Brushing a wood finish on a box joint

Here are some common finishes with simple guides to their appearance, durability and application.

Wipe-on Finishes

Minwax Wipe-On Poly

CHARACTERISTICS & QUALITIES: Combines the beauty of a hand rubbed finish with the toughness of polyurethane.

APPEARANCE: Satin sheen with very light amber cast.

DURABILITY AND USAGE: Good to excellent durability. Easy application and suitable for interior projects like furniture, molding and trim.

Minwax wipe-on poly can

Sam Maloof Poly/Oil Finish

CHARACTERISTICS & QUALITIES: Gives a very professional looking, handsome finish yet is relatively easy to use.

APPEARANCE: Produces a very even soft sheen.

DURABILITY AND USAGE: Good durability. World-renowned furniture maker Sam Maloof uses this in combination with the Sam Maloof Oil/Wax (see below) for his museum-quality tables, rocking chairs, and other furniture.

Sam Maloof poly oil finish can

Sam Maloof's Oil/Wax Finish

CHARACTERISTICS & QUALITIES: This oils-and- beeswax formula is made to be used in conjunction with Sam Maloof's Poly/Oil finish.

APPEARANCE: Use after applying Sam Maloof's Poly/Oil finish to increase chatoyance and give a rich, semi-gloss appearance.

DURABILITY AND USAGE: See above. Oil/Wax formula is recommended for use on furniture that won't be exposed to excessive heat or moisture.

Sam Maloof oil wax finish can

Butcher Block Oil

CHARACTERISTICS & QUALITIES: Safe natural penetrating oil finish for butcher blocks, cutting boards, wood utensils, salad bowls and other wood surfaces.

APPEARANCE: Grain-enhancing, flat sheen.

DURABILITY AND USAGE: A completely natural oil that meets all FDA requirements for surfaces that contact food.

Butcher block oil bottle

Tried and True Original Wood Finish

CHARACTERISTICS & QUALITIES: Tried and True Original Wood Finish is a premium oil finish made with 100% natural, plant-derived ingredients. It's FDA approved as non-toxic and nonallergenic.

APPEARANCE: Natural sheen finish.

DURABILITY AND USAGE: Excellent durability and this finish will become even more hard and durable as it ages. Safe to use on children's toys, cutting boards, etc.

Tried and true original wood finish

Rockler's 100% Pure Tung Oil

CHARACTERISTICS & QUALITIES: A 100% natural oil containing no driers or solvents.

APPEARANCE: Flat to satin-sheen finish.

DURABILITY AND USAGE: Good to very good. Very water-resistant. Use on furniture or any wood object where easy maintenance is desired.

Rockler tung oil bottle

Liberon Finishing Oil

CHARACTERISTICS & QUALITIES: A quick drying, low odor blend of high quality oils.

APPEARANCE: Produces a very even soft sheen.

DURABILITY AND USAGE: Safe for food preparation areas. Resistant to water, heat, alcohol and food acids.

Liberon finishing oil bottle

Brush-On Finishes

General Finishes EF High Performance Waterbase Polyurethane

CHARACTERISTICS & QUALITIES: "EF" stands for environmentally friendly! Fast-drying. Easy water clean-up.

APPEARANCE: Your choice of satin or gloss. Virtually clear, so it adds almost no color to wood.

DURABILITY AND USAGE: Excellent durability. Tough enough for kitchen/dining room tables. Durable enough even for floors!

General finishes ef waterbase polyurethane

Zinsser Bullseye SealCoat

CHARACTERISTICS & QUALITIES: A clear, premixed 2 pound cut of de-waxed shellac. Can be applied with either a brush or lint-free cloth.

APPEARANCE: On raw wood, 2 to 3 coats will produce a soft velvety sheen. SealCoat is most often used as an undercoat, however.

DURABILITY AND USAGE: Use to seal raw wood in preparation for a final finish. Makes an excellent sanding sealer and barrier coat. For interior use.

Zinsser seal coat can


Zinsser Clear Spray Shellac

CHARACTERISTICS & QUALITIES: The classic finish for furniture and other wood surfaces now in convenient aerosol form. Safe and non-toxic, this natural finish enhances grain pattern and produces a soft, deep glow.

APPEARANCE: Soft, velvety sheen after 2 to 3 coats

DURABILITY AND USAGE: Good durability. Best for small-scale interior projects where a traditional finish is desired. Also has excellent sealing properties and can be used as a barrier coat under latex and oil paint.

Zinsser shellac spray can