Picking the best finishing product for a project can prove to be a complex task. Unfortunately, no one type of finish will work for all projects. When thinking about what finishes to pick, it is essential to consider factors including protection, durability, repairability, the application process, and how it will look when complete.
Before jumping into the project, think about the level of skill needed to do the project right. There are various external factors at play when finishing millwork, including the temperature of the shop, sanding dust that may be lurking in the air, and dry time. Think about if spray equipment will be needed and if there is enough room in the shop for the entire setup. Don’t be afraid to practice on scrap pieces before getting to work!
A common mistake that beginners make is reaching for the wax as a primary finishing product. In reality, wax should be used only as a secondary finish because it will wear away easily. Wax does a nice job on top of shellac or lacquer to add buffing to the millwork.
If protection is the most critical factor for the project, a varnish may be the perfect product. They are designed to protect the wood from water, heat, solvents, and chemicals. The varnish can do this because it is made from synthetic resins modified with drying oils and polymerized millwork.
Shellac is an excellent option for projects that need to be protected from water. Additionally, shellac does not contain some of the harsh chemicals that are included in other finishes. Shellacs are also available in a variety of forms so they can be customized to your specific needs.
Lacquers are also available in a variety of types. The benefits of a lacquer include that they dry fast while still adding depth to the wood. Additionally, lacquer is used frequently for furniture builds because of its durability. Lacquers provide moderate protection from water damage but are not designed to protect from high temperatures. If working with lighter millwork, stick to an acrylic-modified lacquer to avoid any unwanted yellowing of the wood.