Woodworking projects are undertaken to use your skills to create something useful or attractive that can add to the comfort of your home. But completing the basic woodwork does not really complete a project as you will be required to apply some sort of finish on it, unless you prefer to leave it raw.
Wood is a porous material and this is one of the reasons why it needs to be given some sort of protection. The applied finish should be able to prevent the wood soaking in whatever gets on to its surface. The finish helps to seal the wood and keep out all these pollutants.
Every wood has a grain and some of it can be quite eye-catching and vibrant. Finishes, especially stains, can highlight this grain and make your wood stand out. Stains alone will not provide protection and may need some other clear coats to be applied as finishes. Stains can add color to the wood and add warmth to the wood.
Paint is a form of finish on wood that can give it all the needed protection. But it will cover the grain and is thus a finish that is better applied over woodworking projects that are made of plywood or other artificial wood. Thin paint coverage or paint that is semi-transparent will still let the grain to be seen, though this effect may be highly muted.
Clearcoat finishes are the right ones to use for wood that is heavily grained and where you do need to show it off to stress the workmanship as well. Wax is one finish that is very easy to apply and can be simply rubbed on and then buffed so that it gives the wood a sheen. All wood that requires to be finished must be sanded to a proper smoothness that further brings out its grain. This is one aspect of finishing that must be given a lot of importance as it will add to the effectiveness of the finish. It is this preparatory work that demands more care and effort and greatly increases the time required for the application of finishes to the wood. Wax is often applied even over other finishes like shellac or polish. You can also add a finish to your woodworking projects by applying oil over them after preparing the surface as needed for waxing. You can use linseed oil, tung oil, and mineral oil. The oil has to be heavily applied until it is absorbed in the wood. Wiping it down will give it a dull sheen. Oils do not provide a shiny surface and can remain sticky after application, so it is best, not applied to woodworking projects that you will need to handle daily. It is a finish that can be given a recoating after a few years.
Shellac, or polish as we know it more familiarly, is a finish that is an age old finish that has been used on wooden surfaces. It gives warmth to wood but is not good for protection from moisture. It is customary to add a coat of wax over these polished surfaces to give the wood an added protection. The varnish is another finish that is similar to shellac or lacquer and can be sprayed on. It is durable, will withstand moisture, and is even used in applications on wooden boats. Lacquer is a durable coating on wood that does not need to be recoated. It dries quickly. Polyrurethane is another finsh used on wood that gives a durable finish. It can be gloss or matte finished.
Most wood finishes can be wiped on, brushed on, or sprayed on and must be applied evenly for a good and lasting finish.