How should sanded wood look like

In principle, there are no restrictions on the types of wood with regard to polishing. However, some are easier to edit than others. It's relatively easy for you, for example:

  • yew
  • Douglas fir
  • maple
  • pear tree
  • birch
  • alder
  • Ash
  • Cherry tree
  • Mahogany and
  • walnut

The types of wood that are less easy to polish include spruce, fir, pine and larch.

If your project is not about the maintenance of existing furniture, it is best to choose a type of wood that can be polished well. The mahogany and cherry wood have a particularly shiny surface. If, on the other hand, you want to beautify existing wood, you can polish lacquered and waxed surfaces. We will devote ourselves to polishing oiled wood that has a different purpose later in the text.

Furniture care with shellac polishes and other furniture polishes

Shellac and shellac polishes were already used at the beginning of the 19th century to design and perfect particularly valuable pieces of furniture. In furniture construction, they have largely been replaced by synthetic varnishes and other agents, but they are still used today in the restoration of antique furniture.


The best way to care for lacquered surfaces such as table tops and the outside of cupboards is with a furniture polish from a retailer. You can find out what you should pay attention to in our guide "Wood care products - using waxes, polishes & Co. to ensure a beautiful surface". In addition to the polishes described there, you can also use a polish you made yourself. Instructions on how to mix them yourself can be found in our article "Make your own furniture polish - this is how it works". Another means that is suitable for the maintenance of furniture is the shellac polish.

A shellac polish consists of shellac and ethanol. Shellac comes from lacquer scale insects that live on certain trees such as poplar figs and feed on their sap. They excrete the resin absorbed in this way and thus protect their eggs. This resinous substance is dissolved in ethanol and results in an agent that gives wood a high-gloss and mirror-smooth surface. Achieving this result, however, requires a lot of practice and experience. If you don't have them, you can ruin a precious piece of antique furniture with just one mistake. We therefore recommend that you only use a shellac polish on wooden surfaces where failure is not dramatic.

Polish waxed wooden surfaces to a high gloss

A lot easier than using a shellac polish is to polish wood that you've previously treated with a wax. Polishing gives such a surface a silky sheen that looks more natural than a layer of varnish. Waxing and polishing is therefore particularly recommended for wooden surfaces where the natural look is to be preserved. You can get wax in many designs and also in slightly colored versions.

There is also antique wax especially for older and antique wooden furniture. All of these waxes are best applied with a soft cloth. It should absolutely be lint-free, because fine fibers easily get caught in the wax. With circular movements you ensure a smooth surface. Relatively liquid waxes can also be applied with a brush. Then the wax must first dry before you can polish the wood. If you want to polish waxed wood, you can use either a soft cloth, a sanding pad or a polishing fleece. You certainly have a soft and clean cloth at home, you can get sanding pads and polishing fleeces for little money in stores. In the hardware stores you will also find special smoothing or polishing brushes that can be used to polish waxed wood. They also only cost a few euros. When polishing with these hand tools, as with waxing, you should always work in a circle to achieve an even result.

Work with sanders or dremels for faster progress

Polishing large areas by hand, however, takes a while and can become quite taxing over time. If you have an eccentric sander, it is better to buy a polishing pad. Make sure it fits your device. You can also sand wood very well with an eccentric sander.

If, on the other hand, it is carving or wood that is provided with profiles or other details, you can make the work easier with an attachment for the drill or a Dremel.

In addition to sanding surfaces, it is ideal for sanding curves. The acquisition of such a device is therefore worthwhile if you like working with wood and are planning other projects. You can get an eccentric sander in hardware stores for less than 100 euros. If, on the other hand, it is carving or wood that is provided with profiles or other details, you can make the work easier with an attachment for the drill or a Dremel. With it you can even reach hard-to-reach places.

Remove excess oil from oiled wood by polishing

Polishing oiled wood is also possible. In this area, however, the main purpose of polishing is to remove excess oil. It can make the surface sticky and look greasy. By polishing with a soft cloth, you ensure a pleasant feel and a beautiful look again. On the other hand, you cannot achieve a glossy surface like with lacquered or waxed wood even by polishing oiled wood. In contrast to varnish or wax, the oil penetrates the wood so that there is no closed surface that could shine.

Patience with surface treatment

Polishing gives wood a great shine. However, this work is only recommended for people who have enough patience. You should therefore only tackle it if you belong to this group of people and do not mind doing the same movement over and over for hours. The longer you polish, the nicer the result.


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The Hubert editorial team consists of long-standing experts in areas such as timber construction, architecture and windows and doors. The specialist authors share their experience, report on current developments and provide helpful tips, tricks and advice for your (construction) projects.