We use Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat, made with the highest-quality urethane resin because it is incredibly durable and long-lasting. It penetrates the wood to provide deep-down protection, and we love the natural appearance, going on clear and showing off the grain of the wood. We feature our Extra Large Size Keepsake Box in the upper right corner of this photo, finished with Arm-R-Seal.

Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat requires three coats, with a 12-24-hour dry time between coats. Inadequate dry time is one of the top reasons for finish failures. If in doubt, we wait longer. Besides the obvious protection, the urethane finish provides for the wood, many woodworkers, including us, find urethane more visually appealing than lacquer on the finished product.

Lacquer has the fastest dry time, though we do not use it in our shops. Even though it is more cost-effective since just one coat is needed to finish the wood, it does leave the wood more prone to scratches. Most types of Lacquer have a high VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) content, thus being more harmful to the environment than urethane. Lacquer gives a shine, a look we do not prefer. We like the warmth, and depth Arm-R-Seal brings out in the wood grains.

We use High Performance, a water-based polyurethane, for our Sliding Lid Boxes, White Washed Stain Boxes, and Door Hanger Signs.  It will not yellow; it goes on clear and stays clear over time. It is a film finish; therefore, it gives a smooth non-wood finish. Since this finish is clear, it will not enhance the appearance of the grain the way oil-based urethane finishes do, as you can see in our photo above. However, it is the winner of Fine Woodworking’s “Best Overall Choice Award,” voted as the most complex, most durable polyurethane topcoat. It dries crystal clear, contains a UV stabilizer to protect it from breaking down in sunlight, and is the most durable product. It still requires three coats, though dry time is only 2 hours between each.

Also featured in our photo comparison:
Watco Danish Oil and Tried & True are varnish-type products made from linseed oil, so they are likely to yellow over time.

Shellac comes in different colors and may change color slightly as it ages. Heat can affect wood finished with shellac.

Wax is the easiest to apply and easy to repair due to mistakes during the application. However, it has the poorest water and scratch resistance and only fair resistance to chemicals. Woodworkers do not typically use wax as a complete finish. When combined with other finishes, there will be scratch protection such as shellac and lacquer.

We differentiate ourselves from the marketplace in the pride we take in finishing our products. Finishing is an art and a science. It takes years of practice to understand the properties and tendencies of each type of finish, learning the proper steps and techniques to apply and execute each step flawlessly.

Thank you for reading this post, and let us know if you have any questions!

Christy and Tyler