American Hardwoods
Real American Hardwoods

Comparison of Finish Products

Finishes such as varnishes, shellacs, oil- and water-based products, vary on measures related to durability and working qualities. Each finish type has advantages and disadvantages. Here is a comparison chart of common finish products to help you choose the best finishes for your projects.

Working Quality Wax Shellac Nitro cellulose
Most waterbased
Ease of application Excellent Good Fair Good
Repairability Excellent Excellent Excellent Poor
Water resistance Poor Fair Good Good
Chemical resistance Fair Poor Good Good
Scratch resistance Poor Fair Fair Good

Reactive finishes undergo a chemical change as they cure, making them not only more difficult to repair but also more durable (except for linseed and tung oil) than most evaporative finishes.

Working Quality Linseed oil Tung oil Oil-based varnish
(alkyd resins)
(& conversion
Ease of application Excellent Excellent Good Good Poor
Repairability Excellent Excellent Poor Poor Poor
Water resistance Poor Fair Excellent Excellent Excellent
Chemical resistance Fair Fair Good Excellent Excellent
Scratch resistance Poor Poor Good Excellent Excellent

Differences Between Oil- and Water-Based Urethane Finishes
NOFMA: (now the National Wood Flooring Association) indicates that both oil- and water-based urethanes provide durable, long-lasting finishes. They offer the following descriptions for comparison purposes:

Water-based urethanes have four major formulations that determine the primary element in the finish: (1) Acrylic; (2) Acrylic Urethane; (3) Urethane Acrylic; (4) Urethane. Generally, the more urethane a water-based finish has, the more durable and harder the finish is (in contrast to water-based finishes with high acrylic levels).

However, water-based finishes with higher urethane levels typically require more finishing expertise. In terms of visual effect, a water-based urethane finish generally yields a clear finish that enhances or brightens the natural variations of hardwood and is normally applied thinner than oil-based materials.

Oil-based urethanes typically yield hard finishes and have slower drying times than water-based urethane finishes. They tend to give hardwood a "softer" appearance and lessen the contrast of hardwood's natural variations. They are normally applied thicker than water-based materials.


Species Guide



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American Hardwood Information Center
American Hardwood Information Center14 hours ago
Decorative millwork can turn bland interiors into memorable spaces. Minnesota-based architect Meriwether Felt installed stained cherry mouldings, trims, and casings in a master bath renovation. “The stained wood warms up the bathroom and provides richness,” he says. “The client asked for a luxurious, yet elegant feeling, and cherry fit the bill perfectly”

#realamericanhardwood #realwood #hardwood #cherry #moulding #molding #trim #homegoals #bathroomgoals #bathroom #bathroomideas #designideas #designinspo #designinspiration #interiordesign


15 hours ago
#DYK that half the dry weight of a tree is stored carbon and that carbon is stored throughout the life of the tree and any products made from it.

The resolute desk, made from oak, has been a carbon vault since 1880!
AmericanHardwds photo
NAFO Forests @NAFO_Forests
Half the dry weight of wood is atmospheric carbon. That includes the resolute desk! When we build with wood, we support working forests, and we create carbon vaults that lock away carbon for the life of the product.

This desk has been holding its carbon since 1880! #Woodisgood

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