What Finish To Use For Wooden Coasters?(4 types explained)

Getting the perfect finish for your wooden coasters is important! They have to endure a lot of extreme conditions like heat, water, and scratches. 

Hence, they deserve some correct form of protection.

So, do you badly need to know what finish to use for wooden coasters?

There’s tung oil, polyurethane, lacquer, spar varnishes, and so on. Tung oil is a conventionally used one but there are some modern versions that are better. Polyurethane is considered as that modern version. It more or less provides all the protections that are required with some limitations. 

You must be keen to know more. Then, take some minutes and read the whole thing. You’ll surely learn some meticulous details about all of them!

The Different Types Of Finishers That Could Exist

what finish to use for wooden coasters

In the next section, we’ll know about the different types of finishers. Learn about their pros and cons to eventually figure out the best one!

Type 1. Tung Oil

This is the most common category of finish. This has been the conventionally used one for a long time.

Tung oil is highly penetrative as well as thin. That’s why many people prefer it as it gives a shiny and light outlook from within. There are many modified versions of tung oils in the market now. 

Do you want one that is deeply penetrative? 

It could also add warmth to your coaster as a bonus! Then, the slightly polymerized ones should be your choice. It’s also widely available and easy to get. It’s fairly durable but not as long-lasting as the modern finishes. 

However, are you more concerned about protecting your coasters than the outlook? 

Then tung oil is not suitable for you. It’s true that coasters have to endure a lot of harsh situations such as heat and water. 

Hence, we would want the final finish to be able to protect it against such factors. Although tung oil adds some significant level of luster, it is not very water or heat-resistant. 

Yes, it has been used as the final finish for a long time. But now you should know not to jump in to get it unless you have high expectations!

Type 2. Polyurethane 

This one is the best thing trending right now. We can get two types of polyurethane. Oil-based and water-based. 

Oil-based ones have the greatest durability. They’re both water-resistant as well as heat resistant. 

If you get them, you don’t have to worry about getting your coasters ruined again. Place that hot mug of coffee over your coasters as much as you want. Even if you spill the coffee, no worries!

However, oil-based ones don’t give the best outlooks. It’s true that they do add some color. But they cannot really enhance the color of the wood. They also take a long time to dry off after application.

But no worries! If looks matter more to you, go for water-based ones. 

Their texture is thin. Hence, they enhance the color by making it retainable on the wood. They also dry off so quickly! But, you cannot rely on them to protect your coaster from heat and moisture much. 

If you’re confused, here are some choices for polyurethanes-

In general, all categories of polyurethanes are very fast to apply. They’re also pocket-savers. And guess what?

If you want the luster of tung oil and the durability of polyurethane, you can absolutely get that! For that, coat over a thin layer of tung oil. Let it dry. Then coat off the tung oil with another thin layer of polyurethane. 

And you’re good to go!

Type 3. Lacquer

Glossy outlook is the most distinctive feature of lacquer finishes. And a glossy coaster sure is eye candy! They’re also protective against heat and moisture. 

So, are you thinking of grabbing a lacquer and spraying it over?

But wait, although do lacquers seem to be durable, there’s a problem. And that is, they’re very thin. Extensive usage can create scratches on it within a short time span. So, you’ve to be a little considerate about the usage if you get a lacquer finish. 

Type 4. Varnish

Spar varnishes can be used over coasters if you’ve got a weakness for varnish. They’re HIGHLY waterproof. 

You wouldn’t find any finish that can be as waterproof as spar varnishes. Forget about getting mug stains once you get that varnish finish. And not to mention, spar varnishes look magnificent over wood. 

However, in terms of heat resistance, varnishes are not as commendable. If we sit with a moderately hot cup of coffee, that’s alright. But if the mug is steaming hot, then we better just cool it down a little. 

So, it all depends on how you’ll use the coaster. Depending on that, varnish could be a good choice. 

With that, we’re at the end. Now that you know the details. You can decide what finish to use for your wooden coasters.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What is the best finish for wooden drink coasters?

Answer: Polyurethane or spar varnish. Use 2-3 coats of each over your wooden coaster. In terms of waterproofing, these two are the best. Just try not to spill a lot of alcoholic beverages over your coaster. 

Question: How do you finish a wood-burning coaster? 

Answer: After your design is complete, you can use spar urethane over the finish of the wood. That would protect the finish. Then, sand the urethane and also varnish accordingly to achieve a magnificent outlook. 

Question: How many coats of polyurethane do I need for coasters?

Answer: If you want a natural outlook that just enhances the wood color, 2-3 coats is fine. That would add some luster as well as give the protection you need for your coaster. If you wish for darker tones, you can add 3-4 more coats according to your instinct. 

Wrapping Up

Now that you have read all the way through, are you enlightened? You should be sure about what finish to use for wooden coasters by now.   

Now, you can use that knowledge and apply it well. 

Do let us know how it goes!


Kevin Smith

2 thoughts on “What Finish To Use For Wooden Coasters?(4 types explained)”

  1. I’ve decopauged napkins onto wood coasters using mod podge. In terms of waterproofing, and heat proofing, can I put a coat of polyacrylic, then polyurethane? I’ve been told that process will keep the polyurethane from yellowing as quickly, as it would if not using polyacrylic.

  2. I think an important option was left out. Epoxies. If you want a high gloss finish that will be extremely resistant to heat and liquid of all kinds, epoxy is probably the way to go. However, it can take away the natural look of the wood a little bit. At the moment I’m experimenting with Alumi-UV (an epoxy that’s cured with UV light, I’ve used it to go over a label on a coffee mug and it’s survived countless dishwasher cycles). I have a good idea of what it will look like after curing but I’m going to try to sand and then almost re-polish it. I’m hoping that not completely re-polishing it will knock off the high gloss and leave a more natural look but still provide a high level of temperature/liquid protection.

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