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Different Types of Furniture Finishings

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The very last step in furniture-making is quite aptly named: furniture finishing. The finishing touches (literally) involve staining the piece with a type of oil or varnish. While this step adds to the finished look, it should not be assumed that the purpose is purely decorative. Finishing furniture actually works to protect the piece as well, adding to its durability and longevity in your home. 

Different types of finishes have varying ingredients and different degrees of drying time. Some smell stronger than others. As long as you bring a steady hand to the table (pun intended), you shouldn’t have too much difficulty with any of them, but there are personal and situational preferences to consider. 

Linseed oil and Tung oil are most often used in finishing. They are derived from natural ingredients—Tung oil is made from nuts of trees found in parts of Asia. Both are easy to obtain and relatively inexpensive. They are called penetrating finishes because they penetrate the fibers of the wood, causing it to harden. These oils are also considered easiest to apply as the method is hard to mess up. Rub on, allow to penetrate, and wipe excess off with a rag. 

Varnish is made from synthetic resin modified with drying oils. Varnish is more durable than Linseed or Tung oil and can be easily applied—typically by brush—by the average woodworker. It is highly resistant to water, heat, and solvents. Then there are oil and varnish blends. These hybridizations give the best of both worlds: easy application yet highly protective qualities. They dry a bit harder than the oils. 

Shellac is made from a natural resin secreted by bugs found in India and Thailand. It comes in a premixed version, which contains wax, or in flake form. It is more like a paint and generally available in a variety of colors. Finally, lacquer is often considered the best finish for wood as it dries fast, has a moderate durability, but adds depth and richness to the finished piece. 

Choosing a finish that is right for you takes some consideration regarding your time limits, skill set, and desired look. Always remember to wear the proper safety equipment and make sure your workspace is well-ventilated. Always follow the manufacturer’s product instructions, plus some useful tips you may find on the web, and you have yourself a fun afternoon project!

See how we can help with your furniture purchases at lasides.com!


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