So you’ve taken the plunge and purchased a piece of bare wood furniture. Congratulations! It’s an excellent value for the money, and with proper care, can last for generations.

Hopefully, before you made the investment, you already had a clear idea what you wanted to do with the piece, but if not, then before you pick up the first tool and start to work, it’s time to plan! A little investment in time now will save you a great number of headaches down the road.

Where bare wood furniture is concerned, you essentially have three options for finishing the piece, and they are:

Leave the wood “naked”
Paint it
Stain it

Each of these options requires a bit of work on your part in order to protect your investment and maximize the beauty and functionality of the piece.

The simplest thing you can to do “finish” your new piece of bare wood furniture is to leave it in its natural state. If you choose this option, you’ll probably want to protect the wood by coating it in some type of wood protecting oil (linseed oil is commonly used on a wide variety of bare wood), but there are other products available as well. Always, always, always test first by applying a small amount of the oil you chose to an unseen corner of the wood to ensure that it won’t cause any discoloration or other reaction in the wood. Once assured of this, you can safely apply your chosen protective oil to the entire piece.

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If you decide to paint your bare wood furniture, you have quite a lot to think about, aside from color selection. Type of paint, for example. If a piece is to be positioned in a bathroom, you’ll probably want to gravitate toward a glossy paint, as these stand up well to the high moisture environment. For high traffic/heavily used pieces, semi-gloss paints offer a good balance of attractiveness and durability, and if the piece is intended for a lower traffic/lower intensity environment, then flat or satin finishes will serve you well.

Now’s also the time to consider whether or not you’ll have any type of border or scrollwork on your bare wood furniture. If you’re not particularly artistically inclined, there are a number of attractive stencils you can use, readily available at home stores (Lowe’s, Home Depot), arts and craft stores (Michael’s), and sometimes at chain retail outlets (Wal-Mart, Target), so you’ve got lots of options. Of course, if you are artistically inclined or know someone who is, a hand painted border is a good way to really personalize the piece!

Finally, you might decide to stain your new piece of furniture. This is my personal favorite method of finishing pieces, even though it takes the longest, and if this is the direction you intend to go, again, you’ve got a number of decisions to make, beginning with the type of stain you’ll use. Stains come in oil-based, water-based, or gel, and while my personal preference runs to oil based, you’ll want to experiment to find out which works best for you. Obviously, you don’t want to experiment directly on your new piece of furniture, so I recommend buying an unfinished wood shelf of the same type of wood from your local home store and experiment on that. Once you make a firm selection, you can proceed with confidence and start working on your bare wood furniture direct.

Make a plan, have fun, and enjoy your new piece of bare wood furniture, no matter how you choose to finish it!

To learn more about this and related topics, see Bare Wood Furniture at

Author: Chris Hartpence
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