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What is a solid wood finish? Which finish is best for your desk/table top?

Let’s talk wood finishes. Starting with an explanation of what they are (and what they aren’t!) and a discussion of the various options available for your solid wood desk top.

What is a Wood Finish?

A wood finish is a protective coating applied to the surface of wood to enhance its appearance, durability, and longevity. Our configuration form is purposefully vague as the exact finish when ordering, to allow you (the customer), and the partner, to decide the best finish for your exact project, even down to the brand you might choose to use.

A finish is not a type of wood. I.e. a “standard walnut finish” is a standard finish on solid walnut, not (for instance) pine stained to look like walnut (which would be a “stained walnut finish on pine”).

Finishes to affect the look and feel of the top

Standard finish

A standard finish has no colouring, and aims to simply bring out the existing features and grain of the oak, it also helps the top to wether spills. If dried quickly, a standard finish oil or wax will repel water. Partners frequently use Mylands finishing oil (oak/walnut) / Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C Pure (oak/walnut) / Fiddes & Sons Wax Polish (pine) for a standard finish.

Pigmented oil finishes (oak)

Perhaps you want your top to look a little different from the natural colour. Generally this is achieved by adding pigment to the oil (oak), or staining the top then adding a sealant to lock the colour in (pine). Walnut is not generally stained, it’s colour is unique to the wood, and normally the main reason for choosing it. Some common options for oak and pine are shown below, you can detail the finish name in the ‘Extras’ section of the configuration form. Samples can be added to your order request.

Oil finishes on oak can be topped up at any time you see fit over the course of your table top’s life. Click to learn how to repair a damaged area on your solid wood desk top.

Stained finishes

To achieve a more radical stain the partner will firstly sand down the wood with 120 grit sand paper, then polish it off with 320 grit. They will then generously spray on “Morrells Light Fast Wood Stain” or similar, then leave the stain set for about 20 seconds and then wipe off any excess. Finally it will be left to dry for at least 30 minutes and then a standard finish and/or sealant will be applied on top.

You may request a specific colour match in the order notes at checkout or send photos after your order of the furniture. Remember, wood can only be stained darker, not lighter; and there is no such thing as a perfect match! Note: Staining a top can make it harder to top up the finish later if you water damage it etc.

Oak Coloured Finishes

Pine Coloured Finishes

Pictures of finishes

A combination of the camera, the light at the time of taking the picture, and your screen means taking a picture of our finishes is never 100% accurate. Even when you have your desk top, it will look different at different times of the day.

Click here to see full resolution sample pictures, as close as we can colour match them digitally, along with some other pictures below in different lighting conditions that hopefully help your decision making process.

Finishes to improve the durability of the top

Another reason to add a specific finish to the solid wood of choice is to make it more hard wearing.

Perhaps the top is for a dining table, and so needs to be extra hardy against water and grease, also food safe. Perhaps the desk top is for use in a public or education setting.

Learn more about how to water proof a solid wood desk here. The post discusses the pros and cons of using polyurethane, lacquer, OSMO, wax & oil finishes. Your solid wood partner will be more than happy to quote for any finish you both agree on, and also send out samples if required before confirming the order.

Reasons to request a specific finish

After deep diving into finishes, you may have some reasons to be very specific as to which you would like to use. Perhaps you have existing furniture finished with a certain product. Perhaps you are sensitive to which chemicals might be used in certain finishes (some finishes may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs)). Or perhaps the desk/table top is being used in a very specific way, and needs to be protected.

Whatever the reason, if you have a specific finish in mind, you have 2 options:

  1. Purchase the top unfinished. This attracts a discount. The top will be fully sanded and ready for you to then source and apply the desired finish yourself.
  2. Inform the partner of the finish. They will source and apply the finish for you. They will deliver any left over finish along with the top for your future use.

Whether you prefer the naturalness of an oil finish or the durability of polyurethane, there’s a wood finish to suit your requirements, if you have any questions please feel free to get in touch.

Order a solid wood top with your desired finish today

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