Different Types of Wood Finishes

We use many Wood Finishes to protect the wooden surfaces from moisture and other environmental agents and enhance appearance. It is the final step of woodworking project. It creates a protective layer on the wood surface. They are good for both new and old furniture. The wood finishes are different from one another by colors, durability or self life. Some of them can be removing by solvent, whereas some others particularly that are sock into the wood are often difficult to remove. So you have to choose right finishes according to your demands. It gives the low value wood to a high value wooded out looking.

Depends on absorption capacity wood finishes are two types such as surface finishing and penetrating finishing. We can place all most all the wood finishes of these two categories. In below we describe some of the most common types of wood finishes.

Surface finishing: Surface finishing is easier to apply on the surface. It creates extra layer on the top of wood surface. It leaves natural look to the wood. The most common surface finishes are lacquer, shellac, polyurethane, varnish and wax etc.

Penetrating finishing: This type of finishing is also applied on the wood surface but it get into the wood. Normally they are oil based finishes. It is durable but it doesn’t create a natural look on walls. Linseed, Danish, and Tung oil is a type of penetrating oil.

Again, the wood finishes are also classified into two groups – water based and oil based finishes. The water based finishes dry very fast and can be used on all types of woods. On the other hand they are less durable and have little odor compare to oil based finishes.


Varnish is a clear and transparent or slightly colored finishes. It is resinous substance. It is very durable and provides better UV protection. The varnish dry slowly so needs more time to work and allow dust to settle on it which is the drawback of this finish. It works better when apply on the top of dyes.


Shellac is a natural product which is collect from the secretion of female lac bug. It is a resin type material and sold as a flakes (solid form) or liquid form. The liquid form is produced by dissolving with a solvent such as alcohol. The application process is very easy and dried quickly. When the solvent evaporates it is safe and gives a glossy look to the wood. It is not heat resistant, so it has a limited uses in some furniture like dining table. The Shellac has a shorter shelf life than other finishes.


Wood stain is a type of paint which is used to changes or enhances the wood color. They are available in different colors. They do not protect the wood.

Different types of wood finishes


Lacquer is thinner as compared to the other finishes. So, it is normally applied by spraying. It gets into the deeper wood and show up the natural beauty of the wood. Lacquer contains evaporating solvent, so it dries very fast. It provides extremely glossy look to the wood. The Lacquer is durable and resistant to alcohol, water and fruit juice. However, after a while it can begin to discolor. Once applied, we can remove it by using lacquer thinner. Normally it is used in different instruments like guitar. The woodworker needs a well ventilated and open workplace to apply it because it gives off harmful fumes and risky in presence of fire.


Dyes are one kind of wood finishes. Normally they are used to protect interior wooden surfaces. Application process is very easy with brush, sponge, or spray gun.

Oil finishes

Oil finishes are used on wood for improving the appearance of unfurnished wood. They make wood moisture resistant and look richer. It can be used for both the interior and the exterior surface. The most common finishing oils are Linseed oil, Tung oil and Danish oils. The oil finishes can be classified into drying oil and or non-drying oil. Between two of them drying oil is popular to woodworker. Linseed oil, Tung oil and Danish oils all are drying oil. Vegetable and mineral oils are non-drying oils. Woodworker can easily apply the Tung oil which provides an attractive and natural appearance, so they prefer it very much.


Wax finishes provide very glossy surface to the wood. It may be harder or softer. It is not very durable, you can remove it easily. Waxes are available in liquid, paste and solid stick forms.

Polyurethane Finish

Polyurethane is a durable and water resistant finish. Mainly two types polyurethane are available in the market – water based and oil based. Water based polyurethane is faster drying, low odor and low toxic while oil based polyurethane is fairly inexpensive, durable and easily applicable. Polyurethane finish is durable compare to varnish and lacquer and perfect for bookcase, kitchen cabinets, desks, door, side tables, furniture floor etc. The application process on wood surface is very easy.

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