All Replies on What is your preferred finish and why?

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View Mark's profile

What is your preferred finish and why?

by Mark
posted 02-05-2010 06:04 PM

24 replies so far

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4097 days

#1 posted 02-05-2010 06:19 PM

Doing professional work I rely heavily on products that are already made for me to use. I like opening a can and going to straight to using the product as much as possible. I leave chemistry to the chemical coating industries and they have served me well.

My favorite all around product currently is ML Campbell’s MagnaMax pre-cat lacquer. It’s durability is more like a catalyzed varnish. It is lacquer so it dries fast even in a cooler shop during the winter. I just leave it in the pressure pot all of the time.

My Favorite Finish

If I need more durability I use a catalyzed varnish. ML Campbell’s Krystal is great. It is bullet proof and does not yellow over time. This also dries fast because it is catalyzed and solvent based.

Conversion Varnish

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3284 days

#2 posted 02-05-2010 06:30 PM

I have always primarily used lacquer for most of my finish work. I come from a production background, and this it what works best for that. I started finishing shutters in my dad’s shop at a very early age. Lacquer is great because it dries so fast. By using it, we could finish an entire project the same day. We had to get a project out of the paint room quickly, as there was always another one ready to go in. Because of that experience I can do a better job with lacquer than anything else. I’ve done a lot of firniture over the years, and I prefer the look I get with lacquer, especially when I need to hand rub a finish.

I do use some Watco Oil Finish now, usually for shop jigs and fixtures. I like to give some protection, as well as bringing out the color and grain of the wood. I really don’t want any kind of film finish for those p


View lumberdustjohn's profile


1263 posts in 3165 days

#3 posted 02-05-2010 06:35 PM

I prefer to leave this out of my shop.
I take all of my work down the road to a finish shop…...Pick out a color…..and wait a week to pick it up.
My shop will never be big enough.
I have a lift on one side with grease monkey stuff that my brother keeps busy and the other side is for me to make saw dust in. This way we get to visit quite a bit.

-- Safety first because someone needs you.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5859 posts in 3192 days

#4 posted 02-05-2010 06:54 PM

Greetings, Mark:.... I’m not real sure that I have a favorite finish, as most might have. It really depends on what I’m working on at the time. The last “real ” piece that I built, (Shaker hall table), I used 2 coats of Danish oil on, followed by 5 coats of hand-rubbed poly. Most of the time I use 50/ 50 mix of tung oil and mineral spirits.
This I also put on my shop furniture and jigs. I’ve used boiled linseed oil, also. So… it depends on the project. For things like walnut, I like danish oil. Depends on the durability of the finish I need for the project at hand.

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 3460 days

#5 posted 02-05-2010 06:56 PM

I would rather sand than finish. I hate it!!

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

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3759 days

#6 posted 02-05-2010 07:20 PM

I suspect that only a small number of guys here have separate and enclosed finishing rooms. For me, the answer is to use the dust collector and air cleaner to keep a clean shop and use fast drying finishes. I also learned a lesson regarding toxic fumes when I finished a project without any ventilation in the shop. I developed a terrible headache with dizziness.

Now I use water based poly and brush it on. I don’t do any spraying. Since I often work with pine I need to first apply a thin sealer coat of dewaxed shellac diluted with denatured alcohol, before applying stain.

I’ve really become interested in milk paint. The February issue of “Popular Woodworking” has a great article on how to apply this traditional finish.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Mark's profile


1807 posts in 3272 days

#7 posted 02-05-2010 07:28 PM

i’ve mostly spent my projects on polyurethane and still to this day I love it. My personal favourite is wipe on poly. Never had a problem with it.

-- M.K.

View russv's profile


262 posts in 3167 days

#8 posted 02-05-2010 08:54 PM

i’m with you mark,

poly is easy and flexible to use. I buy it by the quart and mix my own wipe on by adding 50/50 (poly/mineral spirits) in a jar. If I need it to dry quicker, I thin it out more. I can wipe it on with a rag or paper towel and after minimum coats, it looks good. I use to buy it in the wipe on poly version till I got smart and figured all it was is poly with a 50/50 mix with mineral spirits.

On outdoor projects, spar poly or BLO.


-- where to go because you don't want no stinking plastic!

View Mark's profile


1807 posts in 3272 days

#9 posted 02-05-2010 09:03 PM

i agree with you russ…also as well with poly you can put it on anyway you want whether it be brush, hand or spray…and I love BLO for my outdoor cedar projects like you said as well…great minds think

-- M.K.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3820 days

#10 posted 02-05-2010 09:04 PM

Mark, it really depends on the wood for for me. If I am going to stain, usually pine or oak, then following the stain I will apply a seal coat of shellac and topcoat with wipe on poly. With natural finishes- cherry, walnut, maple- I will apply a base coat of BLO, seal with shellac and either continue with shellac as a finish coat or apply wipe on poly.

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

View Mark's profile


1807 posts in 3272 days

#11 posted 02-05-2010 09:27 PM

theres times where i’ll just stain or BLO or some type of oil on my projects and leave it there

-- M.K.

View russv's profile


262 posts in 3167 days

#12 posted 02-05-2010 09:44 PM

that’s just what I was thnkin’

great minds do think alike!


-- where to go because you don't want no stinking plastic!

View hairy's profile


2703 posts in 3530 days

#13 posted 02-06-2010 12:08 AM

I’m liking this stuff lately. It dries fairly quick, darkens the wood a little bit.

-- My reality check bounced...

View JimDaddyO's profile


545 posts in 3077 days

#14 posted 02-06-2010 01:03 AM

For years I have used poly, then switched to water based poly (brush on). I have been developing a like for oil finishes (BLO/Tung). I must admit though, that for gloss finishes, I am really getting into french polish. A long, labout intensive process to do it right, but the results are wow!

-- my blog: my You Tube channel:

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3766 days

#15 posted 02-06-2010 01:18 AM

I like General Finishes products. there really is no one go to finish that i use. It depends on what I’m looking for. Gf is coming out with some Water Based Oil Poly as well as Water based Lacquer that will burn in…. scary how good the waterbased stuff is getting. very cool though.

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4004 days

#16 posted 02-06-2010 01:18 AM

Lacquer is the shiznit because it dries so fast dust doesn’t have time to screw it up. The catalysed lacquer Todd refered to is even better…unless you have to repair it :) A spray booth for lacquer is a patio or wherever you set up sawhorses and sweep a little underneath.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View Uncle_Salty's profile


183 posts in 3071 days

#17 posted 02-06-2010 01:31 AM

Likes the wipe-on polyurethane. I’ll use the minwax ready made stuff if I am in a hurry. If not, I’ll mix up a 50/50 mix of quick drying polyurethane and mineral spirits (a gallon of each), pour them into canning jars with lids, and I have 2 gallons ready to go. Wipe on finishes is a little more time consuming, but it is error free; no runs, no sags, no drips, no errors.

About two years ago I accidently bought 4 gallons of JE Moser’s water based lacquer at the school (missed a digit on the order form). Instead of sending it back, I tried it. Much to my surprise, I really liked it, and have continued to buy it to this day. It dries almost as fast as lacquer, and it takes soap and water to clean out the gun. It’ll raises the grain a little when you apply the first coat, but you lightly sand it down (I like to use 600 grit to knock it down!), and it finishes great!

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3072 days

#18 posted 02-06-2010 01:32 AM

For me, the key question is “will I buff this piece”. Some pieces are easy to buff and others are very difficult to buff. I really like the look of a buffed finish and I buff whenever I can. If I am going to buff the piece I will start with 2 – 4 coats of Danish Oil or Salad Oil. Each makes a good base for buffing. If I am not going to buff I usually use Polyurethane. I used to use the hand rubbed poly almost exclusively. Now I use 2 or 3 coats of brushed on poly (sanding between each coat) and then 2- 3 coats of rub on poly (no sanding).

If I need something in a hurry, you can’t beat spray on lacquer.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Grumpy's profile


23917 posts in 3849 days

#19 posted 02-06-2010 02:16 AM

I like wipe on poly for small jobs, brush on ploy for others.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View mdbohica's profile


26 posts in 3045 days

#20 posted 02-06-2010 07:01 AM

For me, it depends on what I will be using the piece for…

If it is something like a clock or picture frame, something that will not get much physical contact, I will use Pure Tung Oil that I mix 50/50 with pure citrus oil. I used as many coats as the wood will take. It is beyond beautiful and quite protective.

For pieces that will put up with a moderate level of use, I use Polymerized pure Tung oil. I coat everything the same as I do with the regular pure oil, I mix it with Citrus oil or Mineral spirits to enhance its absorption. When the oil is polymerized, it takes on a property when it cures that it cures in a layer under the surface of the wood. When I put on 3 or 4 coats, it looks awesome and in curing in a sheet creates a “film” that doesn’t look like a film finish.

The 3rd finish I use for high traffic pieces, I mix a “danish-ish” oil from equal parts Polyurethane, Tung oil and Mineral spirits. This gives the closest Wood finish and gives it an almost impervious layer of protection. To get through this finish, you really have to want to destroy it.

Just my $.02

View webwood's profile


626 posts in 3248 days

#21 posted 02-06-2010 10:37 PM

poly is great but nothing beats hand rubbed laquer

-- -erik & christy-

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 1847 days

#22 posted 01-23-2015 05:16 AM

I’m with Todd on this one. I like Magnamax pre-cat lacquer. It sprays and dries like nitrocellulose but it’s a lot more durable. You also don’t have to worry about forgetting to add the catalyst.

View JAAune's profile


1798 posts in 2315 days

#23 posted 01-23-2015 05:38 AM

Our shop mostly uses Sherwin Willliams precat lacquer only I buy it without the catalyst and mix it myself. Other than that, we’ll occasionally use a conversion varnish, shellac or water-base as needed.

The lacquer dries fast, is forgiving and can be spot repaired on field if necessary.

-- See my work at and

View runswithscissors's profile


2751 posts in 2023 days

#24 posted 01-23-2015 06:45 AM

Being a lazy finisher, I like Deft water based semi gloss acrylic. Dries quickly, needs only a light sanding between coats (first coat raises the grain a little), and by the third coat it’s developing a nice feel to the hand. Sprays well with a cheap HVLP sprayer, and is self leveling.

If it’s grain I’m trying to bring out, I like Daly’s Ben Matte (a Danish style rubbed oil).

I avoid stain as much as possible. Only use it when trying to match color in a repair.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

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