There are a couple of reasons why you should apply a finish to your wood projects. The most important reason is that it adds a layer of protection from wear and tear and keeps the moisture out of the wood. This will ensure your project will last a long time. The other reason to finish your project is purely for beauty. With all the time you spent creating your masterpiece you may as well take that final step and give it some “wow” factor. For me, the most exciting time of any project build is adding that first coat of finish and seeing that grain pattern pop for the first time.
Of course, anytime there are a hundred ways to do a task there will be confusion on how to complete it. I like to simplify my finishing technique into two methods: one is quick and easy, the other takes more time but brings out the natural beauty of the wood.
For the first, I use nothing more than a satin lacquer spray. I always get consistent results with Deft brand spray lacquer, but I’m sure there are other brands that work just as well. The reason I opt for a satin finish is because a glossy treatment will highlight imperfections and tends to cheapen the look.
This rattle-can technique dries fast and you can apply new coats about every 20 minutes. Three to four light coats is usually plenty, followed by a rubbing of #0000 steel wool before the final one.
For a more lustrous finish, I mix equal amounts of boiled linseed oil, Minwax Wipe-On Poly, and mineral spirits. The boiled linseed oil goes deep into the wood and brings out the grain. The polyurethane adds some protection, while the mineral spirits thin down the mixture, allowing you to apply very light coats. Only make enough for the project at hand, as storing it is not recommended.
Apply the mixture liberally (I like to use an old T-shirt), wait 20 minutes, then wipe down the entire project with a clean cloth to remove any standing liquid. I repeat this process four more times, applying only one coat per day. It takes a long time but the payoff is well worth it: The result is flawless, with no brush marks or streaks. This finish also soaks into the wood instead of sitting on top like lacquer, and leaves a nice “touchable” feel.