Recommended Woodturning Finishing Supplies Resource PageYou’ve turned a beautiful bowl and sanded through all the grits for an amazing surface. Now it’s time to apply the finish and see your creation come to life.

For me, applying the finish is one of the most exciting things to do in wood bowl process. As much as I love the finishing process, I also don’t want to spend days applying coat after coat of various products.

This is a list of finishing products I use and highly recommend. Amazon links are provided to check current prices.


I have found, while recycled glass jars are great, I also like to use uniform jars with plenty of room on the lid to label the contents and easily identify the finish products inside.

My Favorite Oil Finish

This is my Tried and True method, and that’s its name too. I go to this finish more than any other finish. This Tried and True product is made from linseed oil and beeswax, all natural and food-safe.

The application process is as simple as can be and the oil penetrates the wood surface giving a water-resistant finish. Once dry, Tried and True linseed oil and beeswax is food-safe and very durable. I really like how the final luster seems to make the woodgrain glow and look amazing. One application is all that is needed. Tried and True Linseed Oil and Beeswax – One Gallon (One Quart) (One Pint)

Also, it’s a good idea to have 0000 Steel Wool on hand when using this product. After the thin coat dries for about 24 hours the final finish looks best when buffed out with 0000 steel wool before the finish cures completely.

Simple Application Finishes

Another great product from Tried and True is their Tried and True Danish Oil – One Gallon (One Quart) (One Pint) I really like using this Danish oil on thin-walled bowls and it too is food-safe. A couple coats should be applied.

Like the beeswax version above, this oil soaks into and protects the wood fibers. Only sand up to 320 grit when applying penetrating oil-based finishes. Sanding above 320 grit closes and locks the wood cells and reduces absorption.

A super simple food-safe finish is Mineral Oil. Mineral oil brings out the beauty and luster of wood and is completely non-toxic. The finish will need to be re-applied from time to time as the mineral oil finish does not last forever, but this is the quickest easiest finish to apply.

Functional bowls designed for food use can be finished with a number of food-safe finishes. Another such product, with an appropriate name, is Salad Bowl Finish. This product is similar to the two previous items and requires minimal effort to apply.

High Gloss Finishes

Obtaining a high gloss finish requires a little more work and effort, but the results can be stunning. The process of making a wood surface shine requires filling in all the pores and crevices which makes the surface more reflective.

The first step I do to seal the wood surface and fill those micro-crevices is to use Shellac. I learned from someone that makes their own Shellac and it is the best. Instead of purchasing cheap canned Shellac at the hardware store, which contains toxic metals and other components, make your own. Homemade Shellac is far superior, much more clear and relatively easy to make.


Shellac is available in different colors (blond, orange, darker garnet)and ready in flake form to mix with denatured alcolhol. Mixing your our shellac is far superior to any store bought branded version.

Just use a clean jar and mix the Shellac Flakes with Denatured Alcohol (the alcohol may be cheaper purchased from a local hardware store) in the recommended amounts. Allow enough time for the flakes to completely dissolve and apply with an inexpensive chip brush.

Shellac can be a stand-alone finish or it can be the underlying foundation for a shinier, glossier final coat. Lacquer looks great when applied over a base of shellac.

Spraying Finish

Pre-Cat Lacquer can be mixed 70/30 with matching lacquer thinner in a simple spray gun to get very high-quality results. I purchase my lacquer and thinner from a local cabinet supply shop. My small Porter Cable air compressor, 25-foot air hose and an inline air regulator, combined with the spray gun, are all that is needed to get a beautiful lacquer finish every time. The 25-foot hose is necessary as an air reserve buffer that keeps a constant air pressure at the spray gun.

Color Dyes

Applying color to wood turned bowls is fun and easy. If you’re selling bowls or plan to, colors draw people’s attention quickly.

I have a hard time wanting to color and cover beautiful wood grain, but simpler woods like poplar and sycamore, that don’t have much interesting grain or patterns are perfect for coloring.

Water-based color pigment powder is available to make the coloring process simple, fast, and non-toxic. I use the TransFast brand of color powder dyes. Available colors include; Turquoise Blue, BlueLemon Yellow, Cardinal Red, Cherry RedMedium Lime Green, Dark GreenPowder Grey, Mahogany, Dark Walnut and Black.

Milk Paint

Milk paint is probably one of the most interesting ways to add color and character to a bowl. Milk paint finish drys fast and looks contemporary and decades-old all at the same time.

After each coat drys, colors can be layered and then gently scuffed off to reveal overlapping and underlying effects. I love using milk paints especially on woods that aren’t too interesting by themselves. I use 3M Scotchbrite 6444 Pads to create the scuffed off milk paint layer effect. I’ve found that sandpaper and steel wool is too aggressive and will quickly reveal raw wood instead.

I only use the Old Fashioned brand of powdered paint. It comes highly recommended for outperforming all other types of milk paint. Milk paint comes in a number of different colors. A little goes a long way and I use the one-pint size when I make my purchases. Available milk paint colors include: Barn Red, Tavern Green, Snow White, Federal Blue, Pitch Black, Oyster White, Slate Blue, Light Cream, Salem Red, Driftwood, Soldier Blue, Marigold Yellow, PumpkinLexington Green, Sea Green, Mustard, Salmon

Best of all, my favorite Tried and True Linseed Oil and Beeswax finish from above works perfectly as a finish over the dried milk paint as well. Use a different cloth applicator when applying the oil finish to different colors. I have found that a little amount of milk paint color will come off on the applicator and you want to make sure not to transfer that to the finish of other bowls.

CA or Cyanoacrylate Adhesive

CA can be used for many purposes. While fixing wood bowl cracks, CA is critical to the process. CA can also be applied thin and used as a sealer. I recommend this Super Thin CA glue for both small finishing application and for the process of repairing wood bowl cracks. CA Accelerator is great to spray on the work area, drying the glue instantly.

I also use a spray can lacquer to “mask” the crack areas prior to fixing with CA. The purpose of the lacquer is to prevent the CA from bleeding into the wood surrounding a crack. Once the crack is filled and glued, the area can be sanded. The lacquer will sand off leaving clean wood underneath, ready for a final finish of your choice.


Signing Tools

It’s one of the most important steps in making a wood bowl, that is signing and labeling your creation. People want to know who made a wood bowl and they also want to know what type of wood and when it was made. Currently, I use a woodburning tool with the fine pen tip to sign my name to the bottom of my bowls. The quality, permanence, and look of the wood burnt signature are fantastic.

When I first started turning wood bowls, I used a high-quality permanent ink pen, that doesn’t bleed, to sign the bottoms of my wood bowls. One of the big things to remember when using an ink pen to sign your bowls is to sign on bare wood. Be sure to leave the signature area unfinished until it’s signed, or sign the bowl before doing your finish process.

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