10 Types Of Finishes For Wooden Furniture... Just The Way You Want It!

Wooden furniture, floors, and fixtures require protection so that they maintain their luster and last long. Finishes for wood, which we all may simply talk about as ‘polish’ or ‘varnish’ help maintain their natural sheen and increases the life of wooden artifacts. Wood finishes help the wood retain the beauty of its natural grain and gives it protection.

Using wood finish is also different from painting.

Painting hides the original beauty of the wood, while wood finishes enhance the appearance of the existing wooden surface.

Wood finishes come in two types - the first type is used in layers and leaves a coating. The second type of wood finishes penetrates and does not leave a hard film as they are oil-based.

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While wood finishes can transform a lifeless wooden object into a vibrant decorative feature, they are quite often difficult to remove; especially those soak into the grain.

Choose From These 10 Finishes For Your Wooden Furniture!

It is important to choose the right finish based on your requirements. Here 10 such finishes that could transform your humble piece of furniture to something truly royal-looking.

1. Varnish


The more common forms of wood finishes are varnishes. They can be transparent or colored. Varnish is made up of oil, solvent, and resin. It is a hard, durable and protective finish. It can be used on the interior and the exterior of the wooden object. It typically comes with a glossy finish, and can also be customized to produce satin and semi-gloss finish by adding flattening agents. Varnishes give very good UV protection, they dry slowly and their application over dyes gives them better protection.

2. Oil Finish


Oil wood finishes improve the appearance of unfinished wood. The natural oils present in the wood dries out as time passes. Oil finishes replace the natural oil and enhance the natural grain. In oil finish, the oil seeps into the wood and doesn’t merely form a layer on top of it. This makes the wood look richer and translucent.

There are two types of oils that can be used - drying and non-drying oils.

  • Drying oils change from liquid to solid when exposed to oxygen. The most commonly used drying oil in linseed oil.

  • Non-drying oils include vegetable and mineral oils. These are mainly used for wood treatment and can be used on the interior as well as exterior surfaces.

3. Wax Finish


Wax finishes are not very popular with woodworkers as the protection it provides is only short term. Application of wax is easy but it requires multiple applications to get the desired effect. Once the application is done it requires buffing at the end.

Waxes are available in liquid, solid and stick form. Wax used for wood finishes are obtained from various vegetable, mineral and animal sources. It can be formulated into different colors. They can hard or soft but even the hardest waxes are still softer than varnishes. As a result, they are little protection against scratches and wear.

4. Shellac


Shellac is a natural wax secreted by a bug. A mixture of the collected wax with alcohol as a solvent is used on wood. Shellac is available in a variety of colors. Shellac can efficiently cover damage on wooden surfaces. It is easy to apply and quick to dry. It leaves the wood with a glossy finish. Shellac can be damaged by water.

5. Wood Dye


Wood dyes may match the existing color of the wood or change the color of the surface. Dyes are colorants that are dissolved in solvents like mineral spirit, alcohol or water. Wood dye works in a similar manner that cloth dyes do.

They bring about colour changes without hiding the grains. It can be applied with a brush, sponge or spray gun. Wood dyes are finishes that are both water-based and oil-based.

6. Wood Stain Finish


Wood stain finish changes or rather improves the wood colour and the visibility of the grains. It is used to enhance the color of the woodwork and to achieve uniformity when there is inconsistency in the appearance of the wood.

Wood stain finish is best suited where the stain is darker than the colour of the wood.

Wood stains are available in a variety of colours. The final outcome will depend on the number of coats applied on the wooden surface. This finish does not protect the wood. Once the wood stain is applied, a final coat of wood finish must be applied to protect the wood.

7. Lacquer


Lacquer is a fast drying, thin solvent based finish when compared to other finishes.  It reaches into the wood nourishes it and improves grains of the wood. It can be easily applied by using a brush or by spraying.

It evaporates upon spraying but cures the wood at the same time. Lacquer finish can get scratched and can be damaged when in contact with water. Lacquer gives a glossy finish to wood.

8. Water Based Finish


Water-based finishes have less odour than oil-based finishes. They give a very clean and clear finish. They contain acrylic resin along with urethane and alkyd. They are thin in consistency and dry easily.

After application, the liquid adheres to the surface as the water begins to evaporate. Water-based finishes give a natural appearance to the surface and are easy to maintain.

9.  French Polish


The French Polishing technique to finish wood has been used since the 19th century. It is considered one of the classic techniques of wood finishing. A mixture of shellac and alcohol is used for this purpose.

A rubbing pad dipped in this oil is used on the wooden surface to get this particular finish. French polish gives the glossiest appearance to wooden surfaces.

10. Wood Preserve


Wood preserve is used to prevent the wood from rotting and insect damage. It is available in various colors and with a matte or semi-gloss finish. It is used on the exterior of the wooden surface.

Now that you have an idea of the various types of wood finishes, choose one that suits your particular need, type of wood and color. Wood finishes that soak into the wood are difficult to remove, so choose one carefully that meets your requirement best.

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