Quick guide to the different Finishes that I can apply to your piece…
Poly is a durable finish that is fairly easy to apply & fast-drying, especially if you choose the more expensive spray-on version. It comes in a varying degree of sheens (satin, semi-gloss, and high gloss), which makes it a no-brainier finish for a lot of my projects since it is somewhat toddler-proof. The oil-based version can yellow over time, so I never use it on light stains or paints, while the water-based version (polycrylic) stays clear but has a more plastic look to it. It’s also worth noting that you have to lightly sand between coats (I apply at least 3) in order for the coats to adhere to each other. I used wipe-on poly and satin spray poly on my family’s Buffet Turned Media Cabinet & polycrylic on this Mid Century Desk.
You can make your own rub-on poly by adding equal parts mineral spirits to polyurethane.
Ahhh, wax! I love using furniture wax! It creates a soft sheen & a warm glow that is smooth to the touch which can’t be duplicated with any other finish. Depending on which wax you choose, it can have an obnoxious odor so I always use a respirator and wear gloves. You will get a workout while buffing the applied wax to create the lovely sheen! I used wax to distress and finish the bottom of this beauty.
This finish is durable, hard, and toddler-proof, not as easy to apply as polyurethane, but there is no need to sand between coats like there is with poly. It comes in sheens ranging from ultra matte to high gloss. I use this finish for wooden furniture with beautiful wood grain that I want to highlight and protect! I used it on the round side table’s wood top seen here.
A resin secreted by the female lac bug, sold as dry flakes and dissolved in ethyl alcohol creating a liquid shellac. This finish is extremely durable, comes in white, orange, or pigmented, cleans with mineral spirits, and was widely on furniture before the 1920’s. I might use this, but it spoils in a can if left unused for long periods of time.
Also known as acrylic paint, it’s a fast drying paint containing pigment suspension in acrylic polymer emulsion. It can be diluted with water, yet still be water-resistant when dry. It comes in any color you can think of and is a long lasting finish when applied to furniture properly, (sanding, then priming before applying two coats of paint). I used latex paint on this Modern Lingerie Campaign chest that I upcycled from an Armoire.
Milk paint is a beautiful paint finish, chemically safe and environmentally friendly. I love to distress milk-painted pieces, has an unpredictable chipping off to it that looks authentic and lovely. It’s best to finish with a coat of wax since it isn’t as durable as it is beautiful. Miss Mustard Seed & Old Fashioned Milk Paint paints are my favorite. You can also make your own, though it is not a pleasing process. Check out this Campaign Chest I built & painted with milk paint!
Chalk paint is an extremely easy to apply paint that you don’t have to prime before applying, though it is best to apply a coat of wax as a topcoat. It is a gorgeous choice! I have the perfect piece for it so it is time for me to make another batch, fairly simple to make… I’ll post exactly how to make it soon, just need some non-sanded grout, water, and acrylic paint! If you’d rather not wait or have a little extra cash, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is stunning! Check out this end table that I painted with some homemade teal chalk paint!
It’s always a good idea to use a primer before applying acrylic paint to anything. I also go the extra mile and sand a tad before applying primer… oil-based Zinsser is great and it even comes in a spray form, making quick work of painting furniture.
Oil-based stains are extremely durable and penetrate the wood deeper than water-based, but do take longer to dry. Stains come in a variety of colors and can really bring out the character of wood pieces.
Unlike oil-based stains, water-based stains dry very quickly, which makes it harder to achieve an even finish… on the up side you can clean up with soap and water and it’s breathable. Always be sure to test whichever stain you choose to be sure that opacity and color are just how you want them!
Oil Finishes, such as linseed and hemp, are incredibly easy to apply, penetrate wood pieces and add charm, but do nothing for protection. If your main goal is to beautify a piece with no need to protect, than I recommend trying out oils.
This finish has an oil-based formula which forms a barrier against rain and moisture to protect the wood. Spar Urethane is amazing for exterior pieces since it has a UV blocker and expands and contracts with the wood as the seasons and temperatures change. I like it in a high gloss finish which really enhances the natural beauty of wood… for instance, I used it on the top of my Live Edge Walnut Slab Console Table.
This is a finish that my 5 year-old & I love to use… he’s my on call wood oxidizing technician, hehe! I have made multiple pieces by oxidizing pallet wood, favorite of which being my interior sliding barn door (post coming soon). You can even make your own wood oxidizing solution simply by letting torn up 0000 steel wool disintegrate in white vinegar for a few days. Then you just paint it on your bare wood and watch it transform almost immediately to become darker and more weathered looking. You can also add some strong black tea to your wood beforehand to give it a grayer look (adding some rusty nails to your oxidizing mixture will give your wood a ruddier tinge). Experimenting with this finish is a blast and something that the kiddos can help with! Check out the interior sliding barn door that I used this finish on!