How To Get A High Gloss Finish On Wood

High gloss finish on wood furniture is referred to as a shiny smooth layer of polish on wood surface. It is also known as mirror finish as it reflects a very shiny surface. It is widely used to beautify wood furniture because of its lustrous and light-reflective feature.

Glossy finishes are a good choice for wood furniture but you won’t like the result if you do not make use of the appropriate materials. In this article, we are going to address how to get a high gloss finish on wood, the commonest gloss finishes available, the steps involved in getting the job done, and tips to achieve the best outcome.


Best type of gloss for a shiny mirror finish on wood

1. Lacquer

Lacquer is a name gotten from a Latin term, “lacca” which means “resinous substance”. It is available in various sheens including matte and high gloss. They originated from South Africa but it’s more popularly used among the French as their polishing material. Modern lacquer dries up by evaporating solvent to create a hard, smooth shell with a mirror-like finish.

2. Varnish

Varnish is composed of resin, oil, solvents, and a metal drier that speed up the drying process. The solvent helps to spread the varnish but evaporates as it dries. The evaporation produces low-level ozone, which is dangerous to the environment. Always open windows and doors to allow fresh air in because of varnish’s strong odor.

You can use varnish on furniture, baseboards, flooring, and trim. They protect the wood in a clear suitable coating that dries to a hard shell.

3. Shellac

Shellac is another variety of lacquer, and it shares the same history. Normally, shellac acquired its resinous qualities from secretions produced by the Lac insect, but the modern type uses synthetic methods to get the same gloss finish. Shellac gives the furniture a honey-like color.

4. Polyurethane gloss

Polyurethane gloss is made up of urethane polymers rather than the chemical version of urethane, which makes it safe to use. The polyethers and polyesters dry to a high sheen and protect the wood. There are three kinds of polyurethane finishes which include semi-gloss, high gloss, and satin. High gloss is generally used in industrial applications

How To Get A High Gloss Finish On Wood (2)

How to get a high gloss finish on wood

Materials Needed

  • Lacquer, varnish, or polyurethane
  • Power sander
  • Protective hand gloves
  • Power buffer
  • Vacuum with a brush attachment
  • Plastic paint scraper
  • Paintbrush
  • Spray equipment
  • Silicon carbide sandpaper for wet sanding
  • Woodgrain filler
  • Dry towel
  • Cotton buffing cloths
  • Tack cloth
  1. Clean the wood

If you are working with new furniture, cleaning won’t be really necessary. To get rid of inconsistencies and even them out, you need to begin the task by sanding the surface. This prepares you for what is ahead. In the case of wood furniture, wash it clean with soap and water, rinse, and air dry after.

2. Sand the wood

Sanding is very important in wood surface preparation for a high gloss finish. Remove all imperfections and even out the wood surface before applying the finish on the wood. You can make use of a random-orbit sander to smooth and flatten the surface.  It works very well at sanding wood surfaces.

When a high gloss finish is applied on wood, the imperfections become very visible. Be aware that a power sander is an ideal item for evenly sanding out wood initially. However, you can use a sanding block instead after using fine-grit sandpapers so as not to leave behind any scuff marks on the flat surface.

Sandpapers are effective at creating smooth surfaces with no ridges and dips. They are available in different sizes, so you get to choose the right size for your project. A big project will need a big size while a small project will need a small size. Based on how uneven or rough the wood surface is, you can begin with a coarse 80-grit or 120-grit sandpaper on the random orbital sander.

Next, you can increase the grit to 180 or higher to smoothen the sanded wood. Make sure to sand the wood surface along the direction of the wood grain each time you use a sanding block. Most times, the scratches from sanding get mixed up with the grain making it almost unnoticeable.

3. Clean the sanding dust and inspect the surface

Once you are done with sanding, operate a vacuum with a brush attachment on the whole wood surface to get rid of the sanding dust. Wipe the surface with a tack cloth or lint-free that is dampened with water or mineral spirits to make it fully free of dust. You can now inspect the wood surface to confirm that you have fully dealt with every inch left with zero dents or scratches.

Using a water-dampened cloth is not as effective as tack cloth or lint-free cloth soaked with mineral spirits. By the way, if you are making use of a water-dampened cloth, make sure to wring it of the excess water. Allow the surface to dry before moving to the next step.

4. Apply a grain filler

If you are working with wood materials including oak, mahogany, or walnut, make sure to fill the pores before applying the finish. Most commercial grain fillers contain a bulking agent – silica suspended in a suitable solvent and finish to fill the wood pores. The grain filler is available in both water-based and oil-based varieties.

They are available in different shades and colors to match any wood you are working with. Choosing the right options to produce fast and excellent results and makes the application easy. Just like any water-based wood finishing product, the water-based grain filler will dry faster compared to the oil-based variety.

The water-based variety is the right option to go for if you are concerned with finishing the work faster while you go for the oil-based variety if you have enough time to get the filler into the wood pores.

First, stir the filler in its container until they are thoroughly done. This is done because most times, particles settle at the bottom of the container and it must be mixed with a sturdy stick to make it uniform. Once done, dip a high-quality bristled paintbrush in the filler and apply on the wood surface. Apply enough amounts of the paste, covering all wood pores.

Then, carefully use a plastic putty knife to scrape off excess. Allow it to dry overnight. Use fine 220-grit paper to smoothen the wood. Ensure not too much energy while doing this so you won’t ruin the entire coat of wood filler.

Also Read: Best Finish for hardwood floors with dogs

5. Apply the finish

For this article, we will be focusing on using lacquer and varnish to get a high gloss finish on wood.  Their application methods are quite different due to their drying times and consistency. They are both good at creating enough film that will allow for polishing rubbing through to bare wood.

Working with lacquer

Apply lacquer with a sprayer to wood surface in order to get the best outcome. Brushing the product on the surface may not be ideal because it dries quickly. Using a sprayer will make it easy to apply faster and achieve a large coverage in little time. Spray the first coat of lacquer on the wood surface and let it dry. The surface should be dry before you apply another coat in 12 to 15 minutes. You can leave it to up to 30 minutes for thorough drying.

Once it is done, add at least two more coats and let it dry for about 30 minutes between each coat. Once dry, inspect the wood surface for any bumps so you can sand it with ultra-fine 320- grit sandpaper to 400- grit sandpaper. You need to apply enough coats for coverage because Lacquer always goes thin.

Working with Varnish

Varnish takes time to dry compared to Lacquer so you can decide to apply it with paintbrush. It normally takes about 3 hours to dry. For varnish, you just need to 1 to 2 coats because of its thickness. Then, inspect the surface for any bumps.  Use fine 320-grit sandpaper to gently sand the varnished surface and make it smooth.

  1. Wet sand the finished surface

Wet sanding is a crucial process whether you applied lacquer or varnish. It flattens and smooth the wood surface. After wet-sanding, get ready to buff the surface with ultra-fine abrasives to get a polished high-gloss finish. This process is effective at getting rid of minor scratches that might be left behind after sanding. Wipe the entire wood surface with a saturated fine silicon carbide sandpaper.

2. Buff up the wood surface

Polishing is very important no matter the sanding, filing, and finishing that might have happened. Rub the surface with a powdered abrasive like pumice or rottenstone using a cotton swab. Then, saturate it with some rubbing oil or water, and buff it up with a cotton cloth. You can use a power buffer instead of a cotton cloth.

How To Get A High Gloss Finish On Wood

Pros of glossy wood finish

  1. Glossy wood finish brings out the wood’s true color making look all radiant and beautiful. When you have old wooden furniture at home, an application of glossy finishes will bring out the life in it.
  2. Wood looks vibrant and attractive with a mirror-like finish. The mirror-like finish will make it look attractive whether it is old or new.
  3. Wood with a high gloss surface is easy to maintain and clean. Cleaning with a damp towel is enough to reveal its shiny look.
  4. Glossy finish surfaces can highlight the size of a small space by shining more light, making the space look larger.


Tips to achieve the best result for a shiny mirror finish

  1. Don’t the sanding process
  2. Always read the manufacturer’s guide for any item you purchase
  3. Purchase the right brush to create a perfect finish
  4. Use wood conditioner

Conclusion: How To Get A High Gloss Finish On Wood

High gloss finishes are spectacular and attractive on wood furniture. The process to get it on a wood surface doesn’t exhaust too much time because due to its quick drying time. Whether you are going with varnish or lacquer, this article has done a good justice to how to use either of the finishes.