Wood Finishing Tips

How to prepare your wood and apply stain or varnish for a silky smooth finish.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Dust mask
  • Orbital sander
  • Paintbrush

For water-based finishes, use synthetic bristle brushes and foam pads.

For oil-based finishes, use natural bristle brushes.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Use medium through extra-fine grit sandpaper for sanding raw wood.
  • Use 180 grit or finer sandpaper and steel wool substitute (not steel wool) between coats.
  • Water or oil based polyurethane (use exterior grade for outdoor projects).
  • Compatible stains (optional). If in doubt, use stains and finish from the same manufacturer.