Hard vs Soft Finishes Wood Finishes
Wood finishes can be divided into two camps: those that soak in and those which form a film and sit on the surface.
Oils and waxes
Finishes that soak in include oils, vegetable fats and waxes. These substances tend to stay soft, even when they are completely cured. They have the advantage of being easy to apply, and easy to repair when damaged. The finished article usually exhibits a subtle warm glow, a soft sheen which ages beautifully.
Varnish, shellac and lacquer
Film-forming finishes are harder, more durable giving more protection to the surface underneath. The application methods tend to be more demanding and require a good understanding of the techniques involved to achieve an acceptable result. Varnish, lacquer and shellac are hard finishes that can be brought to a gloss finish or dulled slightly to give a satin finish.