Oil Based



Varnish is formed by cooking one or more oils with resin, or by converting oils into resin. Add a solvent, such as naphtha or mineral spirits, and the result is a tough, durable, attractive finish.

Despite differences in durability, clarity, resin formulation and other details (see chart), all types of varnish have several attributes in common. They all improve the appearance of wood by enhancing its depth. All have excellent adhesion to wood. And all have more or less the same brushing characteristics.

Polyurethane varnishes have all but replaced traditional varnish on store shelves. The polyurethane family can be divided into interior and exterior blends (see photo above).

Polyurethane varnish provides better scratch and stain resistance than wax, oil or Danish oil finishes, and better heat, solvent and chipping resistance than shellac or lacquer. It is the ideal choice for any furniture that is likely to get substantial wear, including tables, chairs, counter-tops, kitchen cabinets, doors and even wood patio furniture.

Oil based varnish will go over oil or water-based stains and dyes, and over any type of pore filler. It can also be applied over a dried coat of linseed oil or Danish oil, which some woodworkers

Type of Varnish

Active Ingredients

Recoat time (hrs)

Drying time (hrs)



Best Choice for:

Oilalkyd brushing

Linseed oil alkyd resin

1 to 4

6 to 8

Usually the least expensive varnish; rubs out easily; rich appearance; good clarity

Less heat and scratch resistance than polyurethanes

Tables, chairs, bookcases, banisters, interior trim, furniture


Tung oil, phenolic resin

6 to 8

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