How to Get a Mirror Finish on Wood? (Easy Method)

Having a mirror finish on your wood surface will protect the wood from stains and moisture, not to mention the reflective appearance that the finish gives wood. So how do you get a mirror finish?

You can get a mirror finish on wood by sanding the wood with 220-grit sandpaper and applying multiple coats of a clear top coat like lacquer. When the top coat is dry, you should wet-sand with 400-grit sandpaper and polish the lacquer finish.

The polish will give you a mirror finish. You should know that a water-based wood filler has to be used on the wood before applying the clear top coat. The wood filler helps to even out the wood and fill gouges that can ruin the finish.

This post reveals a lot more about getting a mirror finish on wood including several tips that will help along the way. Let’s dive in.

Is A Mirror Finish Wood Harder To Maintain?

A mirror finish is not harder to maintain because mirror finishes have stain-repelling and moisture-resistant qualities meaning that stains, oils, grease, and filth will not stick to the finish. Since stains can’t stick to the mirror finish, it becomes easier to wipe them off with a rag.

Many DIYers believe that mirror finishes are tougher to maintain and the reason for this thought is that stains are more visible on mirror finishes. Since the finish is reflective and glossy, stains and filth that get on the finish will not be hidden.

Though this is true, the mirror finish is still not any harder to maintain than your regular varnish finish. This is because mirror finishes are stain repellant and moisture resistant. This means that stains will not stick to your mirror finish and can be easily wiped off.

So, while you’ll be doing more cleaning on your mirror finish, the stains will be very easy to remove. Also, mirror finishes rarely get damaged or dented so you don’t need to worry about touch-ups or reapplication.

What Type Of Gloss Or Finish Do You Need To Use To Get A Mirror Finish?

You need high-gloss and transparent paint to get a mirror finish on the wood. The best choices are lacquer and water-based polyurethane varnish.

Polyurethane varnish and lacquer are both transparent paints that dry to give a mirror finish on the wood. You should stay away from flat and semi-gloss paints because these paints can’t give you a mirror finish.

When in need of a mirror finish, you’ll be advised to go for a high-gloss finish like lacquer and polyurethane varnish. Both types of paints have a high volume of sheen in their formula. They also have plasticizing additives that help achieve a clear finish.

The presence of plasticizing additives like urethane in the paints gives them a transparent or clear finish and the presence of high sheen levels makes the finish very reflective giving you a mirror-like appearance.

So, should you use lacquer or varnish? Let’s find out.

Varnish vs Lacquer (For A Mirror Finish)?

If you are wondering if to go for varnish or lacquer, here is a quick comparison for you:

The Clarity of the Finish

How clear is the finish?

The clarity or transparency of the paint matters to get a mirror finish. Varnish and lacquer are both clear finishes but varnish tends to yellow after some time especially if you use the oil-based varnish.

The oily deposits in oil-based varnish cause the finish to turn yellow after a few weeks. Lacquer on the other hand stays clear because it is solvent-based and doesn’t contain as much oils.

Verdict: Lacquer is clearer than varnish.

The Number of Coats

How many coats can you apply?

Varnish is a thick paint so you can’t apply many coats if not the finish will turn blurry. Lacquer on the other hand is thin so you can apply multiple coats, usually up to 7 coats of lacquer can be applied to wood. You should know that to get a mirror finish, you’ll need more coats of the finish.

Verdict: You can apply more coats of lacquer than varnish.

The Dry Time

How long does the paint take to dry?

Lacquer is solvent-based so it dries quicker than oil-based varnish. Lacquer dries in about 20 minutes while varnish will take over an hour.

Verdict: Lacquer dries faster than varnish.

Applicator Method

How is the paint applied?

You can only apply varnish using a bristled paintbrush. This is because the paint is thick but lacquer can be applied using a paintbrush or a paint sprayer. It’s commonly advised to spray lacquer for a smooth finish.

Verdict: You can only use a paintbrush to apply varnish but lacquer can be applied using a paint sprayer or paintbrush.

How To Get a Mirror Finish on Wood?

To get a mirror finish on wood, you’ll need these:

  • Mineral spirits
  • Dish soap and a bucket of water
  • Sandpaper
  • Lint-free rags
  • A power sander (optional)
  • A power buffer
  • A transparent top coat – Lacquer or polyurethane varnish
  • Bristled paint brushes
  • A vacuum
  • 4F pumice powder

Here is how to get a mirror finish on wood:

1. Clean The Wood

Clean The Wood

If you are working on old furniture or antique, you need to wipe and clean the wood surface to remove accumulated debris and stuck grime.

You can use dish soap and a rag to clean the wood or use mineral spirits to wipe it. If it’s new wood, you don’t need to clean it.

2. Sand Down The Wood

Sand Down The Wood

The next step is to sand the wood surface. The purpose of sanding is to remove pimples, splinters, and imperfections on the wood surface. If you don’t sand the wood, you can’t get a good mirror finish because the imperfections and bumps in the wood will affect and stain the finish.

To sand the wood, start with 180-grit sandpaper and finish with 220-grit sandpaper. You can use a power sander for the initial sanding if you are working on a large wood surface like a wood floor. But you’ll need to finish the sanding manually to prevent swirl marks from the power sander from appearing on your mirror finish.

You should sand in the direction of the wood grain and not against it. This way, it becomes impossible to notice the imperfections after sanding the wood. After sanding, vacuum the dust and wipe down the wood with a lint-free rag.

3. Mix and Apply The Wood Filler

Mix and Apply The Wood Filler

The wood filler needs to be mixed and stirred properly before it is used. To do this, use a turning stick to stir the wood filler in its container. This helps to loosen clumps in the filling paste. After mixing, use a bristled paintbrush to apply the wood filler to the wood item.

Ensure to cover the entire surface with the wood filler. After applying the wood filler, use a rag to wipe off the excess wood filler and leave it to dry. When the wood filler is dry, use an abrasive pad to smoothen the wood.

4. Apply The Transparent Top Coat

Apply The Transparent Top Coat

The next step is to apply the transparent topcoat to the wood. If you are using lacquer, you should apply 4 coats with a paint sprayer. If you are using varnish, you should apply 2 coats with a bristled paintbrush.

You should apply the first coat and leave it to dry before applying the second coat. Leave lacquer to dry for 20 minutes between coats and leave varnish to dry for 2 hours between coats.

You should also sand between coats with 320-grit sandpaper. After applying the lacquer or varnish, leave it to cure for at least 24 hours.

5. Wet-Sand The Lacquer or Varnish

Wet-Sand The Lacquer or Varnish

When the lacquer coating is dry, you need to wet-sand using 400-grit waterproof sandpaper and a bowl of water. To do this, dip the sandpaper in a bowl of water and let it soak.

Then take out the sandpaper and squeeze to get rid of excess water before sanding the finish. Wet-sand the finish repeatedly while increasing the sandpaper grit from 400-grit to 600-grit.

6. Buff The Finish

Buff The Finish

The final step after wet-sanding is to buff the finish. This helps to get a perfect mirror finish on the wood. To buff the finish, sprinkle some 4F pumice powder on the wood and douse it with rubbing oil.

Then rub the mixture into the wood fibers using a cotton cloth. Leave the wood to dry after and this will give you a perfect mirror finish on the wood.

Can You Get A Mirror Finish With A Spray Paint?

You can get a mirror finish with spray paint but only if you use a high-gloss and clear paint like lacquer and polyurethane.

You shouldn’t use any spray paint with color on pigments if you want to get a mirror finish because the color pigments in the spray paint will tint the wood. You should also wipe, clean, and sand the wood before spray painting.

Of all the paint applicator methods, the best applicator to achieve a glossy finish is spray painting. Paint sprayers apply thin coats of the paint on wood making the paint stick better and dry faster.

However, you should know that only high-gloss and transparent spray paints can be used to get a mirror finish on the wood. If the spray paint has color, you will not get the transparent mirror finish.

Final Words

In summary, mirror finishes are great because they offer durability, waterproofing, and wood protection. The reflective finish also highlights the natural grain of the wood leaving you with a perfect finish.

To get the mirror finish, you should prep the wood by cleaning and sanding. Then apply multiple coats of clear lacquer paint and buff the finish. You should apply the lacquer using a paint sprayer for an even result.

Finally, ensure to maintain the mirror finish properly by cleaning and wiping stains off so they don’t accumulate and ruin the finish.

Leave a Comment