I’ve tried lots of finishes with my projects. Some I’ve liked a lot, some I haven’t. Here’s my list of what I’ve tried, and what I liked or disliked about them:
- Oil-based stains. I don’t really like them. They go on blotchy and rough, and tend to darken the wood more than I’d like. Maybe it’s just a technique thing, but I was never really very happy with stains. I’ve really only tried the Minwax variety. Maybe more expensive brands are better.
- Water-based stains. I don’t like these even more than regular oil stains. They go on worse, and raise the grain of soft to medium soft woods like poplar a little too much, requiring much more sanding time.
- Watco Danish Oils. I’ve tried the many flavors of the Watco danish oils, and they go on nice and leave a smooth coat.
- Tung Oils. I started using Minwax Tung Oil, and then switched to Formby’s Tung Oil on the recommendation of Woody while finishing the first two tongue drums. The Minwax was OK, but the Formby’s was much, much better in quality. Tung Oil has the unique quality of making wood grain “pop” like sapele, which has a nice sheen to it once it’s covered with a couple coats. It almost could be described as having a nice “shimmer” once the finish goes on. It’s really a unique finish, and is very easy to apply. You just have to make sure you use a really lint-free cloth, as it dries really quick, and gets tacky.
- Tried and True Finishes. My particular favorite. Very thick in consistency, and requires very thin coats. Builds up a nice sheen on the wood akin to wax, and comes in three varieties, danish oil, varnish oil, and oil/beeswax mix. The best part about these finishes is that they are 100% non-toxic when dry, contain no heavy metal driers, and are all-natural. That’s good for the enviroment. They also smell a lot better than some other finishes.
- Sam Maloof’s Oil/Poly Blend. Got some of this from Woody. I used it on the plant stand project for my mother-in-law. It is very nice to work with, works like oil, and leaves a nice shine, with the durability of poly.
- Linseed, Tung, Poly Mix. A good mix similar to the Maloof’s finish, this custom combination was used on the outdoor bench I made. A good friend gave me the recipe, and then I bought the off-the-shelf components from Home Depot, and mixed them in equal parts of 1/3 Linseed, 1/3 Tung, 1/3 Poly. It went on heavy, and darkened the wood considerably (cedar and cypress). It has held up well.
- Wipe-On Poly. Not a horrible finish from Minwax, but not the best either. I’ve used on a couple projects that needed poly protection, but it’s nothing to write home about. It’s easy to apply though.
- Minwax Wipe-On Wood Sheen. A nice way to go if you want stain and shine in the same bottle. Beware of the stain blotchiness. Make sure you sand evenly and well to 220 grit before applying, and make sure to wipe it down.
- I have only really used Johnson’s Paste Wax. I have been meaning to try Briwax, but I haven’t gotten around to it. I use this for a coating on tools, workbenches, fine pieces like the plant stand. It works very well for it’s purpose. I wouldn’t only just use wax, as it provides very little protection for the wood.