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How stuff works

Learn more about the material finishes from how stuff works website.

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Technology student

Revise about symbols that appear on paint containers.

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DT Materials

Varnishes and lacquers

Varnishes and lacquers are available in oil, water and solvent based types. Varnishes are normally clear or transparent and are offered in satin, matt or gloss finishes. Spray cans are suitable for small projects and there are special types available which have been developed for coating metals.

linseed oil
linseed oil


Teak and comparable timbers are naturally oily. Applying teak or linseed oil provides an improved appearance within the grain of the timber. This protects the wood very well for external use. Vegetable oil can also be applied to wood which comes in contact with foods a good example is a spatula or salad server.

French polish

French polish is a traditional finish which is accomplished by mixing shellac in methylated spirits. French polish is applied by brush and cloth and the finish is built up in several layers which accomplishes a very deep finish. Wax is then applied over the French polish which improves the shine.

French polish
French polish
Wood stain
Wood stain

Wood stains

Wood stains are used to improve the colour of the wood and they also help to show up the grain. Wood stains are applied using a cloth. Wood stains are available in numerous colours but only work well if the stain is actually darker than the woods colour. Wood stain if used on its own only colours the wood and so does not protect it against moisture. It requires a coating of wax or varnish over the wood stain to make it weather proof. Stains are available in water or solvent based forms.


Sanding sealer

Sanding sealer is normally a solvent based product like varnish which is used to seal wood to moisture. Sanding sealer is a quick drying liquid which seals the surface and raise’s the woods fibres so they can be sanded with fine glass paper. Sanding sealer is good for a first coat before applying varnish or wax.


Sanding sealer
Sanding sealer

Paints - See the paints section, click here >>

Design and technology question time
Mr DT says 'Read the text above and then answer these questions below'. Write your answers on a sheet of paper, don't forget to write your name on the sheet!:-

1). Name the finishes you can use on woods?
2.) Varnishes and lacquers are available in what types?
3.) Varnishes and lacquers are available in what of finishes?
4.) How is french polish applied and finished?
5.) What is wood stain used for?
6.) When do wood stains work well?
7.) Why do you need to use wax or varnish with wood stains?
8.) What is sanding sealer good for?

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