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Wood finishing is a mystery to many woodworkers. But I think this video above will help communicate the essentials to the craft of applying a nice, smooth, clear protective finish on a piece of furniture.

What Are The Basics of Getting a Fantastic Wood Finish?

  1. Apply several light coats rather than thick, heavy coats
  2. Let each coat dry thoroughly
  3. Scuff before applying the next coat and
  4. Polish the final coat after it cures for a couple of weeks

So the video above walks you through those 4 steps on a solid American walnut wood desk top. The video is actually the second part in a series on how I finished my custom built standing height desk. Since the ash base is dyed black and glazed with a gray stain for a unique look, I put that in a separate tutorial. More about how I finished that in “Part 1” >

The solid walnut top, above, is a slightly different story. I finished it with just a hand-rubbed tung oil varnish, applying 8 coats to protect the top surface while giving the walnut a gorgeous, natural warm glow, too.

In this video, you’ll follow along as I work through each step from prepping the raw panel all the way to polishing the final coat.

Watch the Video to Get a Few Pointers On:

  • dealing with a cupped solid wood panel
  • wet-sanding an oil finish to highlight the grain
  • using a sanding sponge
  • scuffing with synthetic finishing pads
  • polishing the last coat for a beautiful shine

Products Used:

  • Old Masters Tung Oil Varnish
  • Howard Restor-A-Shine Polishing Compound
  • Synthetic finishing pads
  • 220-grit sanding sponge
  • Scott Shop Towels

Quick Gallery of Images of The Walnut Top:

Vice President of Operations – Woodworkers Source
We’re a family-owned lumber & woodworking supply retailer with 3 delightful stores in Arizona, and 35 friendly employees.
Mark oversees the company and creates tutorials on wood finishing and woodworking tips for hardwood lumber.

Discussion, Questions & Answers


  • Wonderful, glad to hear it. One quart will be more than enough for both speaker cabinets. Ideally you’d use it in weather under 90 degrees. If it’s hotter, work in smaller sections at a time. I don’t think speaker cabinets would really need much uv protection, they’re going to live indoors (most likely, right?). But if you want it the extra uv protection, I might be inclined to recommend General Finishes High Performance Water Based topcoat (probably needs a coat of dewaxed shellac first, then this topcoat. For adhesion).
    Otherwise, just let the tung oil varnish dry, then buff and polish.

  • James Savoie

    Great video Mark. How does this type of finish stand up to some of the fading walnut is susceptible to from UV light? I’m leaning towards another one of your finish recommendations using solar-lux dye… But I do love the look of this tung oil finish.

    • No, I would expect the wood to fade *some* over the years. The desk here is about a year old now, and I think it looks fine. in 10 years, the story will probably be different. For a table top, I don’t think it’s to big of a deal because it’s easy to remove and refinish. Consider that with your project.

  • tiarebeauty

    Mahalo Mark for such a thorough and easy to follow video! We are considering a kitchen remodel with an L-shaped reclaimed fir counter top and have been searching for the proper method to protect the top with a nice hand rubbed finish. We want to highlight the wood to match our cottage in Hawaii and feel the high glossy finishes overpower our laidback kitchen. Would the method presented here be ok to use for a kitchen counter top? Any suggestions on how to properly protect a wood counter top… Mahalo for your time!

    • This finish would work on a countertop. To varying degrees, water is problematic for just about any kind of wood finish. Just have to understand that going in. Fortunately this kind of finish is easy to rejuvenate with a light sanding and a fresh coat, so it’s not too big of a deal.

  • Michael Ferrari

    Great video, I am constructing a walnut bench that will be used outdoors. If I follow the same steps will my project be protected from the elements? Any suggestions will be appreciated! Thanks!

  • George M

    Great video and looking forward to using the product on my next project.

    Did you also apply the finish to the underside of the table top? I assume so or else the table might cup or warp?

    Thanks.

    • Yes, it’s applied to the bottom but not sanded in. Just wiped on and off.

  • Ken L

    If I use monocoat, will that be one step, and then done in a single day?

  • Katie Reichle

    where do you find the hand sanding sponge? its definitely not at homedepot. i cant even find anything like it. help

  • Bill Berens

    Mark it looks great. Would this method work for a walnut farmhouse table? Or would you recommend another process like Arm-r-seal or monocoat. I have never sealed a table top and want protection without a polyurethane glaze. Thoughts?

    • Pick any of the three you’re most comfortable with.
      This stuff I used isn’t much different from Arm-R-Seal. Conceptually they’re the same thing, oil + urethane. Different brands, so the minutiae of the recipe is probably different, but the end result is virtually indistinguishable. Both great products and work fine for a table.
      Monocoat would work too, it’s fantastic stuff (and quite expensive!).