List of Wood Finishes


Anytime you are building something with wood, it is beneficial to apply wood finishes to them. Not only do wood finishes enhance the overall appearance of the wood. but they also help preserve and protect the wood. Different types of wood finishes are available for you to choose from; each one is used and applied differently. Choose the one that will work best on your specific woodworking project.

Wood Stains

  • Wood stains are ideal for enhancing and preserving the wood grain. It is available in oil-based, water-based and gel forms in semi-transparent and solid color. Semi-transparent wood stains add color to the wood while still allowing the texture and natural grain to show; on the other hand, solid color stains add color and only allow texture to show through, but not the grain.

    Use either pigmented or dyed stains when working on interior applications such as furniture and woodworking. These stains come in oil, synthetic or water bases, and range in colors from clear to semi-transparent. Pigmented stains are simple to apply using brushes or rags. Adding oil or polyurethane finish over the stain provides extra protection.

    Latex and oil-based wood stain formulas are available for exterior applications, such as wood siding, decks or outdoor furnishings. Oil-based wood stains fade faster than latex stains when exposed to the harsh elements; however, oil based can take more abuse than latex stains. Latex stains adhere better on surfaces than oil-based wood stains; which is why they are ideal for redoing stains on wood previously stained with oil-based stains.


  • Fine Wood Working website describes varnish as "any film-forming reactive finish made from combining a vegetable oil (which cures by polymerization) with one or more modifying resins, dissolved in a petrochemical-based solvent to facilitate its application." Most varnishes are mixtures of standard oils (linseed, soybean and tung) and resins (alkyd or polyester, phenolic and polyurethane), with varying formulas and dry times.

    Oil-based varnishes provide a tough, elastic film as they dry that helps protect the wood. Brushing and wiping are the most common types of application methods; however, you can also spray varnishes if desired.


  • Polyurethane comes in water- or oil-based formulas. It is an ideal interior wood finish used on wood floors and furnishings. Polyurethane produces a plastic-like finish, which protects the wood from water damage and excessive wear and tear. It is not ideal for outdoor use because of its tendency to turn yellow and crack when exposed to the harsh sunlight.


  • According to Wood Workers Institute website, professional polishers prefer shellac because it is one of "the most versatile surface films available to furniture makers." Shellac comes from secretions of a scale insect called Laccifer lacca, which lives in trees found in southeast Asia. People harvest the secretions from the tree's twigs, which later on undergo a refining process through crushing, sieving and heating to produce shellacs.

    Shellacs dry fast and hard, making them durable. Apply them on furniture, woodwork or hardwood floors. Shellacs act as a sealer and stain killer on new wood. Apply shellac on old shellac, varnish or lacquer finishes using paint or foam brushes.

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