Wood Finishes

Why Finish Wood?

There are many benefits to adding a finish to your wood projects.  Finishes help to protect the wood and can enhance the wood’s appearance.  Below are some reasons why applying a wood finish is important.

1. A wood finish helps to protect the wood from moisture, chemicals, scratches (depending on the thickness and type of finish), sunlight, and dirt.

2. Applying a wood finish can help to keep the wood clean.  Withought a wood finish the wood’s pores are exposed and dirt can get lodged into the pores and be very difficult if not impossible to get out.

3.  Wood Finishes are meant to enhance the appearance of the wood, not cover it up.  Applying a finish allows you to change the color of, add a sheen, or help bring out the natural character of the wood.

4. Wood finishes are also important for stabilizing the wood.  Wood expands and contracts depending on the amount of moisture in the air around it.  This can cause stress in the wood and result in the wood splitting or warping.  Applying a finish can help prevent the changes in moisture from affecting or stressing the wood, thereby helping to stabilize the wood.

  •  Before you add a finish to your woodworking project, you need the right cutting tools to create it.  Find over 20,000 Quality cutting tools at discounts up to 40% off retail. 


Types of wood finishes:

There are many types of Wood Finishes ranging from water based, oils, waxes, varneshes and more.  Each type of Wood finish has certain benefits and drawbacks.  Below is a list of some common types of wood finishes and the pros and cons of each.

Wax finishes are very soft and have very little protective qualities.  Waxes are best used as a polishing or preserving agent on top of other finishes, or can be used as a minimalist finsih to preserve the natural color and look of the wood.

Linseed Oil
Linseed oil is a natural oil finish made from the seeds of the flax plant.

  • Pros:  It is very easy to apply and gives a beautiful hand-rubbed look.
  • Cons:  It is one of the least protective finishes and is best for items that will not be subject to a lot of wear and tear.


Tung Oil
Tung oil is a very old, natural finish made from the nuts of the Tung tree and is often used as a base oil component in other finishes.

  • Pros:  It is a little more water resistant and lighter in color than Linseed Oil.
  • Cons:  There are many other types of finishes that offer more protection.


Oil-Varnish Blend
The oil-varnish blend is a very popular type of finish and is made by mixing a little varnish with a larger quantity of oil.  Some common types of oil-varnishes include: antique oil, teak oil, Watco Danish oil, Nordic oil, Scandinavian oil, and many different types of salad bowl finishes.

  • Pros: It is very easy to apply and has some of the protective qualities that a varnish would hace.
  • Cons: An actual varnish or shellac would offer more protection against scratches and other types of wear and tear.


Shellac comes in a variety of colors from nearly transparent to an orange/amber.  It can be easily repaired and is not as toxic as some oil-based finishes.

  • Pros: More Water resistant and scratch resistant than oil or oil-varnish blends. 
  • Cons: It is not as protective as a varnish or some water-based finishes and dissolves in alcohol.


Lacquer is a synthetic cellulose-based finish and is often considered the finish of choice by many professionals.  It is available in several varieties including nitrocellulose, CAB, and Catalyzed Lacquer.

  • Pros: It dries fast and had good protective qualities.  It also provides excellent clarity, is easy to apply, rubs out well, and is fairly easy to repair.
  • Cons: It is not as protective as a varnish.


Varnish is a very protective and durable amber-colored finish that protects well against wear, tear, water and solvents. 

  • Pros:  Offeres excellent protection against scratching, water, and wear.
  • Cons: It takes a long time to cure and gives off noxious fumes whil curing.  It is not easy to repair, and can yellow over time making it a less popular choice on light colored woods.


Water based finishes are a good chice if you are looking for a finish that is safe for you and the environment.

  • Pros: It does not yellow like a varnish and still offer decent resistance against scratches.
  • Cons: Water-based finishes are often more expensive than the oil-based finishes.  They are not as resistant to water, heat and solvents as the polyurethane varnishes.  The first coat has a tendency to raise the grain.


Typically used for institutional furniture.

  • Pros: Fast curing and has excellent resistance to heat, wear, water, and solvents. 
  • Cons: Highly toxic solvent and formaldehyde fumes — a professional grade spraying environment is essential.


*The information for this article came from the WoodBin.


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