This is the 10 Easiest Wood Finishing Products for Beginners. With this list, you will always have the perfect finish to use for any project. I’ll show you the list, as well as lots of tips and tricks on using them. Enjoy.
Wood Finishing Products for Beginners
Wood finishing is one of the most difficult aspects of woodworking that tends to slow down a lot of beginners. In reality, it doesn’t have to be that way, and I’ll show you several ways to make it very easy.
Interestingly enough, it’s not that wood finishing is actually difficult at all, it’s the perception of wood finishing and the shortage of information about it. The truth is that anyone can learn how to apply a really nice finish in a very short time.
The real trick is just knowing what finishes to use. There are a select group of finishes that are just a lot easier to apply, and they look the same or better than any other professionally applied finish.
Once you know the different products, you’ll be able to pick the perfect easy to apply woodworking finish for any project. You’ll have the confidence you need to finish any project, and that’ll make you feel better about being a woodworker.
Here is the entire list, and I’ll go into each one of them in greater detail farther down the post.
- Tru-Oil Finish
- Arm-R-Seal Wiping Varnish
- Boiled Linseed Oil
- Danish Oil
- Colored Danish Oil
- Tried and True Finishes
- Shellac (mixed and homemade)
- Paste Wax
- Spraying Lacquer
- Buffing With Compounds
See Also: 10 Step Guide to Wood Finishing
Let’s start out with my absolute favorite type of woodworking finish. True oil will make an expert wood finisher out of anyone. It’s incredibly easy to use, inexpensive, and creates a look that’s just outstanding.
True oil is a polymerized oil that basically is treated in such a way that it helps the layer dry a lot better when it’s applied. The coat actually sets up on the surface like a film, and it builds up in layers.
This is very different from the traditional oil finish that would simply penetrate into the surface. Subsequent coats do the exact same thing, and it would never really have any build up. Tru Oil is different, because it does build a film on the surface.
The difference for you is that you can apply a world class finish simply by wiping thin coats of true oil onto the surface of your project. Let those coats dry for a few hours in between, and after about 3 to 5 layers you’re done.
If you want a very natural looking, easy to apply and finish that will make you look like an absolute expert with very little learning curve, start with Tru Oil.
See Also: How to Finish Wood with Tru-Oil
Arm-R-Seal Wiping Varnish
The next finish that I’m going to recommend is a wiping varnish. This is essentially a normal varnish but with a lot more thinner in the mixture. What this does is delays the drying time, which lets the product layout flatter before it dries.
What’s the benefit? When you’re finish layer has time to flatten out, it ends up looking a whole lot better and closer looking like it was applied with the spray gun. This makes your coat look excellent, and subsequently your woodworking project.
Arm-R-Seal is one of the best products that you can buy for this purpose. It’s a great product, comes in several different sheens, and is about as easy to apply as true oil. If you’re looking for a close to the wood type of look, this is your product.
See Also: 14 Easy Tips for Using Wiping Varnish
Danish Oil Finish
Another fun finishing product that’s really easy for beginners to use is called danish oil. This is an oile that goes on by hand with a small cloth, just like the above two. It’s super easy to apply, and the finish looks outstanding.
Danish Oil is a little different because it’s more of a traditional oil. It doesn’t really build up on the surface like the first couple products we talked about above, this one sinks in like a normal oil should
If you’re looking for a hand oiled look to your project, you can’t beat danish oil. It does add a subtle warmth to the project as well, because there is a touch of amber in the hue. That’s OK though, because it’s a pleasant look.
See Also: Finishing With Danish Oil
Colored Danish Oil
One of the awesome things that danish oil does for you is it also includes several color variations that you can purchase right off the shelf already mixed. Where as in some cases you would have to buy a stain and a topcoat, these products do it all in one.
You can choose from a number of different colors that are already mixed with your danish oil, and you literally have a one stop shop to color your piece and add a layer of danish oil for your finish. This takes out the entire first step, which is great.
One of the fun things that you can also do with this product is use it to artificially age your woodworking projects. If you pick up dark walnut danish oil, the color almost imparts a dirty type of finish, which looks very rustic.
If you’re looking for a one stop shop with color and and oil finish, then take a look at one of the danish oil products that has the stain already built-in.
See Also: Danish Oil For Adding Age to Wood
Tried and True Finishes
There is a brand called tried and true, and they specialize in old-fashioned oil based finishes and varnishes. These are traditionally made, but with a lot of modern controls, and they are all excellent products for any beginner.
You can try out any of their products, and they’ll all apply the exact same way. All you need is a clean cloth, and you transfer the material to your project using it very thin coats, and allow it to dry for the recommended time.
If you want to create a traditional hand applied finish, you can’t go wrong with tried-and-true. They are super easy to apply, they look great, and you won’t have very much of a learning curve at all when it comes to figuring out how to apply it.
See Also: Tried and True Danish Oil
Boiled Linseed Oil
One of the old standards in wood finishing is called boiled linseed oil. It’s also abbreviated a lot of times as BLO. This is one of the first woodworking finishes with oil that actually is able to dry completely, which is quite a little trick.
Traditional plan toils are great, but they never dry. That’s the one major flaw. Boiled linseed oil is simply a regular linseed oil that has metallic dryers added to the mixture. These help the product fully dry, which makes it a better finish.
The last thing you want to apply to one of your projects is a greasy looking finish that never really dries. The piece will always have a slightly wet feeling, and it’s just not a good look for a fully finished project.
When you use boiled linseed oil versus regular linseed oil, you get all of the beauty of the oil application with none of the fuss from it not drying. If you want to use one of the originals, then go with BLO.
There are a couple different types of shellac that you can work with. One of them comes in a can that’s already mixed, and is a liquid. The other one comes as dried out flakes that you have to mix in a certain proportion with a thinner, to create a liquid finish.
If you’re looking for ease-of-use, just buy a can that’s already mixed. This is a perfect way to get into using shellac, and you can find a couple of different shades online. One of the most significant is the amber shade.
If you don’t mind mixing the product yourself, which is not super hard, you can open yourself up to several different shades of finish, from super clear, all the way to pretty dark. You can also control how much shellac is in the mixture by varying the way you make it.
Shellac is a traditional finished that’s been used for thousands of years. If you want to be in good company with some of the ancient woodworkers throughout the world, then using shellac is one way for you to bond with them.
Another cool thing about shellac is that the darker varieties add a really cool looking tint to your projects. For example, amber shellac could also be called 100 years in a jar. When you apply a nice coat of amber shellac to a project, it instantly ages the item.
This could be really good for projects that you want to look old, or that you want to give and Amber, warm patina to.
See Also: Mixing Shellac
Paste wax is a fun product to use, it is one of the simplest to apply. It doesn’t offer a ton of protection for your piece, but it will put something on the surface that kind of resembles a finish, and at least your project will not look like bare wood.
Paste waxes also come with a number of different colors mixed into them, so you can apply a color at the very same time that you apply a layer of wax. Along time ago, old civilizations figured out that you could lightly wax a piece of wood to help preserve it.
This condition still exists today, and waxed woodworking projects are still a thing. It’s not nearly as prevalent as modern finishes, but you can coat a project with a layer of wax and get some protection from changes in humidity.
See Also: Understanding Wood Finishing
Getting into spray finishes, and don’t let me lose you just because I’m talking about spray finishes, is aerosol cans. Again, if you stuck with me past spray finishes, please stick with me past aerosol cans.
When you buy a high-grade spraying lacquer, from a reputable manufacturer that deals in fine furniture finishing, you can be assured you have an excellent product. It will lay down very well right out of the can, and it will look like it was sprayed in a spray booth.
Having done furniture refinishing and repair in a past life, I can assure you that spray cans of nitrocellulose lacquer are awesome to use. The product is the exact same formula that we used to use in the spray booth, just in a portable rattle can.
You can even start to finish really large surfaces like big desks or even medium size tables with the very same product once you have a little bit of practice. It’s all about maintaining a wet layer, which is not super difficult once you practice a little bit.
Again, this is not the same as the bottom shelf clear coat you find it a home improvement store. Those cheap cans of clear topcoat are miserable to use, the look isn’t nearly as good, and most of the time it’s not even lacquer.
Instead of wasting your money on this type of product, and ruining one of your projects, buy a nicer can of furniture grade lacquer. You’ll be so happy you did, and you’ll end up finishing just about everything with it.
See Also: 50 Awesome Reasons to be a Woodworker
Buffing With Compounds
Finally, my last beginner woodworking finish is kind of a finish, but at the same time not really a finish. It’s called buffing, and it’s the use of abrasive compounds on a spinning wheel to polish the surface of the wood.
This polishing creates the look of a finish, but in reality there’s nothing on the surface. What makes it look so shiny and nice is that the compound sands the surface down to a very fine level, giving the appearance of some gloss.
The easiest system to use is called the beall buffing system, and they have an outfit that can be installed on a small motor or your lathe. Either way you go, it’s a simple as holding your project up to the spinning wheels and letting them do the work.
This is best for a smaller woodworking projects that you can get close to a spinning wheel. So nearly anything that you can create a lathe is eligible to be buffed.
See Also: How to Buff Wood to a High Sheen
Your Action Assignment
Now that you know these 10 awesome woodworking finishes for beginners, it’s time to get out into your shop and take action. If you’ve been worried about applying a finish for a long time, or that’s what kept you out of woodworking, you can stop worrying now.
Any one of these finishes will make you look amazing pretty much right out of the gate. I do recommend that you start by practicing on some scraps, and when in doubt, apply very thin coats that almost feel like you’re wiping everything off.
It does take a little longer to finish a project this way, but in the end you’re finishes will be a lot smoother, and a lot flatter. That’s what’s going to make you look like an expert, applying finish that’s not blotchy or running or uneven.
If you have any questions about any of these awesome woodworking finishes that are super easy for any beginner to learn, please post a question and I’ll be glad to answer them. Happy building.
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