Wood Finishing

No woodworking project is finished until it is, well, finished. There are many wood finishing techniques in the world, each one with different functional and aesthetic characteristics. The final finish can turn a project into a masterpiece, or ruin hundreds of hours of hard work. Find out here how to finish wood the right way, every time, no matter what woodworking project you’re completing. Whether you’re finishing up an elegant, delicate jewelry box, or an outdoor chair meant to face the elements, you’ll find the right wood finishing technique here.


Free Wood Finishing Guides


Dyed by My Own Hand

When I finish my pieces, I use restraint when adding stains or dyes. Most woods look best (to my eye) with some shellac, lacquer and maybe a little colored wax in the pores. But when I do color wood, I’m a fan of the W.D. Lockwood dyes, which are usually found packaged as J.E....


The Fear-Love Spectrum of Finishing

Every time I purchase lacquer at a professional paint store, I have the following conversation. Me: “Could you put that gallon in the paint-mixing machine for a couple minutes? That will save me some time.” Employee: “I’ll do it, but you won’t like it. You’ll create bubbles in the finish.” Me: “I’ll risk it.”...


Q & A: Why Does My Wood Have Stripes?

Why Does My Wood Have Stripes?   Q: I put a clear finish on a beautiful ash table I made and found faint stripes an inch or two wide going across each board. Any ideas on what caused them and how to get rid of them? A: Those stripes probably won’t come out with...


Q & A: Is Polyurethane Food-Safe?

Is Polyurethane Food-Safe?   Q: I’m planning on finishing a set of wooden plates with polyurethane. Is this finish safe for food? A: According to finishing expert Bob Flexner, all finishes are food-safe once they have cured. Polyurethane varnish does not present any known hazard.However, no finish is food safe until it has fully...


The Simple ‘Dirty Mahogany’ Finish

Here is one of my favorite finishes for any wood that is ring-porous or diffuse-porous. I call it “dirty mahogany” or “creepy janitor.” First a warning: I think this finish looks like crap on woods that have a closed pore structure, such as maple or cherry, and on softwoods. It looks great on anything...


AW Extra 8/15/13 – Easy Rub-Out

Easy Rub-Out Three quick steps to a silky-smooth finish. By Kevin Southwick Brushed-on finishes such as varnish provide superior protection, but they dry so slowly, airborne dust and renegade hairs are almost sure to settle on the damp surface. Fortunately, the process I use to remove these minor imperfections is both fast and simple—the...


AW Extra 8/8/13 – Foam Finishing Stand-Offs

Foam Finishing Stand-Offs To make a quick and easy drying rack, or to raise a project off your bench while applying a finish, use blocks of rigid foam insulation and drywall screws. For stability, the screws should be no more than 1/2" longer than the foam’s thickness. If you simply push the screws through,...

AW Extra 7/11/13 – Brush-On Finish the Easy Way

Brush-On Finish the Easy Way Thinning the poly is the secret. By S. Lloyd Natof Finishing is a challenge—right? It’s one thing to get a nice finish on a small, flat sample board, but good luck with those inside corners, vertical surfaces, curved areas, thin edges, and framed panels. I don’t care for spraying,...