How to Finish Wood? [Easy Ways To Do It]

Finishing wood products is a crucial element of woodworking that greatly impacts the overall appearance. Learning how to finish wood is vital because it results in an amazing, beautiful piece when done correctly. In this article, I have highlighted the various ways that a woodworker can use to finish wood.

A perfect wood finish corrects any issues and covers the wood beautifully. Excellent finishing can cover up poorly done woodwork. However, it takes a bit of skill to finish wood. 

You can use the steps in the article to ensure that the wood is well finished. I have shown how simple it really is and also provided important tips to ensure a smooth wood finishing process.

5 Steps To Finish Wood Perfectly: Do It Like A Pro

It’s important to finish your project well and make it as beautiful as possible. The below steps will guide you on this wood finishing voyage and leave with an excellent result.

Step-1: Wood Preparation

Wood is prepared to ensure its readiness for the process that is ahead. One way of preparation is ensuring there is adequate working space to finish the wood. Aside from this, confirm whether all the necessary tools will be available to aid in the work and prepare them to avoid delays. Hacksaws, drills, and a chainsaw are among the tools required to finish wood.

Then, inspect the wood for any cracks, splits, or loose joints and repair them accordingly to avoid issues later on. It would help if someone then filled up any holes in the wood. This preparation makes the next steps easier and less stressful and increases the chances of a good outcome.

Step-2: Sanding

Sanding is an essential aspect of the process as it removes any dents and scratches that the wood may have. Use sandpaper with a grit of about 120, and repeat this sanding until one achieves the smooth level of wood wanted. Don’t just apply paint without smoothing the surface; this is not the way to go.

This smoothness is possible, and it’s important because the issues and scratches will be very visible and make the wood lack some appeal. You should ensure that you sand with the grain and not against it. Regularly wipe the dust with a wet cloth to check whether the surface is clean of all scratches that were there before.

Step-3: Staining

The stain to be used depends on where the wood will be kept, indoors or outdoors. It also varies according to the purpose or how long you want it to last. After selecting an appropriate stainer, move forward to its application onto the wood surface.

The best way to apply the stain is by using a brush to produce satisfying results. Apply the stain uniformly onto the whole surface of the wood. Be careful not to apply excess on some surfaces as the outcome will not be even. To finalize, apply several coats uniformly across.

Step-4: Finishing

Next, select an appropriate finish. The wood finish’s purpose is to cover the wood stain and give it a shiny appearance. It also protects the wood from water damage and dirt. The best varnish should be oil-based as they provide a thinner and more flawless finish.

Subsequently, apply the finish, using a bristle brush 2 inches wide maximum. Get to apply the first layer on the wood and leave it to try first. It should not take a lot of time to dry. You can choose to sand the finish using 280 grit sandpaper.

Step-5: Applying Wiping Varnish

The wiping varnish is a crucial step since it gives the wood the final shine that can be noticeable from a distance. It’s made by mixing polyurethane with half paint thinner. Apply the wiping varnish to the wood surface and get a shiny look.

Use a bristle brush to apply the wiping varnish. All this is done while ensuring that the coat is even and no excess amounts are applied to a specific area. To ensure no dust particles remain on the coat, a wet cloth should be used to wipe it. 

3 Options You Can Use To Finish Wood: 

There are many different ways one can choose to finish wood. The decision on the type of finish to use on the wood varies. It also varies depending on where the wood will be placed and the budget. These 3 are the most common wood finishing options.

Option-1: Use Of Polyurethane

Polyurethane is the most commonly used finish currently. The finish is widely used because of the high level of quality that the wood left. Polyurethane, however, has some shortcomings as it is time-consuming due to it requiring three coats.

Start by choosing between water-based polyurethane and oil-based polyurethane. The water-based is very easy to use, has lower odor levels, and is easy to wipe. It will require three coats for it to stick well.

These three coats mean that the application will take three days for it to be ready because a coat is applied after a day of dring. Application of this chemical is by use of a bristle brush and one should avoid brushing back and forth for efficient results

Option-2: Use Of Lacquer

Lacquer is a favorite finish for some people as it dries very fast and also looks elegant. Painters are able to complete the job within a couple of hours with this finish. It shortens the duration of work by half.

Start by either choosing to apply lacquer using a brush or spraying it over the wood. Using a brush, use long but very even strokes across the surface. Get to apply several coats, and make sure to sand it over smoothly before the last coat.

The easiest method is to spray using a back and forth motion over the surface. The painter should avoid getting too close or too far. It is highly recommended to spray lacquer for small projects.

Option-3: Oil Finishes

Oil finishes are a great option to use for decorative pieces. These are the best options out there in terms of the overall appearance. These finishes come closest to looking like fresh wood and are also the easiest to apply.

However, the oil finishes do not have much protection to offer as they are relatively thinner. It is not ideal to use them for pieces of wood that will be moved often. Oil finishes are suited for indoor wood pieces. Decide whether oil finishes to use either tung oil or linseed oil. They both penetrate the wood.

Unlike lacquer or polyurethane, they form a layer on the top. As a result, the wood gets fused into them, which yields a more natural look. Start by pouring the oil onto the wood using a cloth and let it soak into the wood for up to 20 minutes.

Wipe it off, give it some time, and pour another layer of seed oils onto the wood. Believe me, the outcome will be spectacular.

Mistakes You Should Avoid While You Finishing Wood:

As is the case in many processes, mistakes can easily be made. Therefore, one needs to be cautious and avoid them as much as possible. I have highlighted some mistakes someone can avoid and hopefully help achieve the target error-free.

  • Sanding Against The Grain

Ensure that the wood surface is done by sanding with the grain instead of going against it. This is because scratches across the surface are very easily noticeable compared to scratches that run parallel to the grain that are hard to see.

  • Failure To Sand The Wood

Make sure the surface is smoothened by sanding it. A failure to do this means that it remains streaked and scratched from the sawmill or transportation. Hence, sand the wood properly to reach satisfactory levels for the best clean result.

  • Use Of Poor Lighting

A lack of proper lighting can lead to incorrect work simply because you could not see correctly during the wood finishing. It’s therefore important to have the working area well lit and open to natural light if possible.

  • Brushing Repeatedly

It is avoided to paint the same spot repeatedly. This is because it leads to having an area that is highly uneven and poorly done. When applying the finish, uniformity is very important, and brushing over a surface many times reduces this.

  • Applying Excess Stains

This is for the simple reason that excessive application leads to the dripping of the stain. The problem with applying too much stain is that it will ruin the look of a wooden surface. This excessive application of staining liquid is also a leading cause of unevenness of the surfaces.

5 Different Types Of  Finishes: All Are Vastly Used On Wood

Different types of finishes are usually used in woods. Here I have made a list of different types of wood finishes.

1. Oil Finish:

The oil finish really makes a wood surface stand out. These oils seep into the wood and form a beautiful layer that gets better as time passes. It brings out an elegant and rather translucent look. The most commonly used oil finish is linseed oil and it’s readily available.

2. Shellac:

Shellac is a very natural type of wax that is secreted from insects. Usually, this wax is mixed with alcohol to cover some effects of wood damage. It is very easy to apply and dries pretty quickly. Shellac is aesthetically loved because it can come in different colors.

3. Wood Dye:

Someone may choose to get a dye that is the same color as the wood one wants to apply the dye on or make it a different one from the present color. They are made by mixing the dyes with alcohol or water. The mode of application is the use of a bristle brush.

4. Wood Stain Finish:

The use of wood stain is quite predominant. This wood stain usually changes the wood’s original color as it was. It’s also loved because it greatly corrects areas where there were patches of inconsistencies on the surfaces. The colors of the stains actually differ, so it’s possible to get the color one wants.

5. Varnish:

This is the most commonly used type of finish. It can vary in the way it appears, and this is because it can come as transparent and can also have color. Varnish is very hard and thus provides a protective role to the wooden surface. This is also great because it is glossy, making it beautiful.

Different Finishes For Wood: Know The Purpose Of Using

There are different finishes that you can use for your wooden furniture. But exactly which one is going to give you the finest results. The table will show you some noteworthy points for deciding on a suitable wood finish.

Purposes Of Finishing WoodMost Appropriate Finish
the easiest finish with less maintenance and repairingTung and linseed oils finish
quicker cure Danish oil 
safer option with childrenwater-based varnish for finish
enhance the wooden surface’s sheen lookwax finishes
wooden surfaces and floorshard-wearing finish like hard wax oils
low odor and toxicitywater-based polyurethane
Wooden furniture that is used roughly in regular lifeoil-based polyurethane

Related Questions: 

What’s The Best Way To Finish Wood?

Lacquer is the most popular wood finish and is considered one of the best. It gets into the wood surface instead of forming a layer on top. The finish gets absorbed into the wood.

Also, lacquer is one of the ideal types of finish because it makes the wood look shiny and elegant. It’s also relatively cheaper and dried faster compared to the other alternatives.

How Do You Finish Wood Naturally? 

The natural way to finish wood is to use water-based finishes like lacquers. Start by applying one coat of lacquer using a bristle brush. Proceed to dry the wood for the first coat to dry. After one hour of drying, apply the second coat of lacquer. Give the lacquer twenty minutes to dry and observe the color that will be formed.

Proceed to then check for uniformity of the finish on the surface of the wood. This is to ensure that the wood is evenly finished with lacquer, and apply where there appears to be an uneven surface. Ensure the wood is placed in a clean neat area to avoid settling dust. Finally, sand gently over the wood finish to make it smoother.

How Do You Seal And Finish Wood? 

Apply a coat of the finish onto the wood. Give the wood time to dry and then apply another coat to the wood. Ensure that the coats are well uniformed and clean. After confirmation of uniformity, give it time to dry off and avoid placing it in direct sunlight. Proceed to seal the wood using linseed or tung oil which also provides a beautiful look to the surface.

You can also seal using polyurethane or lacquer. Sealing is the last step to make in the finishing process because it offers a protective layer to the wood from water and damage.

What Is The Most Durable Finish For Wood?

Minwax Fast Drying Polyurethane Protective Wood Finish is a reliable, consistently made, and proven product over many years. It can stay for a long time and comes in many colors as well. Minwax 233334444 Polycrylic Protective Wood Finish is another popular choice for finishing wood.

Final Verdict: 

It’s clear that the finishing process of wood is a very exciting experience to convert imagination into reality. Don’t rush the process to get the expected result. This is because you may be in a hurry and fail to sand correctly or fail to notice some uneven surfaces as your pain or apply to furnish.

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