How to Get a Glass Finish on Wood

Larry Simmons

While wood finishes primarily provide color and protection to the wood surface, they can also enhance the appearance of the wood, creating a clear glass-like finish that gives new depth to the wood stain.

Creating a glass finish on wood takes time and effort, however, since the finish needs building slowly through a series of abrasives that smooth out the finish coat to a bright glossy shine. The results of the work are worth the effort when light reflects off a brilliant finish with the smoothness and reflectivity of glass.

  1. Place the wood onto a drop cloth to collect any debris from the finishing process. Open windows and doors to your work area to ventilate the room as much as possible. The finishing process will create dust and involve the use of chemicals with vapors that can be harmful if inhaled, so a well-ventilated area is a must. Put on safety goggles and a face mask to protect from wood dust and finish fumes.

  2. Sand away any scratches on the wood with a medium-grit sandpaper. Go across damaged areas with the paper using small circles until you smooth out the scratch. Switch to fine-grit sandpaper and go over the entire surface of the wood, smoothing it to the touch. Wipe away with a clean, dry cloth the dust created from sanding.

  3. Spray a layer of clearcoat paint onto the wood, covering the surface evenly with a light coating. Allow the coat to dry for 15 minutes, then spray a second moderate coat onto the first. Allow the second coat to dry for about two hours so that it’s workable without destroying the coating.

  4. Use 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper to sand the clearcoat smooth, removing any buildup of material or sags created during spraying. Saturate the sandpaper in soapy water and wrap in a sponge before using it on the clearcoat. Wipe the surface with a damp cloth to remove the soap, and then dry by patting the surface with a dry cloth.

  5. Continue to sand the surface of the clearcoat with wet sandpaper, switching to a finer grit of wet/dry sandpaper after each pass to smooth the surface and build the coat to a shine. Continue sanding, taking care not to sand through the clearcoat until you reach 2000-grit sandpaper.

  6. Apply a small pool of rubbing compound to the center of a microfiber cloth and then rub the compound into the surface of the wood. Use small circles to apply the compound, rubbing until it dries and then rubbing it off the piece. The compound will create the glasslike finish on your clearcoat. Work in small sections of about 1- to 2-square-feet until the entire surface has a glossy shine.