Finishing bare wood with a clear coat can be daunting. There’s a lot that can go wrong, but laying down a sealer first will give you better results. Woodworker Stephen Evan’s favorite sealer is clear shellac because it can be used under just about any clear finish. Penetrating deep into the wood fibers, it improves topcoat adhesion, flattens out the surface and improves the “depth” of the final finish. Brush or spray it on, allow it to dry and then lightly sand with 320-grit sandpaper before applying topcoats. A single coat is enough. This coat isn’t meant to be heavy, so don’t be tempted to build another layer. Too much sealer can cause problems.