Wood finishes for beginner set


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Sherwin Williams is having a sale on their paint and stains 40% off from april 12-14. I need stains and finishes but not sure what I need. I wanna stock on them now that they are sale so I don't pay full price when I do need a finish. So my question is what are some must have finishes for home furniture projects so I can just stock up and have. thanks

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I think the answer depends a lot on what you build and what you like.

For me, I work most often with cherry, walnut and hard maple, and rarely use stain.  My most commonly used finish for furniture is a satin polyurethane.

Personally, I buy most finishes as-needed and don't worry too much about the price.  I might stock up a bit on the satin poly if there were a good deal available, but the stuff doesn't last forever - I wouldn't buy more than a year's supply at one time.

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When we built our new home several years ago, we painted our entire interior with Sherwin Williams paint and stained / finished our woodwork with products from S-W but were careful to time our purchase when everything was on sale.  We have been quite satisfied since.  I still have a good portion of Sherwin Williams Wood Classics Interior Wood Oil Stain (Armoire Hickory) and Sherwin Williams Wood Classics Interior Waterborne Polyurethane Varnish (Satin Clear) on hand from my home build that I incorporate into various projects as appropriate.  If you want the other specific products we chose for the ceilings, walls, bath & kitchen and woodwork, I can make up a list.

For wood furniture and other projects though, I am going with General Finished products.  Water Based: Milk Paint, Glaze Effects, High Performance Top Coat, Exterior 450 Top Coat, Pre-Stain Conditioner, Wood Stain and Oil Based: Pre-Stain Conditioner & Gel Stain, and Arm-R-Seal.  I chose General Finishes for their overall quality and good reviews, as well as the outstanding resource of their website with a wealth of information, and to keep it simple with my inventory.

For exterior products such as potting benches, plant stands, garden benches and such, I chose to go with water based Behr Premium Plus Multi-Surface Primer & Sealer (interior / exterior) and Behr Premium Low-Lustre Enamel Porch & Patio Floor Paint.  I chose the Behr products for their quality and durability with the added plus of being much cheaper than the General Finishes products.  For some items such as a potting bench that may have additional wear concerns, I like to spray several coats of Exterior 450 on the work top surface and the lower shelf that receives the most activity, and a final coat over the entire unit so that the sheen will be even throughout.

As a disclaimer, I am not a huge professional on the subject of finishing but have done a lot of research and went with the items that fit my personal needs best.  I looked at a variety of options (easily feeling overwhelmed) and over the years have used a variety of different products, but since retiring from the fire service and wanting something to dedicate my time to - choosing woodworking in the process - I like the idea of keeping things simple and limiting the learning curve of a bunch of different products.  That being said, I would still like the option to expand my horizons into more areas and on Saturday morning will be attending a free 'Incredible Finishes' demo at Woodcraft to learn more about applying shellac, dyes & tints and other subjects.

My experience with S-W has been good but I'm not big into their overall high prices and needing a sale to get what I feel is a more fair price.  I also haven't researched their products for specific furniture-making purposes so can't say how they compare to other products such as General Finishes or other options.  I have a Sherwin Williams about 10 minutes from me so convenience could be there, but would rather make the occasional one-hour trip (each way) to Woodcraft or other suppliers for the G-F products (and often travel that way anyway for other purposes on a regular basis for other shopping and such).    

 

 

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I think one of the easiest finishes to use is the old time equal parts mix of boiled linseed oil, mineral spirits, and varnish. Great for a beginner.  It is reasonably durable and very easy to apply. I apply it with a folded piece of blue paper towel. It dries slowly enough that you don't have to hurry and this allows you to backup and correct mistakes if needed. There is lots of information on the net about it. You can substitute tung oil if you want a lighter amber color. You can also substitute turpentine for MS and poly for varnish.

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I’m more of a sissy with stains and blame it on the fact that I like the color that Mother Nature gave the wood. I seldom vary from Arm R Seal. And I’d much rather pay 10% more when I need it than have it go bad on the shelf or not use it at a bargain. 

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23 minutes ago, K Cooper said:

I’m more of a sissy with stains and blame it on the fact that I like the color that Mother Nature gave the wood. I seldom vary from Arm R Seal. And I’d much rather pay 10% more when I need it than have it go bad on the shelf or not use it at a bargain. 

Same.  Occassionally I'll get brave and venture toward Minwax wipe on poly, or most recently Waterlox...both of which have extremely similar properties, application method and results as ARS :D

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I've never tried waterlox the price has always kept me away and it doesn't seem a whole lot different that the 2 wiping polys. I don't mix either. I don't have time to keep 3 ingredients and mix them it's easiest to just buy it. Doesn't look any different to me anyway.

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3 hours ago, Chestnut said:

I've never tried waterlox the price has always kept me away and it doesn't seem a whole lot different that the 2 wiping polys. 

I used it on my living room end table, lamp and coffee table and have to admit I was impressed goes on super easy and builds up a little bit while still letting the wood be the star of the show.

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15 hours ago, pkinneb said:

I used it on my living room end table, lamp and coffee table and have to admit I was impressed goes on super easy and builds up a little bit while still letting the wood be the star of the show.

+1  Waterlox is a super easy finish to apply. My understanding is that the contents are very similar to the BLO, MS, Varnish mix. Both are great finishes for beginners. However, neither is as durable or spill resistant as poly.

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