How Do You Protect Unfinished Wood Furniture?

The easiest way to protect unfinished wood furniture is to seal the wood, which protects it from heat, moisture, stains, spills and surface abrasion. Applying a coat or two of paste wax can help condition the wood and provide a very natural-looking finish. Sanding it with a combination of 100-grit and then a 220-grit sandpaper removes stains before the paste wax is applied and seals the wood.

Paste wax has been used for centuries as a finish protector and a finishing material. It doesn't interfere with future refinishing and provides a soft sheen. Some of the most commonly used paste wax varieties are soft beeswax and carnuba or palm wax; these need to be rubbed into the wood thoroughly and then buffed with a soft cloth after drying for 20 minutes. Paste wax, however, requires hard work, and it may take several hours to finish a dining table set. An alternative to paste wax is a traditional thinned shellac. Aside from protecting the wood from the elements, it also retains the clarity of the wood details, such as knots and the natural grain. Shellac can be applied with a sturdy paintbrush or a cloth.

Many woodworkers use tung oil, also known as China wood oil, because it adds a perpetual wet look and a subtle rich, warm tone that slightly darkens as the wood ages. It is best applied with a wiping cloth and requires about three coatings to protect the wood. Tung oil protects the wood from damage, dust, acetone, alcohol and various acids.