Finishing Question


I had a question about finishes. I mainly use pine and like to use a stain to get the color I want and then use polyurethane to get a gloss and protecting coat on top. My question is what is the difference between polyurethane, shellac, and lacquer? I have only used polyurethane and was just wondering if shellac and lacquer can do the same job, or have better benefits than using polyurethane. Also do you have any favorite types of finish that would work well with pine?

thanks for your help, and keep making the awesome videos!


There is a big difference between poly, shellac, and lacquer.  For now, forget about shellac.  Lacquer works great if you are set up  with a sprayer and a ventilated work area. Lacquer is an evaporation finish.  Each layer you apply “melts” into the previous on, making for one solid layer of finish.  It’s  what most people use in industry.

Conventional products like Poly and Varnish are film finishes.  You must sand between each coat of finish so the next layer has something to bind to.  These finishes dry slow which makes them great for brushing.  The trade off is that dust can settle into the wet finish affecting the quality of your work.

Two tips for preventing dust from getting into your wet finish:

  1. Vacuum everything in your work area and get rid of as much dust as possible, including the floors. Vacuum after each time you sand your finish, before you apply the following coat.
  2. Using a weed sprayer, mist the floor with water each time before you go to apply your finish.  You can get a weed sprayer at any home and garden store.

As far as a favorite finish, buy Traditional Finishing Techniques.  Read the article on Oil-varnish Mixture by Garrett Hack on page 74.

If you want to learn more about all the different types of finish, buy Understanding Wood Finishing: How to Select and Apply the Right Finish.  It is the bible of finishing.

Good Luck and always ware a respirator.


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