I wanted to make a small joke birthday present for a friend. I did the lettering on the Epilog laser in about ten minutes. It took more time to resaw and plane the native cherry wood for the sign blank than for the laser to execute the design. I think my friend will like the sign, he runs a small company with a crew of dedicated workers, and he is the “supreme overlord” of the outfit.
Practicality is the first thing we should think about when it comes to finishing a small project like this, given that we don’t want the natural appearance of the wood altered. I could lay out the extensive array of possible finishes for any project like this: various varnishes, shellac, hard wax finishes, linseed oil, tung oil, and an assortment of miracle finishes different manufacturers have pushed on the woodworking community. The internet mavens can offer lots of conferral advice because everyone has an ax to grind when it comes to finishes, but the best advice is alway to keep it simple.
Some finishes have a checkered reputation based on their weaknesses. For example, linseed oil is an old-time traditional favorite but is not resistant to staining from alcohol. Shellac is dissolved by alcohol, so neither of these worthy finishes are great for surfaces that will see heavy wear or beverages.
Where the object is likely to be displayed is the next consideration. Is it going outside? Well, then I’d opt for marine varnish. Inside? Shellac, tung, or linseed oil, or wax. A lovely oil-varnish mix with some carnauba wax could also do; rubbed in, this finish glows.
For this simple project, I chose a natural Tung oil. It will take a couple of days to dry and cure, but it chemically bonds to the wood and provides a durable coat. It’s also easy to apply to a simple project, and easy is good when you are busy.
After a day or two, lightly buff, and there you are.