Basically, timber finishes and polishing protect the surface of the wooden material. The finishing process starts with preparation, you can do it either by scraping, planning, or sanding. Defects, nail holes, or any other flaws can be corrected using wood fillers or wood putty. You can also change the colour of wood through staining, bleaching, or some other technique. Once the timber surface is prepared and stained, the wood is ready for finish. Timber finishing is a challenging task due to the number of choices available. You can choose finishing products based on the degree of protection they offer and general working qualities.
Types of timber finishes
As mentioned earlier, there are numerous finishing products, such as natural oils, waxes, pigmented finishes, penetrating finishes, varnishes, lacquers, shellacs, polyurethane, etc. Different timber finishes and polishing offer varying degrees of protection, aesthetics, durability, ease of use, and reparability. Sadly, no single timber finish excels in all these categories. So, let’s see which finish is most suitable based on your requirement.
- Surface coating:
It is the most durable timber finish. These are clear and require minimum maintenance. Surface coatings include lacquers, shellacs, and varnishes. Urethane varnish, also known as polyurethane offers good resistance to solvents, heat, and abrasions. Water-based polyurethane is more environment-friendly than solvent-based. Shellacs, on the other hand, decreases the resistance to water and hinders the bonding of other finishes to it. Lacquers, by far, is the best finish for timber as it is highly durable, quickly dries, and imparts richness to the wood, especially for furniture.
- Natural oil or penetrating oil:
These are environment-friendly timber floor finishes. If you want to have non-toxic timber finishes and polishing then these are great choices. Natural oils are high quality, wear resistance finishes with minimal maintenance.
- Pigmented finishes:
These are not transparent and mostly resemble paint. Black lacquer is an example for pigmented finish. This type of finish is available in assorted colours.
- Wax finish:
It is most suitable for rejuvenating an old finish and is rarely used as finish itself. Typically, it is applied over the penetrating finish to reduce the need for maintenance.
- Oil modified urethane:
This timber floor finish provides reasonable wear resistance and allows movement in timber. Oil-modified urethane is a mixture of synthetic resins, plasticisers, and some other film forming ingredients. It has moisture resistance property and is highly durable.
How to choose timber polishing?
Though we have various kinds of timber finishes and polishing, the decision on which polish to use mostly depends on how the wood was finished. The goal is to protect and maintain the wood, as well as to intensify its natural beauty. So, first and foremost, determine the type of the finish on your timber.
Put a drop of oil on to the timber; if it absorbs, your timber has oil finish. If it doesn’t absorb then immediately clean the surface with acetone to remove the oil. Acetone has zero effect on polyurethane whereas lacquer dissolves in acetone. Suppose the timber surface turns gummy, the finish is either varnish or shellac. You can further test it by rubbing denatured alcohol, shellac dissolves but varnish won’t.
Shellac, varnish, and polyurethane finishes can be polished using a mixture of ¼ cup of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of jojoba oil or any other shelf-stable oil. A paste wax is most suitable for a lacquer finish. Just rub the wax and let it dry and then clean the surface. If your timber has oil based finish, then your choice is simple. Just use oil, any oil will do your job. Rub it on the timber surface and wipe off the excess oil. All in all, make sure to choose the perfect timber finishes and polishing to make your timber last forever.