Finishing 101: How To Choose A Finish
February 21, 2018
Have you ever wanted to take your own stab at woodworking?
Whether you're a beginner or just want to learn more about
woodworking, the overwhelming amount of options could leave you
feeling a little lost. Should you go with lacquer or varnish?
Shellac or linseed oil? From building a custom piece to refinishing
furniture that's been well-loved, finishes bring different benefits
Questions to Consider:
- Do you want your finish to be matte or glossy?
- Does durability play an important role?
- How do you plan on applying this product- brushing it on or
using spray equipment?
- Are you a beginner, and is there room for mistakes?
- Will your finish be applied in an area of heavy traffic?
When it comes down to curing time and texture, there are really
two main types of wood finishes you'll run into:
- Evaporative Finish: The solvent within these finishes dissolves
as they cure to leave behind a waxy residue. (Includes: shellac,
lacquer, and waxes)
- Reactive Finish: These finishes go through a chemical reaction
as they cure. (Includes: oils and varnishes)
Types of Wood Finishes:
Shellac: Shellac can be applied by wiping
it on with a brush or rag. Shellac should not be used on areas
where heat can be involved- so stay away from using this on coffee
tables, unless you trust yourself to remember a coaster!
Lacquer: Drying fast, lacquer tends to be the
basic choice of woodworkers. Also referred to as Nitrocellulose
lacquer, these finishes must be applied evenly using spray
equipment or aerosol. As the piece begins to age, the lacquer does
with it and will show unique cracks that luthiers often demand in
their aged string instruments.
Waxes: These products can be used in conjunction
with other finishes, but typically waxes are used to revitalize an
already finished surface. Minor blemishes can be filled in quickly
just by rubbing the wax into the area.
Oils: The two most common wood finishing oils are
linseed and tung oil. They are ecofriendly options, as they're made
from natural elements and truly seep down into the pores of the
wood. Tung oil does tend to dry faster than linseed. These finishes
are not very durable, but provide a warm, wood coloring.
Varnishes: If you're looking for durable
coatings, look no further than varnishes. These coatings can be
applied with a brush, making application rather easy. Varnishes are
also buildable, which allows the surface to gain the proper
protection from temperature and weather.