Finishes to Swear By

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Forum topic by JohnMcClure posted 07-17-2017 08:13 PM 2573 views 1 time favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1451 posts in 1973 days

07-17-2017 08:13 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishes finishing finish

This is going to sound a lot like asking, “Which religion or political ideology is correct”.
But: What are some common, tried-and-true “Go-to” finishes/methods?

For example, “Three coats of gloss Arm-r-seal and one coat of satin Arm-r-seal” or “Just tung oil”.

Please specify what general application your preferred finish is for – exterior, interior furniture, boxes, etc.

And I have a specific question too: what about just shellac for interior furniture? Is that ancient finish up to modern abuse, if applied correctly?

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

20 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

7353 posts in 3825 days

#1 posted 07-17-2017 08:21 PM

I’ll offer my opinion on the last question…shellac. I love the stuff, but it just isn’t durable enough for tables or such things that see wear, spills, or whatever tough things may happen. I have a set of end tables that needs the tops refinished since all I used was shellac. Once I o the repair I’ll top coat them with an alkyd resin varnish. Oil based alkyd/soya oil varnish is what i use most often, though I won’t call it a “go-to” finish. But my methods of applications vary somewhat from using it as a wiping varnish to brushed coats. I’ll sometimes want a “glass smooth” surface and will apply several coats, let it cure enough to wet sand and then sand it back a lot, repeat until the surface is glass smooth. Lastly, for outdoor use my go-to (appropriate in this case) is untinted oil base exterior paint; the tint base made for deep/dark colors. Coming very close to true marine spar varnish in durability and costing a lot less, also easier to use. That’s only when a clear finish is needed, though…otherwise my go-to exterior is paint!

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Rich's profile


7743 posts in 1922 days

#2 posted 07-17-2017 08:57 PM

Great thread idea John. I’m really looking forward to discovering new things from it. Here are two that I like.

For any tabletop or countertop that needs to be extremely durable and water repellent, I can recommend from experience: Three coats of Waterlox Sealer/Finish, wiped on, not brushed. Followed by three coats of Waterlox urethane (I prefer satin), wiped on as well. Watch out doing the urethane in higher temperatures since it gets sticky quite quickly.

For a beautiful, natural look on fine hardwoods it’s hard to beat Tried & True products. They are just amazing. Be sure to follow the directions and the results are nearly foolproof. Start with their Danish oil and/or Varnish oil in as many coats as you have the patience for, then top it off with a few coats of their Original finish.

Another product I found that I really love isn’t a finish, but a polish for maintaining a finish, is by Mohawk and called Scratch & Mar Resister Polish. It leaves a beautiful sheen and, like wax, helps reduce scratching with its slick surface which makes it less likely that an object will dig in to the surface.

Of course, there are countless products and recipes for great looking finishes. These just happen to be two that I can absolutely guarantee good results with.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Oakdesk's profile


12 posts in 3479 days

#3 posted 07-18-2017 12:12 AM

My “go-to” finish is Target Coatings’ EM6000 water-based lacquer. Since it dries in 15-20 minutes, I can spray on 4-5 coats in a couple of hours. It’s brushable, but I find spraying to be much more efficient. I also use one or two coats of Target’s EM1000 sealer under the lacquer. If I want an amber tone, I just add some dye to the sealer.

If you need more durability, like for a tabletop, Target also makes water-based urethanes and varnishes, which I have not tried. I really do like the 5 or 10 minute cleanup of water-based finishes.

The only time I use shellac is as a barrier coat when I am unsure of the previous finish. Otherwise, it’s EM6000.

View pontic's profile


864 posts in 1941 days

#4 posted 07-18-2017 12:13 AM


-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View OSU55's profile


2937 posts in 3322 days

#5 posted 07-18-2017 09:55 PM

Furniture – Target EM6000 lacquer sprayed
Table tops – Target EM8000 poly sprayed

Turnings – small stuff – shellac, CA glue larger stuff – ob poly show finish – Target EM6000 sprayed

Favorite wipe-on for any interior stuff – MW poly regular thinned 1:1 w/ms, tint with lockwood dyes
Use shellac a lot under wb finishes to provide chatoyance and prevent dye lifting

Methods – would require a book, for which I recommend 2:

Great Wood Finishes Jeff Jewitt Taunton Press
Understanding Wood Finishing Bob Flexner Reader’s Digest

For those who like BLO and various other oils, you might read this.

View AandCstyle's profile


3306 posts in 3589 days

#6 posted 07-18-2017 10:45 PM

John, I am also a fan of Target’s products, but they are hard to find unless you order online and pay shipping. Also, I think OSU55 made a typo: he refers to EM8000 as poly, but the poly is EM9000 whereas the EM8000 is conversion varnish, but he may be right because he is more knowledgeable than I am.

-- Art

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 1980 days

#7 posted 07-18-2017 11:46 PM

My go-to finish is boiled linseed oil, lots of sunlight, then a light coat of shellac topped with bee’s wax. I use this on all of my interior projects. This finish does require touch-ups from time to time.

View OSU55's profile


2937 posts in 3322 days

#8 posted 07-19-2017 12:59 AM

Thanks Art my memory failed me EM9000 is the poly. FYI for those interested, while there may be some chemical differences between the 8000 and 9000, the performance according to Target is basically equal. 9000 dries water clear, 8000 dries to match solvent varnish, ie dog pee yellow. To reduce hobby inventory, I use the 9000 and add Transtint honey amber when I want that color.

View Lazyman's profile


8770 posts in 2720 days

#9 posted 07-19-2017 04:21 AM

+1 on the Tried and True finishes. They take a bit more time to cure than more modern finishes but the results are really great.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Ken Masco's profile

Ken Masco

914 posts in 4182 days

#10 posted 07-19-2017 04:33 AM

I use Liberon Furniture Oil on more projects than any other finish.

-- Ken

View Loren's profile


11369 posts in 4980 days

#11 posted 07-19-2017 04:38 AM

Shellac is pretty awesome for hobby usage.
Its failings in terms of alcohol resistance
are overstated. It’s not appropriate for a
bar, but for most other furniture it will
hold up for decades of normal household
use. It is easy to apply and forgiving.

View Woodknack's profile


13585 posts in 3712 days

#12 posted 07-19-2017 05:57 AM

Dining table = varnish or poly
Just about everything else = shellac

-- Rick M,

View DirtyMike's profile


637 posts in 2234 days

#13 posted 07-19-2017 06:07 AM

System 23 for outdoor oak furniture, there may or may not any evidence online to support that. there isnt

View Logan Windram's profile

Logan Windram

347 posts in 3794 days

#14 posted 07-19-2017 01:11 PM

Osmo Oil- there is an article in FWW magazine about it this month, so easy and fabulous results.

View ClammyBallz's profile


449 posts in 2469 days

#15 posted 07-19-2017 09:00 PM

My go to routine finish for interior stuff is transtint dye (if the piece is to be colored), shellac (1lb cut sealcoat or garnet flakes) then Target EM8000 with crosslinker. I spray gloss, but if it calls for a satin finish, I’ll spray satin as the last coat.

Waterlox is a favorite of mine, if you can stand the smell during the long cure. I finished my oak floors with 4 coats about 15 years ago and it’s still holdiing up.

showing 1 through 15 of 20 replies

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