Finishing wood provides a barrier against water vapor, thereby reducing seasonal wood movement. Most modern furniture is finished using spray devices and polyurethane or lacquer. While spray finishing can make wood appear artificially uniform in color, hand-rubbed finish brings out the inherent character and color of wood with great detail. Visually, there simply is no substitute for the beautiful results of hand-rubbed finishing.
Shellac: Shellac is a resin secreted from the Coccus lacca (lac beetle) in Asia. After feeding, the lac beetle secretes a resin, which dries and hardens into a protective covering called lac. The lac is collected and processed into thin sheets of shellac. Repeated coats of shellac, applied in the manner of French Polishing, result in an utterly flat, smooth and lustrous glossy finish. This is the most difficult and time-consuming of all finishing techniques.
Varnish: Because varnish, unlike shellac and oil, resists the staining effects of alcoholic beverages, chemicals and moisture, J&J Kettman uses it as a superior finish for table tops.
Oil: Oil may be used to bring out the character of highly figured woods, and then shellac or varnish will be applied. Oils such as linseed oil and walnut oil will eventually dry hard. Oil is not particularly durable and provides only a limited degree of protection. As such, it is usually mixed with varnish when it is used as a finish.
Wax: Wax is used as a polish to fill in the pores of wood and lend an even tone to the surface. Wax is applied, allowed to dry and then surface wax is rubbed off. The final steps to finishing furniture are rubbing with steel wool and the application of wax.