When thinking ahead about your wood finishing technique you need to keep in mind how you want the wood to look, how well it will perform in its typical usage, and that the finish you are using meets environmental and health requirements. You also need to make sure that the wood itself is prepared properly for the type of finish you are going to use. For example. different types of wood finishes will require you to sand the wood to a certain grit. In addition, certain types of wood finishes may only be easily applied to certain shapes of surfaces, joints, or edges.
Another consideration is to think about the type or species of wood you are using, and which finishes are specifically engineered to compliment and work with that wood species. For example, many exotic woods tend to be very oily and produce a lot of natural surface oil and so you will need a finish that compensates for that. Another example is the popular use of Maple, which is better served with clear or light finishes rather than a dark stain or colour as the pore structure of this species tends to lead to a blotchy surface.
You should also consider if you need particular features of a wood finish for the type of woodworking project that you are doing. For example if you are creating a countertop or chopping board you will need a food-safe wood finish. If you are finishing a wooden fence in a sunny part of the world then you might need a finish with UV protection. If you are finishing a wooden floor in a high-traffic area then you will want a highly-durable finish that is spot-repairable so that you don’t have to re-do the entire surface as frequently.
Lastly, it is an important consideration to remember moisture content in the wood itself, and in the environment it is in. Think of wood as a living creature that is affected by the amount of water it gets. Changes in wood moisture content will cause the wood to swell and shrink, which will warp the wood overtime and can cause cracks in certain types of wood finishes. Consider using a wood finish that is micro-porous and breathes and moves with the wood’s natural movements to avoid the cracking or damaging of the finish. The swelling and shrinking of wood is an inevitable process, but its effects can be mitigated by using a woof finish that compliments this process and by limiting the storage of wood outdoors where the changes in moisture will be more dramatic.