How to protect finish wood

Wood finishing. Protecting and beautifying a furniture surface.

On an old piece, strip off the finish and make any repairs. If a surface feels smooth, sand it with fine (120) paper; otherwise start with medium (80) and then switch to fine. Finish with very fine (220 for softwoods, 280 for hardwoods). Dampen the wood to raise the grain, let it dry, and sand again. The wet wood’s color is close to what you’ll get with a clear finish. Apply stain for a different color. Vacuum well after sanding and wipe with a tack cloth. To preserve an antique’s look, don’t sand it-or sand as little as necessary.

A penetrating oil finish

For a natural-looking finish, use tung oil or a synthetic-resin oil, such as Danish oil or teak oil. Apply the oil liberally with a cloth. With tung oil, rub vigorously to help it penetrate. If an area dulls, add more oil. After 45 minutes, wipe off the excess. Wait 24 hours; then repeat the process. Put a third coat on a heavily used surface. Smooth the dried final coat with steel wool dipped in oil; wipe dry.

A varnished or lacquered finish Fora hard, surface-sealing finish, use varnish or lacquer. Coat a coarse-grained wood, such as oak, walnut, or mahogany, with a paste wood filler. Mix it with a penetrating-oil wood stain, if necessary, to match the wood’s natural or stained color. Thin it as directed. Then rub it vigorously into the pores, using a soft cotton cloth. Work with the grain, then across it. When the filler dulls (10 to 15 minutes), carefully wipe across the grain with burlap to clean off excess. Let it dry overnight. Sand with very fine paper.

You should seal a stained, filled, or antique surface. Mix one part shellac with four parts denatured alcohol. Make thin, even strokes with a clean, natural-bristle varnish brush. Let it dry for 4 or 5 hours. Sand with very fine paper. If you plan to use polyurethane varnish, seal instead with the thinned varnish, as the label directs.