Wood Finishing Guide

This wood finishing guide was written for those who are new to woodworking, and need a little help applying a great finish. Wood finishing is an art, and it can take a lifetime to learn all the tricks and techniques. However, traditional hand applied finishes are easy to learn, and they look incredible.

My free PDF guide called the 10 Step Guide to Wood Finishing shows anyone how to apply a fantastic looking finish. The material focuses on hand applied finishes, eliminating the need for fancy equipment. If you have a can of finish and a clean cloth, you can follow these instructions and end up with a beautiful finish on the very first try.

wood finishing guide

The first step to wood finishing is to select a finish for the project. With a hundred different cans on the shelf, this can be a daunting task. The wood finishing guide covers this, and gets you on a good path right out of the gate.

The next step to applying a great finish is preparing the surface well. Spend the time sanding to remove all scratches and tool marks. The finish will not hide these, in fact it will amplify them.

After that, any fills can be done, and a de-wiskering. This raises the grain and prevents it from making your smooth wood surface rough after the first coat.

Once the surface is ready, applying very thin coats is always better than applying thick coats. Also, allowing the coats to dry well makes a difference. A wet coat applied over a partially dry coat can slow things down quite a bit, so have patience and the process will go smoothly.

This wood finishing guide is packed with information, but the most important thing to remember is apply thin coats. Thin coats dry faster, stay level, and require far less work than thick coats.

a beginners guide to woodworking helping new woodworkers make better projects woodworking

Sanding between coats, residue removal, curing the finish, and finishing the finish are the final steps in the process. These ensure that the finish is as smooth as possible, and that the surface cures well to protect the piece. Finishing the finish is an optional step. Anyone who applies their finish with a cloth, and applies very thin coats, will end up with a glossy smooth finish that requires no additional work.

I use these same finishing techniques on all of my woodworking projects, from acoustic guitars to wooden rings, and everything in between. The processes are also covered in my books, Acoustic Guitar Making: How to make Tools, Templates, and Jigs and Wooden Rings: How To Make Wooden Rings By Hand. These are time honored techniques, and can be used to finish a wide variety of wood projects.

If you like this guide, my 50 Woodworking Tips is another free PDF that can help beginners expand their knowledge of the craft. Most seasoned woodworkers already know these things, but that’s the point. As a beginner, having one place with a lot of information can be very helpful. Getting over the initial hump of learning many aspects of woodworking takes time, but guides like this make it easier.

Do you have any questions about applying finishes by hand? Leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Happy building.


  1. Do you use only carnauba wax on your wooden rings, or do you use something else before the wax. I made a wood ring with a silver liner and used epoxy-resin, but it flakes off the side against the liner, so any finishing help is appreciated.

    • Thank you Michael. My wedding ring has a titanium liner, but I finished it differently. I know that sometimes epoxy does not like to stick well to smooth metallic surfaces, like your silver ring. On mine, I buffed and waxed it, and since it was made from Briar, it ages like a tobacco pipe, needing very little maintenance to keep the mellow sheen and look. The only way to really help epoxy adhere to metal is to scratch the surface with sandpaper to give the epoxy something to bite onto. The down side to that method is that you are most likely going to see those scratches through the epoxy. Another option is to only finish the wooden areas, and stop where the wood and metal meet. That’s how I did my ring. I knew that the metal ring was fine to wear right out of the box, so I only invested the time to protect the wood. Hopefully that helps you. If not, please send me an email with some pictures of your ring and I will see if I can spot a solution. Happy building.


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