How to Get a Glass like Finish on Wood: Easy 13 Steps

How to Get a Glass like Finish on Wood

Do you want a glass-like finish on your wood furniture? If so, we have the perfect guide for you. This article will show you how to get that beautiful look and feel without all of the hassle.

Achieving this type of finish on wood can be time-consuming and difficult, but with the proper tools and techniques, it is possible. We’ll explore what it takes to achieve this type of finish on wood, as well as some other items around your home, like cabinets or tables.

What You Need

  • Sandpaper (various grits)
  • Wiping cloths or paper towels
  • Water-based polyurethane varnish (clear, satin, gloss)
  • Paintbrushes (various sizes)
  • Mineral spirits or turpentine (optional)
  • Small foam roller (optional)
  • Paper towels/wiping cloths
  • Disposal Plastic cups for keeping The Liquids
  • Rubber gloves and painter’s masking tape (optional)
  • Rubbing Compound

Guides on How to Get a Glass Like Finish on Wood

Guides on How to Get a Glass like Finish on Wood

Step 01: Sand The Surface Thoroughly with Grit Sandpaper

When it comes to achieving a glass-like finish on wood, you’ll want to start by sanding your wood pieces down as simply as possible with wet sand. This will help give your finished product that smooth and shiny look.

You can find grit sandpaper easily at any hardware store. Consider using a heavy grit like 120 for really uneven surfaces or an extra-fine grit like 320 grit for more delicate surfaces.

Step 02: Use Mineral Spirits to Wipe off The Sanded Surface

When you’re ready to wipe off the ground surface, pour a small number of mineral spirits onto some paper towel and use it to wipe down the entire piece.

Be careful not to get what you’ve wiped off onto any other surface, as it will leave a residue on that surface, and that will interfere with your process later on.

Step 03: Wipe off The Remaining Residue with a Damp Cloth Or Paper Towel

After you’ve wiped off the surface to remove any leftover sanding particles, you should wipe down the entire thing one more time to remove all of the mineral spirits from it.

This is easy enough to do with a damp paper towel or cloth, so we recommend using that to do the job.

Step 04: Sand Down The Surface Again With Even Finer Grit Sandpaper (If Needed)

After everything has been wiped dry again, you may want to go over your wood one more time with some extra-fine sandpaper.

This will ensure that you remove any remaining grains that have been left behind by the previous sandpaper and will also give you a final even coating to work with going forward.

Step 05: Apply a Water-Based Polyurethane Varnish

Apply a Water-Based Polyurethane Varnish

Water-based varnish is recommended for this type of task because it will dry more quickly than the more common oil-based varnish. Apply a small amount to a cloth and use that cloth to wipe into the wood surface in long strokes.

It may take several coats to create an even finish on your wood. Remember to let it dry before applying another coat, and you can use an additional layer of wax or other protective product after letting it all dry.

Step 06: Apply Two Coats of Color With a Brush or Paint Sprayer

Once you’ve completed steps 1-5, you’ll need to apply two coats of paint. First, use your brush or paint sprayer to apply a generous coat of primer and allow it to dry before applying a second coat.

The first coat will seal in the damp wood, while the second will provide more color to the piece and give it some depth.

Step 07: Allow the Paint to Completely Dry

It is essential to allow the color to completely dry. Painting anything before it has adequately dried could result in the color cracking and peeling from your work surface.

You could also end up using an excess of paint to cover up any spots that haven’t dried yet.

Step 08: Sand between coats with a fine sandpaper

Sanding between coats is vital because it will remove any grit or sanding dust that might be left on your project from the previous steps.

Fine sandpaper is recommended for this step because any scratches or deep nicks will be more visible and noticeable when they are in direct contact with the overlay.

Step 09: Apply additional coats of polyurethane varnish

If you’d like to apply additional coats of polyurethane varnish, you’ll need to wait for the previous coat of color or polyurethane to dry completely.

Apply an additional layer with a fabric or paintbrush in long, slow strokes to evenly distribute the varnish.

Step 10: Using Rubbing Compound

Using Rubbing Compound

The rubbing compound is very similar to the concealer you would use for your face but has a slightly more coarse texture so that it can fix any deep scratches in your finished wood product. It comes out looking white and dries clear.

Apply a liberal amount of rubbing compound to a fabric and rub the entire surface with slow, even strokes. Allow it to dry completely (you can speed this process up by using heat) before applying another coat of color.

Step 11: Apply lacquer to add another layer of shine

Some pieces may look better with another coat of polish. If you want to add a layer of lacquer, you can apply it right over the existing varnish.

Some people wait to apply this until after completing their project, but you can do it any time while your piece is drying.

Step 12: Apply wax for protection and shine

If you’re looking to add some extra shine to your finished project, you can use a high-gloss wax. This will help protect the wood from any environmental hazards while also helping to seal the wood and any overlay in place.

This will leave your finished project with a nice protective layer that can be maintained easily by simply wiping it down every once in a while with mineral spirits or water. The more often you wax, the shinier your piece of furniture will look!

Step 13: Use a soft cloth to remove the excess wax

Use a Soft Cloth to Remove the Excess Wax

Once you’re done applying your beautiful coat of wax, you’ll want to use a soft cloth to remove the excess that may be sticking to the surface.

This will help give it a more polished appearance and ensure that it will last for as long as possible.

Tips & Warnings:

  • Make sure that you wear protective eyewear when sanding or painting.
  • Ensure that your workspace is well-ventilated and that you are not working in direct sunlight, which can dry the overlay too quickly and result in lumps.
  • Allow your pieces to completely dry between layers, and keep the polyurethane coat at room temperature (or slightly warmer) to ensure a smooth finish best.
  • For extra protection, consider using UV protectant spray on your pieces once they are finished drying.
  • Wear rubber gloves and use painter’s tape when painting to protect your skin and clothing.
  • Make sure that you use a high-gloss polyurethane varnish so that your piece will have the most shine and protection.
  • If you want to apply a sealant or wax, make it after the final coat of overlay or lacquer is dry.
  • Apply an even amount of pressure when applying color with a brush or roller so that your task will look professional.

FAQs on to Get a Glass-Like Finish on Wood

1. Would a beginner be able to get a glass-like finish on wood?

It depends on their experience level. To do a simple glass-like finish, you have to be experienced in the craft. You can’t get an opaque gloss on wood until you stain or color it.

The more layers of finish you apply, the higher gloss your piece will achieve. Beginners should only use moisten-based finishes for ease and convenience (and because they dry quickly) and should limit the number of layers to avoid shiny spots.

2. Should I start with sanding before painting or after painting?

This is a good question, but it depends on what you are painting. If you’re using oil-based paint over an existing painted surface, sand the surface before starting. This will help with the adhesion of the oils to the painted surface.

If you are painting over a raw wood surface, then sanding is not necessary and can even be damaging to the surface if too much pressure is applied with a sander or coarse cloth.

3. Does the way I paint affect what kind of finish I get?

It depends. If you like a smooth glossy finish, you can apply it using oil-based paint with added thinner. But some people prefer the look of an “eggshell” gloss by applying two layers of latex paint, drying in between layers, and then sanding lightly where needed.

If you want to achieve a more matte or flat finish, go for the sheen effect by dipping your brush in water, adding some semi-gloss acrylic color. Your brush will be loaded with color and water that will create a mottled effect.

Even on your varnish, you can have several finishes: satin, semi-gloss, or high gloss. Satin is flat with a low sheen, semi-gloss has some shine and depth, and high gloss reflects light much like a mirror finish.

4. How do I know if my project has fully dried before applying any lacquer coatings or waxes?

Good question. This can be a tricky one, but the simple answer is to wait eight hours before applying any lacquer coatings or waxes. This way, there’s a good chance you’re not going to get any finish that is still tacky and just ready to stick to your lacquer or wax.

Hobbyists usually choose either one of the two following approaches when it comes down to dealing with lacquer-based finishes. The first is known as the “no sanding” method, also called “damp sanding.”

When done correctly, this method produces excellent results, and the only time you will ever come across a finishing problem is when wood veneers or plies are used.

The second approach calls for all sanding to be done before lacquering. This method can also produce excellent results, although it does require more work. It also involves more clean-up afterward.

5. How many coats of paint should be applied for a glass-like finish on wood?

On average, people have found it takes just two layers of overlay to get that nice high-gloss and glass-like finish on the wood.

For those living in warm climates where the temperature is fairly hot all year round, two layers of overlay may be enough.

However, for some people living in colder climates where the temperature drops below freezing during certain seasons of the year, they suggest it would take around four layers of overlay to get it just right.

Of course, we cannot quite put a specific number of layers on this because it all depends on the quality and brand of paint used.

But if you are only using cheap or lower-quality paints, then 4 layers may be necessary to get this glass finish. If we use higher-quality paints, then 2 to 3 layers would do.

However, do not be fooled into thinking that the more layers you put on a piece of wood, the better it will look. This is just not true at all.

The main thing to watch out for here is how many layers you let dry thoroughly between when they were being painted on. You need to follow the instructions on your overlay can and allow each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next coat.

6. What’s the difference between oil and water paints?

Oil paint is made from oil, distilled white spirits, and pigment. Moisten-based paint contains a variety of water-soluble resin materials, such as acrylics.

Oil-based paints usually need to be applied in at least 2 layers. The brush stroke leaves distinct edges with “dry” spots between strokes, and an open coat can allow surface dirt or dust to show through the finish.

7. How much does achieving this look cost?

Determining the cost of achieving this look is a tricky one, but it depends on what you’re after.

The minimal cost for achieving a glass-like finish is usually about $25.00, and you’ll need to buy some high-quality paints, sealant, and acrylic gloss medium.

However, if you want a higher gloss or to add multiple layers of paint, then prices can range from $350-$500.

8. How can I get a high gloss finish with water-based products?

Water-based varnishes are often used for their ease in application and drying time. They also offer a nice “wet” look without the harsh smell that oil varnishes can have.

However, it’s important to remember these materials are not as durable as other types of sealant and require more layers to provide solid coverage.

Also, because moisten-based products have a lower viscosity than other varnish types, the surface of your project may not dry with a high gloss. Here are some tips for getting that wet look:

Using two coats can help provide more solid coverage on porous wood surfaces. Use in a well-ventilated area to avoid irritation from the fumes. A paintbrush can be used for more even distribution of the liquid on large surfaces.

Using a soft rag to wipe down the wood after applying will allow some of the excess finish to evaporate and give you that high gloss shine. You may also want to apply in a well-ventilated area for this step, especially if using moisten-based stains.

Last Thoughts

We hope you’ve learned quite a bit about how to get your wood furniture to have a glass-like finish.

This article has shown you the key things you need and some pointers on what one needs to know to achieve this look for yourself.

The next step is up to you, so show off your skills and enjoy being creative.

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