Furniture Construction  

Applying Varnish to Furniture

 
 
 

Furniture Construction > Varnishing Furniture

 
woodworker applying varnish to cabinet details
A close-up photograph of a woodworker shows him applying varnish to the trim on detailed cabinetry.  The darker color of the varnish contrasts with the lighter grain of the cabinet wood.  Details like this, applied by hand, indicate skill and quality.


Once a woodworker has designed, built, and assembled a piece of furniture, the last task to be completed is finishing the surface. In addition to making the surface more aesthetically pleasing, finishing the surface also protects the wood and increases the furniture's durability. Furniture finishes such as varnish seal the wood and protect it from dirt, dust, and grime, and also prevent the wood from shifting and moving due to changes of temperature.

Before applying a finish, wood must be properly sanded to remove imperfections and to provide a flat, even surface. Sanding can be done by hand or machine, and the process typically involves starting with coarse-grit papers and graduating to finer-grit papers.

Once the furniture is properly sanded, you may choose to apply a sealer coat of finish. Whether or not you choose sealer will depend on the type of wood you are finishing, as well as the finish you are using. Some finishes are considered self-sealing, and don't require an additional sealer. Shellac and oil-based finishes do not require sealer underneath them on most woods, while many lacquer and water-based finishes work better with sealer underneath them. When it comes to wood, denser woods don't require sealer while softer woods can benefit from it, especially when finished with lacquer. Some woods, such as rosewood, have an antioxidant that prevents finishes from curing. When finishing these woods, it makes sense to use a sealer, especially under oil-based finishes.

Finish comes in a variety of colors, including clear. When choosing color it's important to consider how the stain will react with the type of wood. Some woods, such as certain hardwoods like maple and cherry and most softwoods, can accept stain unevenly.

Finishes can be wiped, brushed, or sprayed on. Consider gel stains, which don't drip or splash, for vertical surfaces.


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Woodworker Varnishing Furniture Details