How to Achieve a High Gloss Mirror Finish on Wood?

how to get a mirror finish on wood

Wood is a great medium for any artisan, advanced or beginner.

Suitable for many different projects like carving, building, painting, or even wood burning, wood is a durable and forgiving canvas, letting you explore, make mistakes, and easily repair them throughout your project.

Once you’ve put on the final touches of paint or stain, you’ll want to coat your wood-based project with a finish to seal and protect your work.

The right type of finish will however depend on the project.

So, you’ll want to be familiar with multiple finishes in order to select the one that’s perfect for you.


Different Wood Finishes


Wood finishes come in many different types.

Shellac, lacquer, varnish, satin- each type provides different benefits and looks that can add or detract from your work.

One highly versatile finish that we recommend for many woodworkers is the gloss or mirror finish.

Clear and protective, the gloss mirror finish seals any project and leaves it with a stunning shiny finish that will surely dazzle.

But before you plan to apply, let me tell you that gloss can be hard to apply correctly.

So, I’ve put together a careful step-by-step guide here on how to properly apply and seal your hard work!

Following the process will hopefully help you get the desired high gloss mirror finish on your wood work.


Step One: Prepare the Wood


Any good artist begins with a blank canvas. However, wood working doesn’t start with just any wood.

You have to prepare your project to make sure the gloss goes on perfectly, ensuring that your wood will thoroughly seal for that glossy finish.

Cleanup

Start by cleaning any dirt, scuffs, or dust off with a damp cloth.

Use mild soap (like dish detergent) for any particularly tricky spots but try to limit your use to very small dots if possible.

It’s very important to get every area completely clean, as even the smallest bit of dust or debris can cloud the finish.

Wipe thoroughly, then follow with a dry cloth to dry water and remove moisture.

Sand

Once the wood has fully dried, it’s time to sand. You should sand wherever you plan on applying gloss.

If only portions of the project require gloss, you can use painter’s tape to seal off dry areas.

You should also use painter’s tape on your work surface to prevent gloss from spreading or dripping.

Try to do multiple layers of overlapping tape to avoid gloss seeping through the seams and use a drop cloth where needed to avoid getting sealant stained into your home.

Choose the right grit and paper for your project.

Wood that already has a finish on it will need a medium grit paper, but untainted or unstained wood should have a softer, finer grit to it.

Use a firm, back-and-forth motion until you’ve exposed the bare wood, then use a finer grit sandpaper until the project is smooth to the touch.

Sand gently and in the direction of the grain (the way the wood flows).

Once you’ve smoothed out the wood, wipe down all its surfaces with a clean rag and remove all sawdust.


Step Two: Apply the Undercoats


Before you begin, make sure you use the highest quality brush you can obtain.

The better the brush, the better it will apply the stain and gloss to the surface.

Be sure to choose the proper type of brush based on the materials that make up the stain.

This means a synthetic brush for polyurethane-based stains and a natural coat brush for oil-based stains.

Base

Now that your wood is prepared, the next step is to create a base for the gloss to cling onto.

Having a smooth base layer is essential to ensuring an even gloss application, truly allowing for the shiny mirror finish you’re looking for.

Most glosses are self-sealing, but some require an undercoat of wood stain before the top is sealed.

If your gloss needs a wood stain, paint an even layer on your project as an initial base.

Use even, overlapping strokes and be sure to avoid any puddling or larger gobs of stain.

Thinned Gloss

If your project needs additional sealing, use a thinned-out oil-based gloss as a sealing coat before you move on to the gloss.

Again, stick to even coats with a paintbrush using overlapping strokes and avoiding larger gobs of product.

Once you’ve completed any and all undercoats, you’re ready to start pouring gloss.


Step Three: Apply the Gloss


Now that your undercoats have dried, you can begin to paint the gloss onto the base.

Apply two coats of undiluted gloss with a brush to the surface of the wood.

Wait 24 hours between coats to ensure the layers have fully dried.

Some glosses need a light sanding between coats, so check the label carefully.

Any bumps or uneven spots can be shaved off with a light razor to ensure that your topmost coat stays even and flat.

Continue to apply layers until your finish is perfectly glossy.

Finally, once your entire project has dried, lightly sand over all areas with a damp sandpaper.

Don’t Sweat the Mistakes

Once you have applied the lacquer, varnish, or other stain, any mistakes that you discover should be left alone.

Nobody is perfect, so if you notice a small area that doesn’t quite look smooth, do not try to make it so after the stain has been applied.

This is because most stains are sticky which means trying to correct a mistake may make the situation worse.

But if the spot is really noticeable, there are a few things you can try.

Remove any object that might have become stuck in the stain. This means any dirt, debris, hair, or living creatures such as a fly.

If you notice bubbles, then use a small pin to pop them which will make the surface smooth again.


Step Four: Polishing and Finishing


Your work isn’t done the minute you finish sanding.

Wear and tear can still build up on projects, especially after many years of admiration and display.

Therefore maintaining your project well is important.

Taking these final steps to ensure your work is properly maintained will ensure your project remains in perfect condition for years to come.

Polish the Dried Surface

You can research your gloss label to see what the best methods for polishing are.

Automotive polish is one good solution, but wax and even water can be good alternatives.

Continue to polish until you’ve buffed everything into a perfect polish.

Use Wood Conditioner

For certain woods such as cherry, maple, and birch, a wood conditioner is recommended.

A wood conditioner will help even out the stain once it has been applied. This will help in keeping the mirror-like finish for longer.

In fact, the wood conditioner can be used before you stain to reduce the light and dark spots and keep the surface even.

Dust Your Project Finally

Dusting the finished wood is important to protect it from dust or other debris that might build up and dull the luster of your mirror finish.

Special wood formulated products, like oil soaps or other wood gloss polishes can help protect the finish as well.

Avoid harsh cleaners or strong abrasives that can scuff or degrade the finish, and try to avoid water, which can cause the wood in your project to swell and crack the gloss.

And there you have it!

Your new project will sparkle and catch the light beautifully with its mirror gloss finish, and you’ll have a new hobby to practice and show off to your friends and family.

Enjoy the beautiful results of the high gloss, mirror finish woodwork for years to come.


What is the Best Type of Gloss to Get Shiny Mirror Finish on Wood?


The process and undercoat requirements may change depending on the type of gloss you purchase.

So, when purchasing the gloss for wood finishing, make sure that you select your gloss carefully.

IMHO, Polyurethane gloss is the best choice for getting shiny mirror finish on a wooden surface.

But different brands may have different varieties of polyurethane that differ in size and finish.

Hence it’s important that you check with the brand and type you are picking.

Oil-Based Vs Water Based Glosses

Stick to oil-based glosses with durability, and/or water-based glosses, because these will provide the most clarity and mirror-like finish.

Water based glosses go on completely clear and also have less odor and toxicity, while oil-based glosses are durable and heat resistant, making them more suitable for kitchens or other heated areas.

Semi-Gloss Vs Full Gloss (Check the Gloss Ratings)

When selecting the wood gloss for mirror finish, remember – higher gloss ratings mean shinier finishes and more durable sealants.

Semi-glosses work well in rooms that need lots of cleaning, like kitchens or bathrooms, while full gloss products give the project a slick, wet looking finish.

Semi-glosses are perfect for preventing any oils, grime, or any other debris, but it also highlights wood imperfection.

High gloss creates the most reflective, pure mirror finish.

These are perfect for cabinets or other cabin doors, places that can really showcase the wood and reflection.

Estimate How Much Gloss You Will Need

Finally, when buying the gloss for shiny finish use a paint calculator to estimate how much gloss you’ll need for your project.

Gloss can cover a lot of square footage, so make sure you buy just the right amount for your needs.

The bottom line

These days, DIYs are the new favorite hobby.

Crafting tutorials have taken over social media, dominating YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and other popular blog sites.

Whether you’re a lifelong artist or just starting out, working with your hands can be one of the most rewarding and exciting activities you can do.

Especially when you are applying glossy mirror finish to your wood work.

Choosing the right medium for your work can be however challenging, but the finished product will be worth it.

Remember to be safe when applying all stains and gloss finish.

Wear the proper mask and gloves, and wash your brushes thoroughly to preserve them afterward. 

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