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Blog entry by Hisingwooddesign posted 05-05-2010 10:41 PM 1426 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

What Type of finish do you use?

Finishing is a common question among woodworkers. I know for me when I first started finishing it was almost dreadful. I loved to build things but when it came to finishing I almost wanted to leave it bare wood. I built a oak dart board, I guess you could call it a case several years back and when it came time to finish it I ruined it. I applied two many coats two fast and didn’t take the propper steps to apply a quality finish. When it was done I threw it in the trash. What a wast of wood. Now days I’m much better at finishing and am able to build and finish furniture for a living but it took alot of practice and alot of hard work. I still am not nearly as good as I would like to be and will spend my life perfecting the art. Many people have asked me “what type of finish should I use”? Well that depend, what type of finish do you want to use? Now if you are talking a specific project a gun stock or maybe a cutting board or bowel you will want to use special finish. Salad bowel finish for things you will eat off or will contact food. Also gun stocks have finishes you can use. Now if we are talking about something like a basic project. Maybe a table or desk,chair,book shelf or maybe a box. These type of projects I always recommend minwax products to start. Now some people love it and some don’t. I will say all things considered like (price) for most people now days you will get bang for your buck. Now there are alot of great quality finishes on the market and I would recommend trying some of them out, but for a hobbyist who is building projects minwax is great. The reason I say this is because it’s like comparing a Chevy cobalt to a BMW. Now you can go from point a to b in both, but the BMW will have some better options. The more money you spend you will always have the option for more features. Now I know there are even finishes that are only a few dollars more but in an already expensive hobby people are looking to save money wear thay can. The difference is minwax is a good finish that has been around for a long time and the end result is pretty good. Now I build many customer projects and use minwax, in fact the only way I don’t is if its a special item or if the client requests a certain finish. If you are doing woodworking as a hobby a minwax finish applied propper and done right will produce a great looking finished project.

What finish do you prefer? Click here to go to HisingWoodDesign and let me know.

9 comments so far

View Cozmo35's profile


2200 posts in 3003 days

#1 posted 05-05-2010 10:46 PM

I am a extreme novice when it comes to finishing wood! So far, I have used lemon oil, spray on and wipe on poly. That is the extent of my finishing knowledge. I have and will ruined projects. But, “if you ain’t makin no mistakes, you ain’t doin no work!”

-- If you don't work, you don't eat!.....Garland, TX

View MyFathersSon's profile


180 posts in 3280 days

#2 posted 05-06-2010 12:22 AM

I think the very first finish I used was Varathane – because that was one of the first things recommended to me many years ago.
During the decoupage fad of the 60s/70s I experimented with Deft.
I’ve also experimented a little with Watco and tung oil.
But—by and large for a long time now my goto products have been Minwax
Primariy their oil based stains and their brush on or wipe on poly’s.
No deep well thought out reason – I’ve just come to trust the brand and if I follow label directions their products have always performed exactly as advertised.
I get careless or rushed and foul up—but the products have always done just what they claim.

Yes – I need to branch out more and develop/broaden my skills in this area—-
And the more I hang out here—- the more motivated I get to do so.

OH— my projects are usually—book cases, cabinets, tables, so no real specialized need.

-- Those who insist it can't be done - should politely refrain from interrupting those who are doing it.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3789 days

#3 posted 05-06-2010 12:59 AM

Cody, I agree with you. I have never had any problems with Minwax stains and finishes. They work well, are readily available and are fairly economical.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View MedicKen's profile


1612 posts in 3429 days

#4 posted 05-06-2010 01:29 AM

I hate finishing, its not that I cant do it nor am not good at it, I just hate it. I would rather sand all day than apply a finish

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View Will Stokes's profile

Will Stokes

267 posts in 3321 days

#5 posted 05-06-2010 01:57 AM

I highly recommend Tried and True Varnish oil. I’m also curious to try their other natural products. I’ve used a lot of poly for stuff in the past and for fine wood work have come to regret it. The finish is simply not easily maintained, while a oil and wax finish, while more work, is harder to screw up and can be restored over and over again.

View RichClark's profile


157 posts in 3397 days

#6 posted 05-06-2010 03:00 AM

I finish everything in Shellac… Seal the wood and then stain it if ya want with a gel stain and the wood is “evenly” stained.. no surprises! and then 3-4 coats of shellac over a period of a few hours… and I can then make it any finish I want from a Satin to glass… It really is not that hard. While its not the most durable it is the most forgiving and with some practice enjoyable… my last project was finished in rubbed out Shellac and I recruited my wife and Daughter to RUB! They kept poking their heads into the shop! (I posted a blog on how to do it)

-- Duct Tape is the Force! It has a light side and a dark side and it Binds the Universe together!

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3146 posts in 3076 days

#7 posted 05-06-2010 03:15 AM

Personally, I use nitrocellulose lacquer (and spray it) whenever possible…talk about impatient! I have used Minwax water-based and gotten good results, even when disobeying the rules and spraying it. I get more bubbles than I like when I brush it. I recently built a couple of totes for my boutique (read: Rockler) wood and my stains and finishes in the smaller cans, and I used Varathane. Never again. I only used it because I hate wasting finish, and I had two partially used cans . Varathane takes WAY to long to dry. Anybody near Simi Valley want it? I’ve used linseed oil and tung oil to good effect. It just depends on what you’re after. Shellac, too. That’s a nice finish. Note- I prefer my stain in the wood, or no stain at all, since some of the things I build see a lot of use, and I don’t like seeing a blond patch on something where the stain and finish wore off.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View RichardH's profile


295 posts in 2969 days

#8 posted 05-06-2010 04:23 AM

I second what Will says. I really like Tried and True Varnish oil and probably consider it my favorite all around for most of my work. Tung oil can turn out really great if you have a lot of patience (I mean a LOT). Waterlox is a little darker but can create really nice depth and polishes up very nicely. Both it and Tried and True are a little expensive, but they go a long way – remember, thin coats.

For things that will take lots of handling I usually finish off with Minwax wipe on Poly. It’s really easy to use as long as you apply very thin coats and show some patience between coats.

I used to rush the finish, but now enjoy it and just take it slow. The key for me is to always have at least 2 projects going that way I’m not constantly fretting over the one that needs peace and quiet.

-- "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it...It's the hard that makes it great."

View deeman's profile


379 posts in 3047 days

#9 posted 05-06-2010 05:31 AM

My first finish I used was Homer Formby’s Tung Oil Finish. I seem to get better results with a wipe on finish. I really liked Minwax wipe on poly and used it as my main go to finish. I tried General Finishes Arm-R-Seal and loved it. It is a little more expensive. Recently I made a mail box for myself and used Minwax indoor/outdoor spar varnish. It turned out wonderful. But this time I bought a quality brush. I think the brushes I used in the past caused most of my problems. Anyway thanks for the advice.

-- Dennis Trenton Ohio And life is worth the living just because He lives!

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