I built a few wooden thing with cheap pine and plywood. They are working very fine.

I like to make them look glossy. I expect there are thick varnish products that can do the job. So my cheap woods look shiny with proper stain and varnish.

However, I tried the following products and there is none or very little result.

This one, it is quite watery and didn't do anything:

enter image description here

This one is more expensive, but the result is not that glossy:

enter image description here

Am I looking at right products?

Is there any thick oil based varnish that can make my cheap wood shiny and glossy?

  • For future reference, there is a woodworking.stackexchange.com which usually provides good answers to this sort of question. Jan 23, 2018 at 23:10
  • I mentioned this in another comment but will place it here as it is probably more appropriate here - I would not use the poly urethane unless I wanted an antique-ish amber finish. I know they say it does not do this, all kinds of 'statements' that it does not .. I coated a white surface and a natural finish surface with the stuff - I ended up with AMBERED finishes. I did use steel wool in my finishing - but I also used a tac rag and cleaned the surface very well. Do it with patience and you will have a nice outcome.
    – Ken
    Jan 24, 2018 at 0:05

3 Answers 3


You are looking at the correct products but to get a high gloss several coats will be needed with a very light sanding or steel wool buff and clean in between coats. In high end finishes I put at least 5 coats and have used closer to 30 on show pieces. Light sanding between coats is important, don't over work or you will have bumps , put it on let dry buff clean put more on and repeat. You can make plywood look awesome with a light stain and several coats of polyurethane

  • +1 But avoid steel wool if using water based coatings. Any missed specs can lead to rust stains.
    – bib
    Jan 23, 2018 at 20:52
  • I would avoid the Polyurethane - it yellows. I know they say it does not - but place that on a white coated surface and then see for yourself in 2 or 3 days..
    – Ken
    Jan 23, 2018 at 20:57
  • Thank you for help. What sand grit do you use between coats?
    – Allan Xu
    Jan 23, 2018 at 22:48
  • 1
    I usually start at 400 for base coats and as I need to sand less (more uniform surface) will go up to 600 and even to 1200 when I am putting down quite a few coats and I want it to look like glass, cleaning In between is critical but if a nice job it looks fantastic and is very easy to dust. I usually do use solvent based and keep my brush in a glass jar with solvent, I squeeze the brush out and then seal in the jar when the next coat is ready I shake out the brush and start adding more layers, by keeping the brush in solvent it stays soft and will work for months if sealed.
    – Ed Beal
    Jan 23, 2018 at 23:14
  • i read someplace that wet sanding between coats gives a smoother finish
    – jsotola
    Jan 24, 2018 at 6:16

If you want to use fewer coats (or a single coat, maybe, but there are practical limits) an epoxy coating can go on thicker and still cure. There's a wide range of viscosity, tint/color/clarity and cure times - also, you need to be very careful about bubbles with the more viscous varieties, while the less viscous varieties will typically need a dam at the edge and to be applied to a horizontal surface only (unless applying very thin.)

As already mentioned by Ed, the products you have shown do work, but not in one coat (no matter what the can says.) Despite needing more coats, they will generally cost less than an epoxy.

  • Do HomeDepot sell epoxy coating? Would you be able to point me to a product? Thank you for help.
    – Allan Xu
    Jan 24, 2018 at 0:51
  • For large chain stores, West Marine (or any non-chain boating store) might be a better bet. HD might have some, might not. Product recommendations are frowned upon here.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 24, 2018 at 1:00
  • Is this something similar to what you used? goo.gl/KZ1eRk
    – Allan Xu
    Jan 24, 2018 at 1:16
  • I searched for "wood epoxy coating" and a few product from HD and Lowes came up.
    – Allan Xu
    Jan 24, 2018 at 1:18

If you're really trying to get away with only one coat, you need Pattern Coating.

enter image description here

According to its MDS it contains xylene, so I'd assume that's what you're supposed to thin it with. That should be your first clue that this is commercial grade stuff, the second is that its price has to be 'quoted' on the company's web site. Meaning: know what you're doing and with what chemicals.

I've no affiliation with Freeman; this is what dad used to use in his foundry. It's glossy AF.

  • Thank you for help. This seems to be a specialized product. I was hoping to find something I can buy from HomeDept, which we have a few stored close by.
    – Allan Xu
    Jan 24, 2018 at 1:01

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