Unfinished furniture is constructed with high-quality, raw wood boards. This furniture has not been stained, treated, painted, or sealed, so that the purchaser has complete control over how to finish it.
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Some people prefer the unfinished furniture because they enjoy customizing the color, pattern, and style of their furnishings. Others know that it is made with better quality wood, because neither paint nor stain can disguise knots, cracks, blemishes, or other weaknesses. Of course, unfinished furniture usually costs less than a finished counterpart, so it saves consumers money in the long run.
Unfinished furniture comes in softwood or hardwood. Softwoods, such as pine, fir, and spruce, are literally softer.
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Sometimes you can mark unfinished furniture with your fingernail, so unfinished furniture will show dings and scratches more readily. However, this can be to your advantage if you would like to antique the piece for a "stressed" appearance that simulates age. Hardwoods, like maple, ash, beech, alder, and most commonly oak, do not absorb stain as readily, nor get nicked as easily. These woods are ideal for clear stains that show off their natural color and grain.
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With just a few easy steps, you can transform your bare chair, table, or trunk into a glowing, personalized, and durable finished piece. The essential layers in finishing wood are a stain covered by a sealer, or paint. Stain can be mixed in any color of the rainbow, including "natural" colors like cherry, oak, or walnut. The topcoat, or finish, seals the pigment and protects the wood from dirt, moisture, and fading. Both stain and topcoat can be oil-based or water-based.
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Paint, in gloss, semi-gloss, or flat, is a simpler, one step option that doesn't show wood grain. Creative ideas include stenciled designs, faux finishes, or combinations of different colors on the same piece. Your unfinished furniture beauty can be maintained with mineral or orange oil for cleaning or another coat of polyurethane if the surface shows wear.