Difficult
  • Cleaning and thinning: Mineral Spirits or Paint Thinner
  • Sheen: Matte finish, Semi-Gloss and High-Gloss
  • Solvent: None
  • Recommended use: Decks and outdoor furniture
  • Unique Property: Varnish penetrates the wood instead of sitting on it like a plastic coat, which makes it highly durable

4. Wax

Long before Mr. Miyagi taught us to wax on and wax off, furniture-makers had been using wax to add a finishing touch to wood.

Just like with cars, wax is used to revive dull-looking sheens, add an extra layer of protection and prevent the surface from cracking.

Wax is usually derived from animals or vegetables. The most common type of animal wax is beeswax, while carnauba wax is the primary vegetable derivative.

Unlike the previous types of furniture finishes, wax should not be used on bare wood. While it may provide a bit of scratch resistance, it is not waterproof and needs to be reapplied often.

On the other hand, wax over polyurethane does a great job of hiding any scuff or brush marks on other protective thick coats and can delay water absorption. That is why it is the one finish you should always have lying around, even if it isn’t your primary option.

Fast Facts About this Wood Surface Finish:

  • Ease of application: Easy
  • Cleaning and thinning: Mineral Spirits or Paint Thinner
  • Sheen: Matte to Satin
  • Solvent: Turpentine
  • Recommended use: Picture frames, furniture, and flooring
  • Unique Property: It goes on nearly every other type of finish to add extra protection and durability

5. Polyurethane

Polyurethane wood finish

Polyurethane is a durable, water-resistant finish that dries very hard.

The two main types of polyurethane are oil-based and water-based polyurethane finishes. While they both do the same thing, each furniture finish has its unique advantages and disadvantages.

Oil-based polyurethane gives a warm glow to wood, and it yellows over time. Water-based poly dries very clear and remains clear. Both can be used to protect wooden surfaces for over a decade when applied and maintained correctly.

Polyurethane is arguably the most versatile furniture finish, as it can be used for interior and exterior projects and high-traffic areas, and it is scratch and stain-resistant.

The main drawback of this furniture coating is that it can be challenging to repair when damaged. However, it will take a lot to damage this wood surface finishing.

Fast facts:

  • Ease of application: Moderate
  • Cleaning and thinning: Mineral spirits or paint thinner
  • Sheen: Matte, Satin, Semi-Gloss, and Gloss
  • Solvent: None (it can only be removed by sanding or scraping)
  • Recommended use: Hardwood floors, tables, stairs, railings, and fences (Now, find out the solutions for slippery stairs.)
  • Unique Property: Lasts for years without needing a recoat

6. Wood Dye

When you want to change the color of wood, you have two wood finish options: wood dye or wood stain. Dye is the less common of the two types of finishes for wood, as it isn’t technically a finish. Also, wood dye penetrates the wood, and it doesn’t provide any protection.

However, wood dye can be mixed with shellac, lacquer, or water-based finishes to create a stunning and unique outlook. Even though it offers no practical benefit on its own, it can be used intelligently to provide colorful surfaces as an alternative to paint.

Wood dye usually comes as either a powder or liquid concentrate. You can also make your own dye at home using ingredients such as turmeric and beetroot.

Once mixed in with other finishes, it simply takes on the properties of whatever it is put in.

7. Wood stain finish

A stain does the same thing as a dye in that it changes the color of the wood. However, it does it differently, and it has intrinsic properties.

Wood stain is sometimes referred to as paint because they’re both made of pigment, a solvent/carrier, and a binder.

Wood stain can either be a penetrating stain or a surface stain. This type of finish does a great job of bringing out the beauty of the grain and is great before you apply a final coat over it.

While you mix stains with water based polyurethane, the poly is usually applied over the dry stain for a more natural look.

We have different types of stains that come in a near-infinite range of colors and can be oil-based, water-based stains, or gel stains.

Fast facts:
  • Ease of application: Easy
  • Cleaning and thinning: Mineral spirits or paint thinner
  • Sheen: Low sheen
  • Solvent: None 
  • Recommended use: Wood furniture, hardwood floors, doors
  • Unique Property: It should only be applied on bare wood

8. Wood Paint Finish

Paint finishes for wood need no introduction. While many people like wood for its natural look, some pieces of wood need to be beautified or hidden, and that’s where paint comes in.

Even though paint is a durable and easy-to-use finish, you can also apply other surfaces on top of it, such as polyurethane.

Paint also provides more rich color options than wood stains and offers decent protection against the forces of nature. Check out the best paint for the floor, patio, and porch.

Paint Finishes for Wood Fast facts:

  • Ease of application: Easy
  • Cleaning and thinning: Mineral spirits or paint thinner
  • Sheen: Glossy to high gloss
  • Solvent: methylene chloride, acetone, isopropyl alcohol, and many others
  • Recommended use: Wood furniture, walls, doors, and decorative pieces
  • Unique Property: It is by far the most popular finish ever

Wood finish comparison table

Wood Finish Ease of ApplicationCleaning & ThinningSolventUsesUnique Property
Tung OilModerate -Mineral Spirits
-Paint Thinner
None – Household furniture
-Boat decks
-Environmentally friendly
-No VOC emissions
Linseed OilEasy -Mineral Spirits
-Paint Thinner
-Outdoor furniture
-Used with different oils
-It is eco-friendly
Cedar OilEasy-Mineral Spirits
-Paint Thinner
None  -Furniture
-Floor polishing
-Resist and kill some insects
Danish OilEasy -Mineral spirits
-Paint thinner
None -Wooden utensils
-Acts as both a penetrative finish and a wood surface finish
LacquerDifficultLacquer thinnerLacquer thinner-Cabinets
-Commercial furniture
-Best applied with a High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) Sprayer 
ShellacEasyDenatured alcoholAlcoholFine furniture -Used as a protective coat
-Comes in a variety of colors 
Wood stain finishEasy -Mineral Spirits
-Paint Thinner
None-Wood furniture
-Hardwood floors & doors
-Should only be applied on bare wood
Wood paint finishEasy-Mineral Spirits
-Paint Thinner
-Methylene chloride
-Isopropyl alcohol etc
-Wood furniture
-Decorative pieces
 Most popular finish ever
WaxEasy-Mineral Spirits
-Paint Thinner
Turpentine-Picture frames
Adds extra protection and durability to nearly every other surface.
PolyurethaneModerate-Mineral spirits
-Paint thinner
None-Hardwood floors
Lasts years without recoat.
DyeDifficultDenatured alcohol-Shellac
Indoor furnitureTakes on the properties of whatever it is put in.
VarnishDifficult-Mineral Spirits
-Paint Thinner
None -Decks
-Outdoor furniture
Varnish penetrates the wood

Also, check out our article on polyurethane vs epoxy resin.

How to Choose the Right Types of Wood Finishings

When you’re new to woodworking, one of the hardest things to do is pick a finish.

With so many types of finishes for wood to choose from, narrowing down your options can be tricky. Over time you will have a go-to finish, but initially, it will take some trial and error.

However, if you’re not ready to waste money on costly mistakes and want to get it right the first time, here is a simple wood finishing process that will help you choose the right finish.

1. Project Type

The first thing you need to think of when choosing a wood finish is the project you are creating. That means you need to consider the type of wood you’re using.

For example, light-colored woods do better with water-based finishes or really clear thin coats because oil-based finishes tend to yellow.

It would help if you also thought about where the project will be located and who will be using it. If you’re building or refinishing hardwood floors, for example, where will the floor be located? 

A walkway or kitchen floor will see more traffic than an office floor, so the former will need a more durable wood finishing. If it will be used by kids, you probably won’t want a glossy finish, and you need it to be waterproof.

2. Durability

When you establish where you are going to place the project and who will be using it, the second natural step is to decide on the level of durability you need.

You need to consider how resistant it is to water, heat, scratches, stains, household chemical spills, and heavy objects.

If the project is used outdoors, you also need to consider how well it handles UV lights, humidity, and changing weather conditions.

Even though varnish is the toughest and most durable type of finish, you may not need it in all scenarios. It is very effective for exterior use, but it might be overkill for some interior applications.

For example, if you are designing a cabinet for adults, you may not need heat and water resistance. You also could get away with a type of finish that isn’t as scratch-resistant because you don’t expect a lot of those over the years, so a nice shellac finish might be adequate.

Once you have ascertained the level of protection you need, you are free to consider more aesthetic options.

3. Appearance

As important as appearance is, it has to sit behind durability and purpose. Different types of finishes for wood provide different appeareances but Lacquer and shellac arguably give the most gorgeous finish.

They yield a nice, glossy coat that brings out the beauty of the wood without looking like a film of plastic, as polyurethane does.

However, they are not as strong or water-resistant as polyurethane or varnish, so it is important to get the order right.

If you want a truly natural look, then your best bet will be a penetrating finish. But, of course, you also need to consider not just how it appears today but how it will look as it ages.

For example, linseed oil is notorious for getting darker, while tung and teak oil doesn’t. Then again, if you are not too happy with the appearance, you can always put some paste wax on it.

4. Color

It is impossible to talk about appearance without also considering the color. Again, different finishes for wood offer different color effect.

While oil-based finishes can provide a yellow tint, they are still clear thin coats.

If you are looking for pizzazz, then wood dye, stains, and paints are the ones to beat. Colorful stains complement the glossy appearance of whatever finish you apply on top of it, while paint is a wonder on its own.

For those that are happy with the color of the wood, then water-based finishes will keep it as it is.

5. Toxicity

When applying wood finishes, it is important to take great care to prevent illnesses. This is because most household products, including non-natural finishes, emit high levels of VOCs.

Some also contain known carcinogens, and a few of these are also highly flammable. As such, not all of these are environmentally friendly or fit for use around children, pets, or people with respiratory conditions. Always check the label before application.

While these finishes are not toxic after they cure, the application process is the one you need to be wary of, especially lacquer.

6. Ease of Use

The next thing you need to consider is your skill level and what you can confidently apply without ruining the job. Different finishes for wood have varied aspects of use.

Varnish and lacquer are the hardest types of finish to apply correctly, while the oils are pretty simple.

There is no point attempting something complex like French polishing on day one when you don’t know how to paint without leaving streaks.

After all, it is possible to achieve the high-gloss visage of French polish with a finish that already has a high gloss sheen.

7. Tools Required

As an extension of the previous point are the tools you need for the job.

Some types of finish for wood require special tools for application, while other don’t.

Depending on what you’re applying, you might need a good quality brush (synthetic or natural bristle brush), steel wool, roller, pad, lambswool applicator, rag, plastic putty knife, clean cloth, HVLP gun sprayer for woodworking, or just your fingertips.

Other tools you may need are tack cloths, finer sandpaper, power tools, paint strippers, scrapers, and steel wool.

Again, if you are new to this, it’s best to keep it simple and stick with a finish that doesn’t require all the tools.

8. Drying Time

It is nearly impossible to state how important this is as different types of finish for wood have varied drying time.

When you have a large project planned, the drying process alone can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Then add the curing time on top, and you’re going to be waiting for at least a month.

Drying times can be so frustrating that some people are happy to prioritize them over health, safety, or even appearance.

Water-based finishes may not look as pretty as oil-based finishes, but they dry in as little as 2 hours, while many oil finishes require at least 24 hours between the first coat and final coat.

Lacquer is the fastest drying of all the options.

However, its other shortcomings – not as durable or waterproof, high toxicity, and complex application method make it one of the least desirable for novices.

To ensure a reasonable drying time, always ensure you apply any finish as the manufacturer or the paint store recommends. Otherwise, you could end up waiting for much longer for the finish to dry.

How to finish wood furniture

How to finish wood furniture

You can always tell when wood finish has been applied by an expert. The entire surface is smooth without brush marks, streaks, and puddles, and the wooden object looks like it just came out of the factory.

Besides the aesthetic beauty, wood finish can prolong the life of the wood work project by protecting it from water, heat, UV light, scratches, scuffs, stains, mold and mildew, and so much more.

However, you won’t get any of these benefits if you don’t apply the wood finish properly.

So here are a few things to do to ensure smooth and accurate application.

Safety Tips for Applying a Protective Finish for Wood

  • Wear protective equipment – rubber gloves or old clothes with leather parts need protection from exposure due to its potent nature
  • Keep away from direct heat sources like radiators
  • Use a ventilation fan if possible
  • Don’t breathe in vapors
  • Always wear safety goggles
  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions

How to Remove Existing Varnishes and Finishes

The first thing you need when applying wood finish is a smooth, even table top. If there is an existing finish that has been there for months or years, chances are there is a lot of dirt in it and stains and scratches.

You would need to get rid of this layer before you can apply a fresh finish, and there are several ways to do that.

1. Sanding

The safest and arguably the best way to remove most wood finishes without organic solvents is by sanding. Sanding serves the dual purpose of getting rid of an unwanted finish and making the wood smooth.

Sanding is great for removing acrylic paint from wood, lacquer, varnish, and shellac from wood. If the coat is very thick, you can use a palm sander for small jobs and a random orbit sander for larger ones, remember to place the wood on flat surfaces.

For really small jobs or to work in between crevices, you would need regular sandpaper. Before sanding, always wear a respirator.

The process releases a lot of sanding dust into the air and may also release harmful substances such as lead and chromium, which, when inhaled, can cause mild to severe health problems.

2. Chemical Strippers

Chemical strippers are very effective at removing every type of wood varnish, and they won’t damage the wood if applied properly. Chemical strippers and paint strippers make quick work of removing polyurethane, paint, and varnish.

However, this efficiency comes with a warning. Many strippers contain methylene chloride, which has been proven to increase chances of cancer, neurological, liver problems, and dangerous chemical reaction.

You need to take extreme care when working with chemical strippers – work in a well-ventilated space indoors, wear protective coverings for your eyes, nose, and hands, and keep all pets and children away from the work area.

3. Solvents

Whenever a wood finish has a solvent, it makes removing it a lot easier. Shellac and lacquer can be removed by denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner, respectively.

While this method is much safer than using chemical strippers, you need to be extra careful, so you don’t damage the wood. You also have to be fast because the solvents evaporate with time.

Prepare the Wooden Surface

Once the old finish is gone, assuming there was an old finish, it is time to prepare the wood. Different types of wood furniture finishes may have different properties and application methods.

But two things are quite common, here’s a step by step instructions:

1. Sanding

As mentioned earlier, you can’t or rather shouldn’t apply finish to an uneven surface. To this end, you need to sand the wood until it is smooth.

Depending on the type of wood and what was previously on it, you may start with 120-grit sandpaper. First, test it out on an inconspicuous part of the surface. You can then adjust the grit lower or higher depending on what you see.

Always sand with the grain pattern, not against it. Once you are done sanding, clean the wood surface thoroughly with a vacuum cleaner, tack cloth, or a lint-free rage dipped in water.

Leave it to dry, then move on to the next step.

2. Stain

Stain does a great job of accentuating the wood grain and emphasizing its natural beauty. It can also get the wood to a desirable color, usually darker than the original.

You can apply a stain with a cloth or a natural bristle brush. Depending on the color you are using, you might only need one coat. Make sure you apply with the grain and wipe out any excess stain with a cloth.

Even though stain looks great, you may not need it for every application, especially if you are painting. If so, then skip this step and go straight to applying the finish.

3. Applying Wood Finish

It is important to re-emphasize at this point that no two finishes are the same. They have different application methods, storing methods and often use different tools such as steel wool, roller, pad, lambswool applicator amongst others.

It is also important to stress that the only way to get the best out of a wood finish is to apply it as directed by the manufacturer.

Anything less will yield undesirable results, and you’ll find yourself with a refinishing project much quicker than you imagined.

We have written a number of articles detailing how to apply the different types of wood finish properly. These articles also go into detail about the pros and cons of each type of finish.

If you are ready to begin applying a new finish, we suggest you start there.


How do you matte a lacquer finish?

Rubbing lightly with steel wool and paste wax will remove the sheen and give your piece a nice, matte laquer wood finish. You can start by wiping the piece with a light layer of wax to create a smooth surface, then rub the steel wool over the surface in a circular motion.

What are the best finishes for wood?

Lacquer is one of the best finishes for wood. It dries quickly, and creates an incredible depth of richness to the wood. Plus, lacquer finishes for wood is very durable and can stand a test of time. However, it can be difficult to apply evenly, so it’s important to follow the directions carefully

Types of wood sealer

Common types of wood sealers include shellac, lacquer, varnish, wax, polyurethane, dye and stain. Of course every wood sealant type has its own advantages and disadvantage. For instance, shellac is nontoxic, doesn’t yellow over time, and is easy to apply. However, it isn’t very durable and can be scratched or damaged fairly easily.

Read also: What is the difference between shellac and polyurethane?

Wood finish examples

Some of the most common wood finish examples include wax, shellac, varnishes, drying oils, lacquer, and paint. All furniture finish type have distinct features determining their use or application. Lacquer is more durable and can withstand higher levels of wear and tear. Yet, varnish is less prone to smudging than either shellac or lacquer.

Types of wood polish

Shellac, lacquer, varnish, wax, polyurethane, dye, and stain are all types of wood polish. These wood polish types have different properties. For instance, shellac is the oldest type of wood polish, and it has a high gloss finish. Lacquer has a high gloss finish too, but it’s also very durable and chip resistant.

What are the Different ways to finish wood?

There are a few different ways that you can finish wood, depending on the look and feel you are trying to achieve. Some of the most common wood finishing techniques include staining, painting, and waxing. You can use varnish, oil finish, wood dye, wood stain finish, lacquer, or water-based finish.

What is finished wood?

Finished wood is any type of wood that has been treated with a protective coating, such as an oil-based polyurethane. The treatment helps to protect the wood from moisture and decay, and it also gives the wood a smooth, glossy finish.

Which is the most durable wood finish?

The most durable wood finish is oil-based polyurethane. This type of finish protects the wood from scratches, stains, and other damage. Besides, oil-based polyurethane is among unique wood finishes with a lustrous sheen that enhances the appearance of the wood.

What are the most popular colors of wood finishes?

The most popular colors for hardwood are gray-colored wood, white-washed wood, blonde-colored wood, and honey and copper-toned wood. These wood color finishes can match any décor and create a sleek, timeless look. Other popular wood finishes include dark browns and reds, which can add a warm and classic feel to a room.

What is the most natural-looking wood finish?

Varnishes and oils give the most natural-looking wood finish because they highlight the wood grain and allow the wood’s natural beauty to shine through. These finishes, which are the easiest wood finish to work with also give wood a bit of protection from everyday wear and tear.

What is the best finish for log furniture?

A penetrating oil finish with UV inhibitors is the best finish for log furniture because it protects the wood from moisture and sunlight. Such weather elements cause the wood to rot or discolor, so adding UV inhibitors is a good way to help prolong the life of your log furniture.

How to tell what kind of finish is on furniture?

To test what kind of finish is applied to furniture, try rubbing a small amount of linseed oil on the furniture using a soft rag. If the oil absorbs into the wood, without living any residue the finish is likely to be oil. In case it beads, the finish on your furniture is shellac, polyurethane, lacquer, or varnish

Different Types of Wood Finishes for Furniture Summary

When you have worked so hard to construct any piece of wooden furniture, it is imperative to nail the final step of choosing the right wood finish.

As discussed, this goes beyond choosing a penetrating finish or a surface finish. You have to look deeper into the qualities of different wood finishes.

Finally, always ensure you follow the proper finishing process, and you’ll be left with a gorgeous, flawless project you’ll be bragging about for years.

Read more on our article on whether you can powder coat on wood.

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