Common Wood Finishes
A stain isn't technically a "finish"; there are more steps to come once it has been applied. A finishing coat is applied over the stain to protect it. Typically, a stain will be coated with a catalytic-conversion varnish to give it durability and sheen-whether matte or high-gloss or anything in-between. When it's baked on, the varnish catalyzes into a hard, protective finish. You don't want to top the stain with oil, lacquer, or wax because those substances won't hold up and will yellow over time. Glazes can be used as an overcoat to achieve certain effects, such as an antique look.
The technique might involve more than 20 steps of sanding and finishing. There's even a step where a special topcoat is applied in a dust-free room. The finish goes through numerous oven curings and hand sandings with extremely fine abrasives. Special glazes and polishes applied at the end help achieve the final, mirror-like sheen.
Perhaps not surprisingly, all that elbow grease makes this one of the more expensive finish choices.
Specialty Finishes for Wood Cabinets
There are countless ways to give even more character to your cabinets. Options include:
Crackle: cracks in paint simulate the aging of a painted surface
Splatter: dark paint tops light or light tops dark to give a spattered look
Wormholing: random small holes throughout the wood mimic holes left by boring worms or larvae
Distressing: cracks, dents and nicks give the appearance of aged wood
Rounded corners: corners and edges are sanded before finishing for an antique look
Rub through-edges: crested areas and corners are sanded to reveal base color
Cow tails-splatter: marks are applied that resemble the comma shape of the flick of a cow's tail
Chaining:indentations are made that simulate wear and tear over time
Rasping: done with a rasp, the edges have filed scarring