Guide to Furniture Finishes: Tips and Guidelines

There are some very easy ways to finish your furniture. You need to use the right power tool to prepare your wood before you can varnish it. These are considered regular steps while fixing old furniture.

There’s a common saying that all’s well that ends well. It is particularly true for your furniture. The final look of your furniture depends on how you coat your furniture and how you do the finishing on it.

The ultimate look, shine, textures – they all depend on the last few steps. So, you better be fully invested in having the best finish for your furniture.

There are some very easy ways to finish your furniture. You need to use the right power tool to prepare your wood before you can varnish it. These are considered regular steps while fixing old furniture.

But, if you want to take your woodworking skills to a new level, you must allow the finish some time. Take your craft to a new creative level. In this article, we will help you with the finishing of your furniture and how to make the most out of it.

Knowing the Different Types of Finishes

Before you start right away, you must have a look at your options. So, these are the basic options that are available to you if you want to start working on your furniture.

Varnish-Based Finish

The varnish is a smooth finishing liquid composed of three basic elements, which are varnish oils, resin, and thinner. The varnishes are usually used on wood, but they can also be used on other surfaces as well.

The varnish gives your furniture a strong protective layer, and you can easily manipulate the color of the varnish. The varnish usually penetrates the wood from within to make the overall structure sturdier.

Penetrating Epoxy-Based Finish

Epoxy coating is created using two different kinds of liquids. It is a generous mix of resin and wood hardener. These are usually used in equal portions and then applied over the wood.

The mix then penetrates the wood while giving it a smoother outer layer at the same time. The wood becomes somewhat water resilient, smudge-free, and scratch-free.

The trick to using Epoxy is all in the preparation. You have to properly sand and clean the surface before applying Epoxy.

Shellac-Based Finish

If you are feeling rather lazy about applying a coating to your wood, then you might use shellac. It is one of the most classic wood varnishes out there. It is easy to apply, but you need to use a large quantity to get a sustainable result.

The best thing about using shellac is it’s almost water-like finish. Shellac does not have a strong hue of its own. So, your wood keeps the dimensions of its original form inside the layers.

Lacquer-Based Finish

If you like things extra fancy, then lacquer might just be the perfect varnish for you. Lacquer gives your wood a very strong finish. The protective layer of lacquer is thicker and long-lasting – so you do not have to worry about the durability.

But, the most attractive feature of the lacquer is its glossiness. The lacquer makes your furniture super shiny. It almost always looks like new if kept well. The lacquer is sometimes also used to fix old woods and get rid of the stains.

Floor Wax-Based Finish

Floor wax is usually a singular blend of wax that can be used on wood to seal off any moisture. The wax is rubbed on top of the wood to get all the openings closed. It gives your furniture longer durability and makes it shinier.

It may not be as durable as a varnish because of its consistency – but it gives you more shine than normal varnish. The best thing about wax is the application. You can apply it on the wood barehanded. You can also do the wax-varnish combo where you apply the wax after you’ve used the varnish.

Oil-Based Finish

Oil-based varnishes were the ruler in the market in the old days. It was more durable and gave more shine than the water-based ones. But now, water-based varnishes are equally effective if not more. Oil varnishes give your furniture a more goldish kind of color.

So, your furniture will shimmer like gold after it has been varnished by oil finishes. So, if you don’t want to change the color of your furniture – you better stay away from oil-based varnishes.

But, at the same time, oil-based varnish becomes more valuable as it gets older.

Determine the Type of Wood and Choose the Right Varnish

Each wood is different from the other. Some are best left natural and untreated. But, some needs a lot of work to bring out the best in them. You must choose how you want your furniture to look and then design your treatment methods.

Prepare the Wood for Varnishing

First of all, you should start by removing the old finish. It becomes hard to finish over an old varnish, so you better take off the bottom layer. You should use an ample amount of sanding to get to the right results.

Sanding lets you determine how much you must keep off the old layers. Then you must clean the wood. You can do this by using wood cleaning thinner.

Finally, close down all the open holes by using the filling to seal all the wood grains.

Prepare the Varnish Coating

Finally, you should get on with varnishing the furniture. Prepare the varnish solution before time to allow the components to infuse together. There are some varnishes that do not require any preparations at all. You can use them instantly.

But, they might not give you a longer-lasting shiny and sturdy effect. Use the right quantity of resin, thinner, hardener, and wax into your mixture. The quantity will dictate the right level of finishing.

Bonus Tip: You can use a spray painter to finish your furniture. Spray painter is an easy way to apply the varnishing solution on the wood. Make sure that you have a cotton ball in your hand to spread the solution equally across the wood.


Beautification is an important step for sure. Finishing your furniture not only gives it a better look, but it also makes your furniture stronger. I hope that these tips will help you to determine which varnish you need and ultimately choose the right one.

Tell us which finish is the best for you and why in the comment section below. Until then, have a nice time.