What is your preferred finish and why?

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Forum topic by Mark posted 02-05-2010 06:04 PM 7449 views 4 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Mark's profile


1807 posts in 3302 days

02-05-2010 06:04 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question resource tip trick finishing

Of the many woodworkers on this site we must have hundreds of methods and therapies to making the “perfect finish”. So I was pondering to know… What is your most preferred and why?

-- M.K.

24 replies so far

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4128 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 3314 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 3195 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

5912 posts in 3223 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 3490 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 3789 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 3302 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 3198 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 3302 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 3850 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 3302 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 3198 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


2720 posts in 3560 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


549 posts in 3107 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 3796 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.

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