I’ve been thinking more about finishing woodworking projects since I wrote 7 Best Sandpaper Brands: Klingspor vs. Norton vs. 3M in the Sanding Supplies Showdown. As luck would have it I stumbled on the SawmillCreek thread “Finishing Supplies: Must Haves.”

I like how the OP (original poster) has realized that improving his finishes may well boost him to “the next level.” The respondents provide several great ideas for new woodworkers seeking some simple finishing techniques and concepts.

Top 3 Finishes Mentioned:
>> Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO)
“Linseed oil does not cover the surface as varnish does, but soaks into the (visible and microscopic) pores, leaving a shiny but not glossy surface that shows off the grain. Wood treated with linseed oil is resistant to denting and scratches and easily repaired, but the surface is not as hard as a modern varnish, and the wood will slowly absorb moisture if allowed to stay wet.”

Boiled Linseed Oil from Wikipedia
How to Finish Wood With Linseed Oil
Linseed Oil Discussed briefly in “Using Wipe-On Varnishes and Oils”

>> Shellac
“shellac is non-toxic, can be used as a sealer before applying a stain (to even out the stain’s application), can be mixed with nearly any color, and is very easy to repair in the event of damage from use.”

Shellac Finishes – Getting a Beautiful Woodworking Finish with Shellac

>> Spray Lacquers
“A spectacular grain “picture” calls for a spectacular finish, and a polished lacquer is the ideal choice for such a piece of wood. Lacquer has the unique ability among finishes to build a durable crystal clear film that gives depth and clarity to the wood surface. Lacquer is the easiest of all finishes to apply, but it is also the most difficult to do well because it is the least forgiving of anything that we can put on a piece of wood.”

Finishing Secrets #11: Lacquer by Russ Fairfield
Choosing an HVLP System

>>Also Consider Water-Based Finishes
Water based finishes weren’t included in that forum thread from SMC. Apparently they never quite work as well as their chemically based counterparts. Some people swear by them though because they are easier on your health.

Making the switch to water-based finishes
Switching to Water-Based Finishes
Favorite Waterborne Topcoat?
Why use water-based finish? With all the problems, why bother?

Recommended Finishing Equipment
Note that this list is taken directly from ‘Creeker Tim Sproul.

good hvlp sprayer(s).
tapered round brushes.
assorted colors of both dyes and pigments.
Target Coatings USL and 9300 for topcoats
Target Coatings EM8800 and water shellac for sealing
synthetic abrasive pads.
Norton 3x sandpaper.
Lazy susan stands for the work to set on.
latex gloves – Nitrile gloves get eaten by the denatured alcohol.
lint free cotton rags.
glass measuring cups for repeatable dilution of dyes/pigments.
Lots of scrap wood to cobble together stands and other implements to set the work on.
Butcher paper roll.
Pieces of scrap carpeting to lay down so I don’t ding the work while sanding/assembling/finishing.

More Finishing Resources:
Understanding Wood Finishing (comes well recommended from SMC)

Selecting a Finish Article by Jeff Jewitt in Fine Woodworking
Finishing Articles by Jeff Jewitt
Jeff Jewitt is #31 in ToolCrib.com’s Guide to Your 31 Most Influential Woodworkers
Finishing Secrets by Russ Fairfield
Consumer vs. Pro Finishes
History of HVLP Sprayers

Wood Finishing: French Polish