The Basics Of Wood Finishing Woodcrafters Should Know

Just as other aspects of woodworking, wood finishing also needs it due attention from Woodcrafters. One might build a beautiful and durable piece out of wood but, if it’s finishing is not up to the mark, it will not stand out and it’s valued will also be diminished. One thing that woodcrafters should restrain from doing, when learning the basics of wood finishing is, jumping from one finishing technique to another or, trying a new one every time they take up a job. This is because learning to get the right finish on wood takes patience and practice. When you are confident about a particular technique, you can try your hands on another. This will also give you an opportunity to make a comparison between the two.

Preparing the wood for finishing:

The first that a woodcrafter need to do is to prepare the wood for a finish. You do not need any fancy power tools to prepare the wood – a hand smooth plane is good enough. In fact, a low angle smooth plane is quite good for surface preparation as it shaves out very thin slices of wood. Another approach that is quite popularly used by woodcrafters is using a sanding block. After smoothing with a smoothing plane, use a sanding block with 220 grit sandpaper. In fact, many people prefer using finer grits of sandpaper instead of planning.

There is another important thing to keep in mind while preparing the wood. If you are using wood like open-grained woods like oak and mahogany, you will see that they their surface is quite porous. If you want a smooth surface, you will have to make use of fillers, which are basically fine grained pastes or powders, to fill the pores. Once you have prepared the surface, it is time to add the finish.

Finishing has a number of roles to play. It is meant to enhance or alter the look of the wood, it is also meant to protect it from damage from moisture. A good finish is one that not only meets the projects aesthetic requirements but also protects it.

Let’s discuss the two wood finishing processes that are quite popular among woodcrafters – oil finishes and shellac.

Oil Finishes:


woodcrafters oil finish
Most popular finish by any woodcrafter: The oil finish

An oil finish on wood has a charm of its own. It is a great finish that gives the wood a beautiful character and depth. In this method of finishing, oil actually penetrates into the wood. It not only looks nice, it is quite easy to apply as well. One needs to wipe it on the wood, let it soak in for a while and then wipe it off. There are 3 types of oil finishes that woodcrafters often use.

Let us discuss each one of them in brief here.

– Linseed Oil: Linseed oil finish is among the first standard oil finishing that woodcrafters have used since ages. You can easily find linseed oil easily in home centers. Always buy the boiled linseed oil for wood finishing purpose. The raw one is actually used to waterproof outdoor furniture. It will not dry if used on indoor furniture.

In order to apply this finish, mix boiled linseed oil with turpentine in a glass container in equal quantities. Using a rag apply this mixture on to the wood surface for about 10  to 15 minutes making sure that each and every spot is covered. Let the piece sit for 20 minutes before you will wipe off the excess. Let the stained piece sit for at least 24 hours. For the 2nd coat use 100 percent boiled turpentine oil and applying it just like before and leave it for 20 minutes before wiping the excess. Again, let it sit for 24 hours and repeat the process for a third time. The finish is complete after three applications. Once, it is perfectly dry, it is ready to use.

– Tung Oil: Woodcrafters opt for this finish when they need a finish that has the highest resistance to water, alcohol, etc. Application of this finish gives this wood a shiny finish. The application method is similar to linseed oil. The more coats you apply, the more lustrous it gets. Typically, two or three coats are enough.

–  Danish Oil: Danish Oil works just like linseed oil, but is easier to apply. It dries quickly, so you can get a finished piece in a day. The oil is used straight from the can and just like linseed oil, one need to use a rag to cover the piece with it. Within 30 minutes of applying the first coat, you can apply the second coat and after 15 minutes wipe off the excess. In about 12 hours it is ready to use. The ease of application of Danish oil also makes it an expensive one to use.



shellac finish by woodcrafter
Also very popular by woodcrafters: The shellac finish

There are two types of shellac that are quite popular among woodcrafters – orange and blonde. Typically, the orange one is used on darker woods like oak, walnut, cherry, etc., to give them a warm tone while the blonde one is suitable for light colored woods like ash, soft maple, etc.

In order to prepare shellac finish, in a glass jar add shellac flakes that fills it about 2 inches. Then pour denatured alcohol to cover the flakes about one inch. Shake the mixture until the flakes are dissolved. One can apply shellac using a brush or a rag. Typically, the more coats you apply the glossier is the finished product. It is necessary to sand lightly between coats with 220 grit sandpaper for a smoother finish. The good thing about it is that it dries quickly, so you can finish a piece in a day. However, it is not water proof or alcohol. So, woodcrafters do not generally use it on dining table tops or bar tops.

It is absolutely essential for woodcrafters to know the basics of wood finishing. They must be sure about what look they want to give to their wooden creation, whether they want it to be waterproof, etc. The type of wood used and the purpose for which the wooden piece will be used are also deciding factors.

Scroll to Top