As furniture makers, we are accustomed to many different types of finishes on our work.
These are some of the most common ones we use.
Shellac and French Polishing
French polishing is an old technique that uses shellac dissolved in alcohol and hand rubbing the finish onto the timber with what’s called a rubber. This is a process which plaster of Paris is used to fill the grain of the timber. Then it is sanded back. After that linseed oil is wiped on to make the plaster go clear. From there many coats of Shellac can then start to apply. This is a very soft finish and fragile of spills of water and alcohol. With that said it is one of the easier finishes to fix if it becomes damaged.
Oil and Wax
Oil and wax are two finishes that by themselves has little or no protective properties. Both of these finish doesn't leave a film over the timber. Which means that there is nothing to stop the damage. Which is why we rarely use them by themselves. What we do use wax for is after when we have applied another finish. Oil is something that we use to highlight grain on timber to give it a 3D look. We normally apply it straight on the timber and then apply something over the top of the oil.
Varnish is a hard, clear, protective, film finish. Made from a combination of drying oil/resin and a thinner or solvent. Which is the part that evaporates to leave a film of resin on the timber. The varnish family of finish come in many different types which include oil, polyurethane, and epoxy varnishes for different applications. The good thing about varnish is that it is scratch resistant, but this can make it harder to fix.