How to Apply Wood Finish for Beginners 2022 [Updated]

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How to Choose & Apply Wood Finish for Beginners 2022 [Updated]

wood finishing products
Applying wood finishes properly can help enhance the durability of your wood projects

With so many finishing products available on the market, how do you know which one to choose and how to apply it for the best results?

This article will cover all the basics of choosing and applying stains, oils, and finishing products for minimal and maximum durability.

We will also cover the tools you will need to apply finishing products correctly and achieve the best finished results, regardless of the type of finish you choose.

A helpful video is included and discussed in detail below the list of tools. This video and the entire article can be referred to again and again as you make more projects and get comfortable with staining and finishing wood projects.

What Tools are Needed to Finish Wood Projects?

Wood finish, a brush and a well ventilated area are all you need to seal your wood project. Kai Hendry / CC BY-SA

Staining, oiling, and finishing wood products only requires a few inexpensive tools and materials. The actual finishing products are described in detail below this list, but the following are the extra tools you will need to apply these products safely and effectively.

For these projects, you will need:

Finishing Wood for Maximum Durability


Projects that will be used frequently or will come into contact with high heat or moisture need to be finished with long lasting, hardwearing products. These include table tops and cutting boards. Applying the right finish will provide the protection needed for maximum durability and will keep wood items looking beautiful for years to come.

Bestseller No. 1
OSMO Polyx Hard Wax Oil .75 L (25.3 Fl. Oz.)
  • Osmo Polyx-Oil is a professional, Satin-Matte floor finish of particular durability and resistance...
  • Meets wood's natural demands; Micro-porous, water-repellent, dirt and wear resistant.

Recommended products for maximum durability include: spray varnish or lacquer, polyurethane, and hard wax oil. Regardless of the products you choose, make sure that they are compatible with each other. If you are using an oil-based stain, make sure your finish is oil-based as well. The same is true for water-based stains and finishes.

Step 1) 

Determine how you want the finished wood to look. If you want to add a stain or wood oil, now is the time to do so.

Step 2)

If deciding to stain, apply the stain with a brush or lint-free cloth. Buff out excess stain with another cloth. Stain can be reapplied in coats for a deeper look, or thinned out with water or mineral spirits for a softer appearance.

Step 3)

Oil your wood using linseed oil, which is recommended because it is inexpensive and dries quickly. Apply with a brush or cloth and wipe away excess to ensure speedy drying time. Oil helps natural wood grain pop and leaves a warm tone.

Step 4)

Apply a finish of your choice that will maximize the durability of the wood surface. The product recommended in the video is spray varnish or lacquer because it creates a smooth and durable finish with no brush marks.

Step 5)

Shake the can of finishing product well and keep the can held upright to spray evenly.

Step 6)

Begin spraying the wood surface using back and forth movements, then wait for the product to dry.

Step 7)

Wipe water onto the surface of the wood and sand with 320 or 400 grit sandpaper. Then apply another coat and repeat as many times as you want.

Step 8)

If using water or oil based polyurethane or hard wax oil, apply with a brush, roller, or cloth and sand between coats.

Finishing Wood for Minimal Durability/Aesthetics 

Products that will not have to withstand heat and moisture can be finished with an oil wax finish of your choice. The product recommended in the video above is a beeswax and mineral oil/solvent blend.

Bestseller No. 1
Interstate WoodWorks Beeswax Paste Wood Finish & Polish - 6.25 oz.
  • Interstate Beeswax is an All Natural, Wood Finish, Wood Sealer and Non-Toxic wax
  • Each jar is Hand Mixed in Small Batches to ensure the highest quality finished product
  • Large 6.25 oz Container for plenty of surface coverage. 8 ounce jar volume or 236 milliliters.

This oil wax can be purchased or made at home. For surfaces that will come in contact with food, make sure you are using a product with safe ingredients like beeswax and mineral oil.

Step 1)

Apply an oil wax finish to the wood surface using a lint-free cloth or brush. You only need to apply one even coat.

Step 2)

Wipe away excess oil wax and allow the finish to dry.

Step 3)

With a clean cloth, buff the oil wax to a shine. The wood is now smoothed out and the color is enhanced!

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