The Best Wood Finish You Need for Your Work This Year

Without a wood finish, your woodworking projects are going to be completely destroyed. A good finish is going to protect your wood against the elements as well as enhancing the beauty of it. With a finish, you’re going to get the satisfaction of a job well done at the end of the day. We’ve put together a list of the best finishes on the market right now, as well as our top three picks for different types of projects.

Top 3 Wood Finishes

10
Minwax Polycrylic Water

Minwax Polycrylic Water Based Finish

When you’re woodworking, things aren’t always going to go according to plan. At some point, you’re going to be running out of time and in a rush to get your wood finished.
9.5
Tried and True Original Wood Finish

Tried and True Original Wood Finish Long Lasting

Here’s another wood finish that’s only suitable for internal use, except this time we’re working with a linseed oil-based finish rather than a water-based one.
9
Everbuild Quick Drying Wood Stain Finish

Everbuild Quick Drying Wood Stain Finish Quick Dry

This is another quick-drying finish like the Minwax water-based finish that we’ve already talked about. However, this Everbuild formula has one thing that Minwax doesn’t.
9
Watco Danish Oil

Watco Danish Oil Best for Large Projects

This finish is great for all types of wood but works best if your piece has a deep appearance typical of classical handmade furniture. It’s a rich oil that enhances the natural beauty of the wood while adding an element of elegance to everything it touches.
8.5
DEFY Extreme Wood Stain

DEFY Extreme Wood Stain Best for Outdoor Work

DEFY Extreme, as the name implies, is an extreme stain finish that is designed to be used on pressure-treated wood that is going to resits other oil and water-based finishes.
8.5
Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths

Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths Best for Small Projects

The Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths solve the issue of finishing your small projects by taking the heavy varnish and brush process out of the equation.
8
Ronseal 10 Year - The Best Wood Finish You Need for Your Work This Year - HandyMan.Guide - Wood Finish

Ronseal 10 Year Excellent product

Ronseal has been a staple in the wood finishing industry for a while now, so you know you’re getting a good quality product when you buy from the brand.

Minwax Polycrylic Water

Based Finish
It does have one drawback, though, and that’s the fact that it can only be used indoors. If you don’t need to do any outside piece work, though, then this is going to be perfect for your wood finishes.
10Expert Score
Ultra fast-drying formula

When you’re woodworking, things aren’t always going to go according to plan. At some point, you’re going to be running out of time and in a rush to get your wood finished.

Water clean-up
9.5
Fast drying
9
Pros
  • You're going to save time and energy with the ultra-fast drying formula used in this solution.
  • Its water-based formula means that there aren't as many harmful chemicals and odors in the finish.
  • You're not going to get any sort of yellow wood stain like you would with a lacquer wood finish.
Cons
  • It's not the strongest wood finish, making it unsuitable for outside wood projects.
  • It also isn't recommended for floor use.

When you’re woodworking, things aren’t always going to go according to plan. At some point, you’re going to be running out of time and in a rush to get your wood finished.

It might be that there’s about to be a storm that’s going to destroy your new decking, or maybe you’re working on a piece for someone else. Either way, you don’t have time to sit around waiting for an oil-based varnish to dry.

Minwax Polycrylic Water

That’s the specialty of Minwax Polycrylic water-based finish. It’s a fast-drying wood finish that’s going to save you the hassle of waiting for a heavier wood finish to dry.

It does have one drawback, though, and that’s the fact that it can only be used indoors. If you don’t need to do any outside piece work, though, then this is going to be perfect for your wood finishes.

In particular, if you’re working with wood that has a light shade such as ash, then the finish you get from this water-based mix is going to look pristine. It’s a non-yellowing finish, so your wood maintains that natural beauty and integrity when you finish it.

It’s easy to apply as it has no odor, so if mineral spirits tend to make you queasy, then this water-based solution is a viable alternative.

Feature Highlight

  • Incredibly quick drying time that cuts your project work time down significantly.
  • Non-yellowing so your wood retains the natural integrity of its color.
  • Minimal odor compared to stronger wood finishes like mineral spirits.

Tried and True Original Wood Finish

Long Lasting
The formula used in the wood finish is entirely non-toxic and allergen-free. This makes it ideal for when you’re working on a wood project like children’s toys or kitchen furniture.
9.5Expert Score
A superior blend of linseed oil & beeswax

Here’s another wood finish that’s only suitable for internal use, except this time we’re working with a linseed oil-based finish rather than a water-based one.

Excellent coating
9.5
No glossy finish
9
Pros
  • A great natural formula that is safe to use.
  • Long-lasting, penetrating finishes that are going to protect your wood for years to come.
  • It gives natural protection without degrading the beauty of the wood.
  • Easy brush application
Cons
  • Only for indoor use.
  • It's going to take you several hours to fully finish your project.
  • It isn't as powerful as other oil finishes.

Here’s another wood finish that’s only suitable for internal use, except this time we’re working with a linseed oil-based finish rather than a water-based one.

The entirety of this wood finish is based on fully natural ingredients and extracts. This gives it a unique property that allows it to enhance the natural beauty of the wood without overpowering it with any sort of glossy effect.

Tried and True Original Wood Finish

The formula used in the wood finish is entirely non-toxic and allergen-free. This makes it ideal for when you’re working on a wood project like children’s toys or kitchen furniture.

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This non-toxic formula also means that there are no heavy metal driers or solvents in the finish.

This finish, while fantastic, might take you a little longer to use compared to other wood finishes. It needs to be applied in thin layers with at least one hour between coats.

Depending on the project, you’re going to need two to three coats of this linseed oil-based finish, so make sure you’re taking that into account if you’re going to use it.

Feature Highlight

  • The unique 100% solids beeswax and linseed oil-based formula hardens over time. This means that your project gets better protection as time progresses compared to other wood finishes.
  • It has a 100% natural formula that is free from metal driers and solvents, making it friendly for children and kitchen work.

Everbuild Quick Drying Wood Stain Finish

Quick Dry
It is able to be applied to hardwood floors and to wood projects that you’re doing outside. If you’re trying to finish off something like a wooden patio before the rain sets in, this is going to be the finish you want to use.
9Expert Score
Multi-purpose applications

This is another quick-drying finish like the Minwax water-based finish that we’ve already talked about. However, this Everbuild formula has one thing that Minwax doesn’t.

More durable as it ages
9.5
Environment Friendly
9
Pros
  • The quick-drying formula used in the finish dries to the touch 30 minutes after application.
  • It's going to offer strong protection for your project against the elements.
  • It has hard-wearing protection.
Cons
  • It's a harsher formal than some of the finishes we've already listed.
  • It's unsuitable for projects that might be ingested in some form, like toys or chopping boards.

This is another quick-drying finish like the Minwax water-based finish that we’ve already talked about. However, this Everbuild formula has one thing that Minwax doesn’t.

It is able to be applied to hardwood floors and to wood projects that you’re doing outside. If you’re trying to finish off something like a wooden patio before the rain sets in, this is going to be the finish you want to use.

Everbuild Quick Drying Wood Stain Finish

It dries to the touch within 30 minutes of application and is both weatherproof and UV resistant. This level of protection does mean that it’s a harsher finish compared to the light formula used by the other water-based finishes we’ve talked about, so keep that in mind before you go applying this to anything that might get ingested.

The finish that the stain gives itself is gorgeous, albeit not similar to the clear finishes offered by the water-based solutions. It’s a stain, so you’re going to be changing the appearance of the surface of the wood when you apply it.

It does come in a few different wood surface colors, though, so you can customize the look of the stain to the appearance of the project that you’re working on.

Features Highlight

  • It’s a quick-drying formula that is suitable for outside use.
  • It comes in different colors that make it suitable for almost all kinds of wood.
  • The formal is weather resistant and UV proof.

Watco Danish Oil

Best for Large Projects
This finish is great for all types of wood but works best if your piece has a deep appearance typical of classical handmade furniture. It’s a rich oil that enhances the natural beauty of the wood while adding an element of elegance to everything it touches.
9Expert Score
QUALITY THAT LASTS – DEFY

Water-based and boiled linseed oil-based formulas are all well and good for the majority of projects, but both of those lack a certain classical edge.

Non-Toxic
9.5
Food Safe
9
Pros
  • Beautiful formula.
  • Great protection.
  • Easy application when applied using a brush.
Cons
  • You have a six-hour touch drying time on the formula
  • If you want to follow up this finish with lacquer or varnish, you should wait at least three days.

Water-based and boiled linseed oil-based formulas are all well and good for the majority of projects, but both of those lack a certain classical edge.

When you’re working on some handcrafted wooden furniture, you want to embellish the wood with your finish, not just protect it.

Watco Danish Oil

That’s where Watco Danish Oil excels. The oil formula used in this oil is unique. It’s a precise blend of varnish and oils that allows it to deliver surface finishes that are better than 99% of other danish oil finishes on the market.

It’s going to penetrate your woodwork projects deep, seeping into the wood and giving it an authentic finish that is going to enhance the appearance of the wood surface beyond belief.

You can apply this to all types of wood pieces regardless of the wood surface. If your wood has been sanded, stripped, or is bare, you’re going to be able to apply Watco Danish Oil. That being said, it’s not suitable for application to your wooden floors.

The finish itself is easy to apply but does have a six-hour touch drying time. That’s faster than some oil finishes out there, but it’s still a length of time that you need to take into consideration before you start. You can apply this oil with either a rag or a natural bristle brush; just make sure that you’re applicator of choice is clean.

The oil offers a lot of protection on top of the stellar finish that it provides. It’s going to prevent common issues like chipping, peeling, as well as any damage that it might undertake from general wear and tear.

It’s also a surface finish that hardens over time, much like the linseed oil varnish that we’ve already talked about. This makes maintaining your piece over time, less of a chore than it would be with other finish options.

This finish is great for all types of wood but works best if your piece has a deep appearance typical of classical handmade furniture. It’s a rich oil that enhances the natural beauty of the wood while adding an element of elegance to everything it touches. It provides all of this while also offering some great protection that gives even the best outdoor furniture finishes a battle.

Features Highlight

  • It has a rich finish that is going to make the appearance of your wood look stunningly beautiful.
  • It has a unique oil varnish blend that offers more protection than your typical oil-based finish.

DEFY Extreme Wood Stain

Best for Outdoor Work
Our pick for the best finish for outdoor woodworking is DEFY Extreme. The formula that is used for this finish is more powerful than almost any other available today. It’s capable of seeping into the pressure treated wood that you’re working with outside far better than other finishes comes across, making it perfect for finishing up your decking and patios.
8.5Expert Score
EASY TO MAINTAIN

DEFY Extreme, as the name implies, is an extreme stain finish that is designed to be used on pressure-treated wood that is going to resits other oil and water-based finishes.

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EXTREMELY DURABLE
9.5
Semi-transparent
9
Pros
  • The water-based finish is semi-transparent, meaning you get cleaner wood surfaces compared to a lot of wood oils.
  • This finish is built to be used with pressure-treated woods on your outdoor projects.
Cons
  • It's not as natural looking as some other oil finish options we have on this list.
  • It's not going to make your woods look as good as some other aesthetic specialty finishes can.
  • You need to apply this finish when your wood is completely dry.

The wood finishes that we’ve already talked about have all been of a certain breed. We’ve talked about soft finishes that tend to be water-based. These are great non-toxins suitable for indoor use.

Then we talked about danish oil varnish that is great for furniture. However, there is one glaring omission in all of the categories that we’ve covered thus far, and that’s outside use.

Sure, there are other finishes on this list that can be used outside, but none of them specialize in it. DEFY Extreme does.

DEFY Extreme Wood Stain

The issue with applying a traditional finish to outside projects doesn’t tend to be the finish itself, but actually the wood.

You see, pressure-treated wood is widely popular for outdoor use, but you probably already know that. It helps to preserve and protect the wood against the elements, but it also means that the wood isn’t going to soak up your mineral oil or varnishes as easily.

DEFY Extreme, as the name implies, is an extreme stain finish that is designed to be used on pressure-treated wood that is going to resits other oil and water-based finishes.

DEFY Extreme itself is a semi-transparent water-based finish that comes in seven different types of colors. While this finish isn’t designed to maximize the beauty of your wood, it is going to enhance the grain so long as you use the right color.

Features Highlight

  • Perfect for outdoor projects thanks to its extreme formula.
  • Easy to apply using a brush.

Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths

Best for Small Projects
Our pick for the best finish for small projects is the Minwax wipes. These wipes are far different from traditional finishes in that it’s a disposable wipe that you throw away after each use. There’s no bulky brush or messy clean up when you’re done. You just run the wipe over your piece, and you’re done. It’s got great protection and leaves a beautiful stain finish provided if you apply it correctly.
8.5Expert Score
Fast and easy way to finish wood

The Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths solve the issue of finishing your small projects by taking the heavy varnish and brush process out of the equation.

Very easy to use
9.5
Effective.
9
Pros
  • One hour drying time.
  • The finish is perfect, looking for smaller projects.
  • It's much easier to apply this finish than using thick varnishes and oils.
Cons
  • These wipes are disposable, making them more expensive to use compared to other finishes.
  • Negative

This entry is unique compared to everything else we have talked about thus far.

Most finishes need to be applied using a brush. This can leave brush marks, as well as being a time-consuming process that you don’t need for every piece.

Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths

The Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths solve the issue of finishing your small projects by taking the heavy varnish and brush process out of the equation.

Once you’re done with the sanding process, all you have to do is run one of these wipes over the wood. The wipes are soaked in a stain finish that easily transfers to the wood that you’re working on.

You’re only going to need to apply the first coat with these wipes, and it dries within an hour of application.

Keep in mind that these wipes are one-time use, though. You’re not going to get as much bang for your buck as compared to other, more traditional finishes.

That being said, if you’re sick of trying to varnish smaller projects, these wipes are going to be perfect for you.

Features Highlight

  • These wipes have been designed with small projects in mind, making it extremely easy to get a gorgeous looking finish that can offer protection as good as traditional stain finishes.
  • It’s easy to apply this finish to your woods. There’s no brush involved; all you have to do is wipe it down.
  • Not having to mess around with a thick oil-based solvent means that finishing your wood with these wipes isn’t nearly as messy.

Ronseal 10 Year

Excellent product
It’s a quick-dry 30-minute formula that is water-resistant, UV resistant, and weather resistant. With other wood stain formulas like this, you may need to apply a primer before you apply the stain. That isn’t the case with this Ronseal formula. It’s ready to go right out of the tin.
8Expert Score
Lovely rich color good sheen

Ronseal has been a staple in the wood finishing industry for a while now, so you know you’re getting a good quality product when you buy from the brand.

Only 1 Coat needed
9.5
affordable
9
Pros
  • An affordable formula that delivers performance better than others at its price point.
  • Good protection that can withstand even the harshest weather conditions.
Cons
  • This stain isn't the best-looking one we've ever seen. It's not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but there are better-looking stain formulas for your woods out there.

Ronseal has been a staple in the wood finishing industry for a while now, so you know you’re getting a good quality product when you buy from the brand.

In particular, this 10-year stain is among the best wood finishes on this list for long-term external use.

It’s a quick-dry 30-minute formula that is water-resistant, UV resistant, and weather resistant. With other wood stain formulas like this, you may need to apply a primer before you apply the stain. That isn’t the case with this Ronseal formula. It’s ready to go right out of the tin.

These types of finishes tend to be hit or miss, either being fantastic or terrible. Ronseal sits somewhere in the middle.

It’s not the best external stain that we’ve covered, but it’s far from the worst that we’ve ever seen. It delivers a great stain finish for the price, so it gets a spot on our list.

Features Highlight

  • 10-year protection that is going to keep your external woods safe from UV, water, and other general weather conditions.

A Complete Guide to All Types of Wood Finishes

Maybe you’re not a fan of any of the wood conditioner recommendations that we’ve given. That’s fine; you’re entitled to your opinion.

In fact, that’s exactly why we’ve put this section of the article together for you. Rather than simply rattling off what we think delivers the best finish appearance and protection, we want to help you shop for a finish yourself.

Every single woodworking piece is different. Your situation might be unique, and as a result, requires a unique finish to get the job done. We’re going to run you through our buying process so that you can make an informed decision when shopping for finishes yourself.

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Why Finish Your Wood?

How to Stain Wood - The Best Wood Finish You Need for Your Work This Year

First, let’s talk about why you should finish your wood in the first place.

You’ve gone through a lot of effort to get your piece done. You’ve poured sweat, tears, and probably a bit of blood into crafting this piece of wood from a plank into something tangible and beautiful.

The last thing you want to see for this piece of art that you’ve created is for it to be destroyed by means outside your control.

Not only is that terrible for you, but imagine the nagging you’re going to get if the decking starts to rot from all the rain.

Using wood finishes helps to prevent all that. It provides a protective layer over your wood that keeps pests and other threats at bay. This is going to give you peace of mind and peace and quiet.

On top of that, though, using the first wood finish for your type of wood can significantly enhance the appearance of it.

Different wood species and different wood surface styles are all unique, and more often than not, look beautiful. If you’re making a coffee table for your living room, you want to make sure that it looks good. Using a finish, whether it be boiled linseed oil, mineral spirits, or a stain, is going to seal the wood and give it a completed look that looks like furniture rather than a piece of wood.

What to Consider Before Buying

Before you set out to buy your finish, there are a few things that we want you to consider.

You need to make sure you’re planning ahead with your woodworking; otherwise, you’re either going to waste money on a product you can’t use, or even worse, use that product and destroy your wood.

Style of Wood Finishing

When you think about wood finishing, consider what style of wood finishing you want in the first place. Do you want a clear finish that preserves the natural beauty of the wood? Maybe you want a stain that’s going to darken your furniture and add a classical air to the room.

Either way, you need to decide what wood finishing style you want before you buy. Picture the final result of your woodworking piece in your mind, and think about what would look best both for that piece and for the room that it’s going to be placed in.

Type of Finish

There are a lot of options out there for wood finishing. You have things like paste wax, stain, mineral spirits, semi-gloss varnish, tung tree oil, teak oil, and more. Even paint can be considered a finish.

Each of these finishes offers different benefits and drawbacks, as well as different methods of application.

If you’re using spirits or denatured alcohol, for example, you’re going to want to apply your wood finishing with a cloth. However, varnish should be applied with a brush.

As well as the application method, each type of wood finishing is going to offer different protections, levels of moisture resistance, and appearance.

Before you buy, consider what you actually need your wood finishing to do, and then make sure you’re buying the right finish for the job.

Consider Prep Work

Applying your wood finishing isn’t as simple as slapping a final coat on the entire surface of your wood and calling it a day. There is a process that must be adhered to, much like the rest of your woodworking.

First and foremost, you need to have sanded your wood. What grit sandpaper you use is up to you and largely dependent on the type of wood you’re using, but make sure the grit sandpaper is strong enough to get your wood smooth. Otherwise, your final coat isn’t going to look at good as it should.

Make sure you have your brush and tack cloth on hand if that’s what you’re using to apply your finish, and set aside time to actually do your varnish.

Price

Lastly, you need to think about the price of your finish. Whether we like it or not, woodworking can get expensive, even when it comes to a finish. Tung oil is not going to cost you the same as an amber tone polyurethane or denatured alcohol.

Some oil and varnish finish formulas can get extremely expensive, but be aware that you generally get what you pay for when it comes to these varnish and oil products.

If you’re working with extremely expensive luxury wood, spend the extra cash on a good oil. Not only is this going to protect your piece, but it’s going to enhance the beauty of the wood too.

FAQs

Is it Better to Use a Brush or a Cloth?

There is no definitive better method to apply finish to your woods. However, both methods are better with varying types of finishes. You want to use a brush with things like varnishes and some oils. Whereas if you’re applying a spirit to your woods, you’re going to use a cloth. A lot of the decision here is based on how thick the texture of your finish is.

Do All Woods Need to be Finished?

Technically, no. In reality, though, yes. If you’re not finishing your woodworking, you’re going to damage it and notice that the condition of it degrades rapidly over time.

What is the Best Finish?

There is no ‘one’ best finish. Every finish is suitable for different scenarios, different woods, and different looks.

What wood finishes are safe for food?

  1. tung oil
  2. Raw Linseed Oil
  3. Food Grade Mineral Oil
  4. Walnut oil
  5. Food Grade Beeswax
  6. Carnauba wax
  7. ShellacF
  8. Paraffin Wax
  9. Raw Coconut Oil

You can read more about Best food safe wood finishes here

Conclusion

There you have it, that’s our definitive guide to the best wood finishes on the market right now, as well as what we looked for when deciding what to buy. Hopefully, you’ve found this article helpful to your woodworking endeavors. While we have our favorite finishes, as we highlighted at the top of the article, that doesn’t mean that you have to use them. Get the finish that best suits your project. If you’ve found this article helpful, you can check out some of the other woodworking tips, tricks, and guides that we have on the site.

Itamar Ben Dor

My father is a practical engineer, and as a hobby he was also involved in construction, renovations, carpentry and woodwork at home; So there was always tools, saws, drills and more at home. Already I was a little kid Dad and I would renovate the house. Once we built a shed for garden tools, once we did flooring for the garden, once we renovated the bathroom and that’s the way it is. Long before there was an internet, directories and plans. We would build things, kitchen cabinets, install electrical appliances, do flooring, pour concrete and more ... I in this blog want to pass on to you the experience I have gained over the last 20 plus-minus years since I was a child to this day and give you information about the best tools, project plans, guides and more.

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