Finishing Recommendations—Kit Furniture
Oil and Wax Finish
Shaker Workshops recommends using an oil and wax finish over our older solvent based stains (petroleum distillates is listed on the label), or alone for those customers who prefer a clear finish with no stain. Oil and wax finish has several advantages over “hard” (shellac, varnish, or polyurethane) finishes. These are:
Ease of Application
Oil finishes can be easily wiped onto and off the object being finished. Since the excess oil is wiped off while it is still wet, there is not the problem of drips and runs associated with varnishes and shellac.
Oil finishes provide a pleasing, clear, low gloss look to wood surfaces.
An oil finish, if scratched, can be easily repaired by applying another coat of oil finish to the damaged area.
A Natural Product
These days when synthetic materials are increasingly used, many people like using oil finish because it is a natural product derived from plants.
Oil finish is a historically appropriate finish to use on many types of reproduction furniture including Shaker reproductions.
We recommend using a “hard” finish for the following applications:
Table Tops—Furniture that will get heavy use and where spills of either hot or cold liquids are likely. Furniture that is washed down regularly with soap and water.
When using our Waterbased Stains, please check the label. We recommend using a hard finish over these stains because oil finish will not provide a satisfying luster over these water-based stains.
Solvent Based Polyurethane
Traditional solvent based polyurethanes are probably the most durable finish available to our customers who will be applying their finish with a brush. We recommend that when you go to your paint or hardware store that you ask for the best quality, low luster or satin finish that they carry. Do not skimp on the quality, inexpensive brands are harder to apply, are less durable, and will not have a quality look. Solvent based polyurethanes will impart a golden or yellowish tint giving the final finish a warm tone. Follow the directions on the can exactly, and use a high quality natural bristle brush. Be sure to wear gloves, and work in a well ventilated area. If you sand between coats, follow the sanding with a tack cloth to remove the dust, etc.
ZAR polyurethane, made by United Gilsonite Laboratories.
Water Based Finishes
Water based finishes are relatively new to the market, and many provide a quality finish. The advantages of water based finishes are that they are usually less toxic, have less odor, and brushes clean up with soap and water. Most tend to be “water clear” and do not impart the warm golden tone which solvent based finishes often do. Follow the directions on the can exactly. Many water based finishes are best applied with a nylon bristle brush. Don’t use a tack cloth if sanding between coats. Use a lint free cloth dampened with water.
Elite Diamond Finish, made by Varathane.
Shellac is a very traditional time tested finish. In the hands of an expert, and applied with a technique called “French Polishing” it produces the very highest quality finish. However, if you are not an expert, it can often result in an uneven finish with runs and sags. Shellac finishes will be easily marred by alcohol, and they are not resistant to water. It is best applied in thin coats with a fine, natural bristle brush, rubbing out the finish with steel wool between coats. After rubbing out the finish with steel wool, be sure to use a tack cloth to remove the steel wool particles. Work in a well ventilated area. Use orange shellac over dark stains and dark colored woods. Use white shellac over light stains and light colored woods.
Bulls Eye Shellac, made by Zinsser.
Natural Resin Varnishes
Natural resin varnishes are very traditional finishes. They are not often used today because of cost, difficulty in application, and long drying times. If you want to expend the effort and care needed when applying these finishes the result can be beautiful and durable. A fine, natural bristle brush is necessary when applying these finishes. They need to be sanded between coats, and the final coat rubbed out with pumice and rotten stone.
Rockhard Table Top Varnish, made by Behlen Co. Available through Woodcraft Supply 1-800-535-4486.
14 South Pleasant Street
Ashburnham, MA 01430-1649