Choosing the Perfect Timber Finish on Your Pool Table | West Penn Billiards
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Choosing the Perfect Timber Finish on Your Pool Table

Customizing your pool table is a great way to get the look you want! One of the important touches is the timber on your pool table. The timber you choose will help add a nice touch to your pool table and can be chosen to match the woodwork within your game room or your game room furniture for a seamless look.

Why is Timber Finished?

Finishing timber is known as a process that ensures the wooden surface is protected and refined and is often the final stage of the pool table manufacturing process. When the timber is finished, the wood gains desirable characteristics such as moisture resistance and a polished appearance.

It also makes it easier to sanitize the wood because all the pores are sealed, preventing bacteria from seeping into the surface.

What Types of Finishes are There?

There are two major types of finishes, including penetrating finishes and surface finishes.

Surface Finishes

A surface finish dries on the wood’s surface rather than penetrating it, offering a long-lasting and durable finish.


Varnish serves as a protective barrier on the timber. It is a type of resin that is combined with solvent and oil for a flexible yet durable mixture. Varnish is resistant to heat, water, and UV light and is tolerant to humidity.

Once you apply varnish, it is difficult to reverse the application and is hard to refinish.


This tried and tested method of finishing is made with alcohol solvent that is mixed with lac bug secretion from Southeast Asia. Shellac offers a hard top coat with a high shine and a durable finish.

With shellac, you get a clear glossy finish with an amber tone. It is also non-toxic and safe for food surfaces. On the downside, it has a low heat tolerance and reacts to alcohol-based liquids.


This is a wax alternative for thse looking for greener options. Soap offers a matte finish and uses natural soap flakes with water to create the finish. You will see a noticeable cast depending on the soap used in either white or grey.

Soap finishes are easy to repair and rebuff, and any finishing issues can be repaired every six months. It is also a safe option for families. Soap finishes are not water-resistant or heat-resistant.


Wax offers a great appearance by enhancing the natural grains and pores with a little bit of shine. The low gloss effect will not be yellow, making it a great option that will last.

Unfortunately, wax can’t penetrate wood, but it does create a protective coating to preserve the wood. Wax is typically used as a topcoat in conjunction with an oil finish to provide penetrating protection.

Penetrating Finishes

Wood Stain

With wood stain, you can add color to the timber to match the hues in your game room. In addition to adding color, it will also enhance the wood grain.

There are water-based and oil-based stains on the market. Oil-based stains take longer to dry, which helps prevent lap marks. Additionally, the oil-based stain doesn’t cause the wood grain to rise, so there is no need for more sanding.

Water-based stains do not have as strong of a smell compared to oil-based stains, and it dries faster, so you can get done with your staining quicker.

Once you are done staining, you can use soap and water to clean the timber.


This is a thin liquid that can penetrate deeply into the wood. This offers a durable seal that provides wood protection on the inside and outside. Lacquer offers a beautiful look and is a great finish for hardwood furniture. Some benefits of lacquer include:

  • Easy application
  • Requires fewer coats than other finishes
  • Has abrasion-resistant qualities
  • Water-resistant
  • Provides a shiny, smooth appearance
  • This process allows the natural grain and beauty of the wood to shine through, but it will show wear and tear over time.


Oil is a popular choice by many woodworkers because it brings out the natural beauty of the wood. Oil finishes like linseed and tung are drying oils that do not emit volatile compounds. They can easily penetrate the wood and dry quickly, leaving a thin film.

Oil allows the wood to resist moisture, but it is not guaranteed and may need to be supplemented with a wax finish topping. Oil is not affected when the wood expands or contracts due to humidity and is a long-lasting option. It is also low maintenance. It will need to be reapplied every few years to ensure it keeps its shine.

How to Choose Your Timber Finish

There are a variety of options out there, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each. It’s also important to remember that you can mix and match finishes for ultimate protection and durability.

For more information on finishes, contact the experts at West Penn Billiards today!