A lot of folks build nice wood projects only to struggle when applying a finish. The trouble is that the instructions on the back of the can are pretty sketchy. Here’s what they don’t tell you, and don’t worry, it’s no big deal. Follow these steps and you’ll leave the wood glowing and the surface buttery to the touch.
First a bit of context. Basically there are two types of finishes: thin oil finishes that make the wood pretty but don’t build up much protection, and film finishes like polyurethane and shellac that also beautify the wood but also build up a protective layer. Choose a film finish for any project that will see some wear and tear, like the coffee table in this blog.
Polyurethane is the easiest film finish to use. First of all, choose the quick-drying, oil-based kind. The only reason to use water-based poly is if you want the wood to end up whiter looking (water-based dries very clear, but isn’t as durable; oil-based is tougher but has a slight yellowing effect, which is nice on most woods.) Secondly, choose the satin type. It won’t end up shiny and sticky looking like gloss poly does.
After that, the main keys to success with any finish are all about sanding–before you apply it, and between coats. Get that right, and watch for drips along the way, and you’ll be amazed at how good your new project looks. Here’s the path to happiness.