Finishing Continued

This article will explore the various options for finishing internal timber works such as furniture, chests and tables.

Types of Finishes

Different types of products offer different degrees of protection, durability, ease of application and appearance.

Wood finishes come in two different types - evaporative and reactive.

Evaporative finishes - Evaporative finishes include lacquer, shellac and many water-based finishes. This is where the finish dries hard as the solvent or carrier evaporates.

Reactive finishes - Reactive finishes include linseed or tung oil, catalysed lacquers and varnishes. These finishes also contain solvents that evaporate but they cure by a chemical reaction, either by air or a chemical placed into the finish.

Product Categories

  1. Waxes

  2. Oils

  3. Varnishes

  4. Shellacs

  5. Lacquers

Here is a list of various finishing products to protect and maintain timber which highlight the different features of each finish, their usage and common brands.

  • Creates Shine

  • Short protection time and needs frequent application

  • Safe when solvents in paste wax evaporate

  • Easy application

  • Requires sanding and buffing after application

  • Can be easily removed with solvents

  • Not recommended as an appropriate finish in and of itself

  • Can use paste wax (carnauba mostly, sometimes beeswax) to polish furniture but only over other finishes, such as lacquer or shellac

  • Brands:

    • Gilly’s Clear Cabinet Makers Wax

    • Gilly’s 100g Carnauba Wax flakes

    • Feast Watson Timber wax spray

Where to Source These Finishes

Most of the brands that have been listed here are available at your local Bunnings or Mitre-10 store but there is also a plethora of other brands as well that can be bought online or at specialist stores.

If you are just working on one project we would recommend buying the smaller tins of finish as you are much less likely to use a large tin.

How to Apply a Finish

All of the finishes listed above require different application processes.

Make sure that you always read the back of the tin of finish for directions. If you have any questions please come to speak to any of the MSD Machine Workshop Technicians.

There are also a plethora of youtube videos all about finishing timber with different products so feel free to do your own research.

Environmental Considerations

A solvent-based finish, such as varnish and lacquer, contains a good deal of organic solvents, which are highly flammable and can affect the environment as well as your health. If you are not applying the finishes in a controlled environment, which is easy to clean, and/or these particulars irritate you, use a water-based finish to eliminate the fire hazard and to mitigate the environmental and health impact.

Pure oil is a good alternative to a solvent-based lacquer or varnish: Pure oil contains no solvents and comes from renewable resources. However, oil-soaked rags must be disposed of carefully in the flammable bins provided in the metal works area outside the workshop.

Shellac is also a good alternative, as the solvent for shellac (i.e. methylated spirits) is distilled from corn, and most people don’t find it irritating or the smell too bad. Shellac is much harder to apply and is not recommended without some prior experience.

All finishes are nontoxic when fully cured as once the solvents have evaporated; any cured film is safe for contact with food. This does not mean that the finish itself is safe to ingest, it simply means that additives such as heavy-metal driers and plasticisers are encapsulated well enough that they do not migrate into your food. E.g. Wax and shellac are what are used to coat apples, medication pills and lollies like skittles.

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